An Ode to Will Woods by Pam Hillman

Pam Hillman AuthorWill Woods was our milk man when I was a little bitty squirt. And by milk man, I don’t mean he picked up those small 5 gallon milk cans. He drove a milk tanker and transported a gazillion gallons of milk every day.We lived down a long dead-end country road, and I could hear a car comin’ from a mile away. So it was no wonder that I could hear Will coming long, long before he got there.

Will gave me my first tricycle. Mama said Will didn’t have kids at that time, so I don’t know where he got the tricycle, but I distinctly remember that he brought it to me in the cab of his tractor-trailer for my birthday. I loved Will with all the passion of a pre-schooler who didn’t see anybody other than my parents and two older brothers all week. Since my parents both worked on the farm, I didn’t go to pre-school or daycare: the dairy was my daycare; my brother, the dogs, cats, and newborn calves my playmates.

Will picked up our milk every other day, but I was too young to process how often “tomorrow” really meant, so I’m sure I drove Mama crazy asking when Will would be there. But I was old enough to know that if Mama and Daddy were done with the milking, it shouldn’t be long before Will showed up.

I have a good imagination (I’m a writer, after all), and this is kind of hazy, but I seem to recall sitting on the steps at the barn many a morning on those off days, and then trudging to the house when I realized Will wasn’t going to show.

One Sunday morning, Mama was getting us all ready for church, rushing around as only a farm wife and mother can do after getting up at five am to milk a herd of Holsteins. The next thing she knew, I came flying out of the back room like a wild cat. She made a grab for me, but I tore out of the house toward the barn, yelling “Will’s comin’! Will’s comin’!”

He was still half a mile away, and she hadn’t heard a thing. But I had.

I’d heard that big motor, and those big wheels bringing my friend to me. And church was just going to have to wait. It didn’t matter that on some days all he brought was a tootsie roll or a piece of gum. He’d remembered me, and I was happy.Will Woods

While I had a loving, Christian family with roots deep in the red clay hills of Mississippi, my friendship with Will reminds me of Jimmy Denton’s relationship with Slade and Buck Donovan in Claiming Mariah.

Jimmy’s home situation isn’t the best: His pa is a drunkard, and they live in a shack that is falling down around their ears. Slade and Buck Donovan see a bit of themselves in the little boy, and they befriend Jimmy. Eventually, the caring and acceptance of the Donovans touch the entire Denton family, allowing healing and family to mend. Jimmy’s story is not the main thread in Claiming Mariah, but it is an important part. Jimmy weaves himself into Slade and Mariah’s story and finds a home there. Right where he belongs.

Back to my friend, Will. In my young mind, I assumed Will lived far, far away. As I wrote this blog post, I couldn’t remember his last name: to me, he was just Will, my friend. So I called my mother. Mama told me she’d recently seen Will at the local Wildlife Jamboree a nearby town hosts every year. Over forty years after he ran the route as our milk man, some little nugget prompted me to write an article to honor the attention a man showed a little girl who lived on the back side of nowhere, only to find out he lives right here in my community, and not far, far away as I’d always thought.

Soon after learning that Will lived close by, my husband and I attended another farming event and Will was there. When I heard his name, I got all excited. My ever-patient Cowboy pointed him out to me. The minute I told him who my parents were, he said, “Of course I remember you. You’re Pam.” You could have knocked me over with a feather. He’d remembered the little girl who idolized him so many years ago. My no-so-patient Cowboy took our picture with my iphone. It’s a little fuzzy, but I didn’t have the heart to ask him to take several…just in case.

Will doesn’t wear a six-shooter, and he doesn’t race his horse across the big screen like John Wayne, but he’s a real Cowboy with a good, kind heart.

A Cowboy who rode in on a big rig and took the time to be my friend.
Click Here!

GIVEAWAY: Ms. Hillman is graciously giving away a copy of Claiming Mariah today. U.S. winner – print or ebook. International winner – ebook only. Please like Pam’s Facebook Author Page or subscribe to her newsletter and let us know in your comment.


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53 thoughts on “An Ode to Will Woods by Pam Hillman”

  1. Pam, I really enjoyed this post. It is really neat that you got to see him and even get your picture. What a memory. I had a few older friends when I grew up, and then had to move away. I would love to win your book. Thanks.
    Maxie mac262(at)me(dot)com

  2. I loved your post Pam. It is always so wonderful to hear stories of how people take time for people. It tends to be a lost art in the fast paced world we live in.

    I am already a subscriber to Pam’s newsletter and Like her Facebook page. 🙂 I would love to win a print copy of her book.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

    countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

  3. What a great post! Sometimes, people don’t realize what a wonderful impression they can make on us. A lifetime of pleasant memories happened because a giving, nice man never forgot you and you never forgot him. Pam, I am so glad you had the opportunity to get together again.
    I am a subscriber.

    melback at cebridge dot net

  4. Cindy, you are so right, and I’m guilty, too. I don’t spend enough time with family and friends, let alone make new friends.

    Our busy lives seem to have taken over the laid back, porch sittin’ days of yesteryear.

    I vow to do more porch sittin’ 🙂

  5. Melanie, thank you. Yes, those rosy days of childhood do bring back happy memories.

    It’s a whole ‘nuther post, but my brother and I almost ruined mama’s grass by “fertilizing” it with sand. Then we’d follow each other around around and around and around yelling “raker, raker, baler, baler!” as we pretended to bale hay.

    Obviously, it didn’t take much to amuse us. lol

  6. What a special story of friendship! How wonderful that you were able to meet Will again and capture the moment with a picture, creating another precious memory.

    I have “liked” your Facebook page, subscribed to your newsletter, and look forward to reading CLAIMING MARIAH!!

  7. Pam we had a milkman just like this when I was a kid. The big milk tank truck. Candy! I can still remember my dad milking and pouring the milk into those old milk cans that are now VALUABLE COLLECTOR ITEMS!!! (I believe that officially makes me OLD!)

    His name was Kelly–back in the day when Kelly was a MAN’S name!–and he recently passed away.

  8. What a wonderful heart warming story. It is sort of like “its a wonderful life” in that what one man means to so many.

  9. I’m baaaccckkk!! Went with my married kiddos to pick up a dining table and chairs. Heavy older Ashley stuff that needs work. They plan to jazz it up with some new paint, new Chevron upholstery and distress it. Have fun, kiddos! (I’ll sit on the couch with my laptop! lol)

    LORI!!! Thank you for stopping by and for the kind words about Claiming Mariah. You’re a gem! Here, have some milk, fresh from the 2000 gallon milk tank. The freshest, coldest, sweetest milk you’ll ever drink.

  10. Pam!

    Loved this story. You’re such a wonderful writer anyway, as we know. Definitely a simpler time, and in some ways, better. Yeah. Sittin’ on the porch… Sounds just dreamy and we have a splendid porch to enjoy too. Rarely do.

    I enjoyed Claiming Mariah so much, but would love a print copy to share with our local library if I win. may at maythek9spy dot com

  11. Britney, I was so excited to get to see Will after all those years, and even more amazed that he remembered me.

    Tidbit about dairy farming, at least back when my parents were doing it: the driver had to take samples of the milk on the farms before he pumped it into the tanker. If the entire tanker became contaminated and had to be destroyed (uh…picture pouring 10,000 gallons of milk down the drain), then the farm was held responsible for the entire tanker from all the farms on that route.

    Once Daddy milked a cow that had been given penicillin and rather than risk that one cow’s milk contaminating the entire load, he opened the spigot and let the milk in one his tanks go down the drain. 🙁

  12. Your post is captivating, and emotional. What a delightful and thoughtful way to start this morning which makes my day meaningful.

  13. Mary, I’m not sure if I actually remember the 10? 20? gallon milk cans being in use, or if I just saw pictures. I know Mama still has one or two of them. I wish she had a BUNCH of them since you’re right, they are collector’s items now.

    What was it about the milk man bringing candy? It must have been an unspoken rule spread nationwide from Mississippi to Nebraska.


    It just harks back to good ol’ country boys with hearts of gold.

  14. Sherry, wouldn’t it be fun to find out what other kids on Will’s route remember? 🙂

    Now, if they got big ol’ Hershey’s bars WITH ALMONDS, Will and I are gonna have to talk…

  15. What a wonderful story. It actually brought tears to my eyes as I read the end. I love stories like this. We had a ‘milk man’ but he brought bottled milk to our front porch. The glass bottles had a picture of an elephant and I always thought it was elephant milk and I was so proud to be able to drink it. I didn’t tell anyone this until I was older and then I was informed it was cows milk with a picture of an elephant (for some unknown reason) on the bottle. I was heart broken. Thanks for the wonderful story.

  16. Ellie, Anne, Diane and Quilt Lady, thank ya’ll for stopping by and glad you enjoyed the post. Don’t you just love pulling out old memories and savoring them?

    Sometimes we forget so much, but I’m thankful that little prompts…like an old milk barn, or a photo, or even the scent of baking bread can bring back memories of cherished people, places, and things. I really need to get better about jotting those precious, fleeting thoughts down so I can share them with others. 🙂

  17. I love this – thank you for sharing! Our milk man was Earl. I loved watching him come up the long driveway. All of us kids idolized him. Maybe that is just what a farm kid does! I also liked to watch him hook up the hoses and load up the milk in the tanker. How disappointed I would be when Earl was on vacation and we had a different driver. I remember those sub drivers because they didn’t know our driveway by heart like Earl did – and many ended up in the yard on the side or leaning against a tree! What fun memories.
    lattebooks at hotmail dot com

  18. Pam, what a wonderful story! “When I was an itty bitty squirt.”….

    LOL, that’s how we’uns talk up here north of the Mason-Dixon line, too, sho’ nuf!

    What a nice tribute. I can’t tease you too much because I know these Petticoats and Pistols girls pack heat and I’m not about to take any chances! Best wishes with your wonderful book “Claiming Mariah”, and don’t put me in the drawing because I already have a cherished copy!

  19. PAM!!! LOVE this story, my friend, and LOVED Claiming Mariah as you well know! SOOO fun to get a glimpse into both your background and Jimmy D.’s!!

    Fun post today, Mary and Pam!


  20. Pam, what a tribute to a man who made such an impact on your life. I love small communities where you get to know everyone and yours certainly sounds like one, so I had to laugh when you said you thought he lived far away, yet YEARS later, you discover he’s a part of your community. That is so looking through life with a child’s eye.

    Great story. No wonder your books are so heartwarming : )

  21. Back after a short break! 🙂

    Janine, it was just wonderful finding out that he was actually local. The main reason I thought he lived a long way from us was because the milk co-op that we belonged to was a couple of hours away.

    We’d been on field days where the men met and did whatever Daddies did at events like that and they planned something else for the kids. Once, I remember going to the zoo. So, I knew the producers association wasn’t close, so in my mind, Will wasn’t close.

    I’m sure Mama never imagined I had all that nicely worked out in my little mind. Why I never asked, I’ll never know! lol

  22. Oh, Susan, you are SO right. I was always disappointed in the subs. Did they know the CODE? which was that they had to bring CANDY (okay, back then it was okay to accept candy from the milk man. I dunno. It just WAS. The milkman wasn’t a stranger.) But now the sub, ah, the sub was different. It was impolite to ask the sub for candy, but you could sort of hang around to see if he offered it… lol

    And in our yard, you had to drive straight down the road, then take a right, make a U-turn in front of the barn like you were going to hightail it out of there, get your rig straight, then back up to the front of the barn. More than one new guy had to stop and study the situation before they figured out the right way to go about it.

  23. I love this story. How wonderful that you saw him again after so many years. I subscribed to your newsletter and I’m looking forward to receiving my first copy.

  24. Pam, what a wonderful tribute to ,Mr. WILL. If I knew him personally I would make sure he sees this. Looking forward to your next novel!!!!

  25. Julie, what a breath of fresh air you always are.

    You know, Jimmy’s childhood and mine were polar opposites, but in some strange way, I identified with Jimmy because I identified with Slade, and Jimmy was a bit of a mini-me of Slade.

    And, it was very easy to identify with how Jimmy felt about Slade in regards to me and Will. 🙂

  26. JOYE…Thanks for stopping by. Hope you do stay in touch! My newsletter goes out quarterly, and then I try to send out a few eblasts in between if there’s a new book, a special deal or giveaway. And, baby calves. Who can resist posting pictures of adorable baby calves? 🙂

  27. Audra, I know. I originally called Mama to find out his last name, because all I could remember was Will. I was very surprised to learn he lived maybe 20 miles from me. I think Mama was surprised to find out that I had even THOUGHT about him in all those years! lol

    Kathy, you’re so sweet. Now the pressure is on….hmmm, what AMAZING thing can I put in my next newsletter??? lol

  28. Doretha, thank you so much for stopping by. You are such an encouragement! Wouldn’t it fun for him to get to read this? I think he’d get a kick out of it. 🙂

  29. Congratulations on the release of CLAIMING MARIAH. No need to enter my name for the giveaway, I already have a copy.

    You were lucky to have such a good man for a milk tanker driver. It was a kinder, gentler time back then, but he certainly made the extra effort to make things special for you. I think it is wonderful that you have found him again and are close enough to visit with him often.

  30. That is such a sweet story, Pam. I have a character in my recently published book that sounds somewhat similar to Jimmy in “Claiming Mariah”.

    Also, I “liked” your facebook page.

  31. Pam, What a Blessing you were able to reconnect with Will after all this time!
    Your post was very inspiring. Reminded me of an older gentleman who was a school cross walk guard (many years ago)
    who always took the time to say hello and smile every time I crossed the street to school. He was there every day throughout grade school until my high school years.
    in the summer months he would be on his front porch always with a smile and hello.
    I remember the year he passed as his porch was empty and they did not replace him with another guard. I still think of him all these 50 years later when ever I go back to my hometown and pass his house.
    Thank you for your post. Your Will was apparently a very special person and memory.
    Also thank you for giveaway it would be an honor to read your book.

  32. liked Pam’s Facebook Author Page
    subscribe to her newsletter
    Claiming Mariah sounds wonderful. Please enter me in contest.Have a wonderful week.Thank you for the opportunity to win.

  33. Patricia, it is a blessing. 🙂 I need to print a copy of this and get a copy of the picture so that the next time I see him at a cattleman’s meeting or at the stockyard, I can give it to him.

    And, you know what…from all accounts, he’d been at many of these events over the years, but I didn’t know who he was since I hadn’t seen him since I was a child. Isn’t that amazing?

  34. Faith, that is so cool. There are so many hurting kids out there who need support. While Jimmy D. is a secondary character, he and his entire family just sort of grew as the story unfolded. By the end of Claiming Mariah, we know quite a bit about Jimmy’s father and how he ended up on the road to ruin. I’m not sure what the future holds for them, but we’ll see. 🙂

  35. Linda, so glad you stopped by! And thank you for friending me and subbing to the newsletter. I am blessed to call you (all of you here!) friend.

    What a rollicking good time we’ve had this weekend chatting up a storm. Enjoyed sitting around and visiting with everyone.

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