Dexter's Mark Twain
Millard Whittle lives in a house on a hill. He has lived in that same house, on that same hill, for sixty years. Before that, he lived in an old house in that shady spot for fifteen years. And, before that, he lived in another house, the house in which he was born, for twenty-five years. For all but three days of the last century, Millard Whittle has lived on the same road, Whittle Road, a road which the county named after him. On Saturday, Millard will celebrate his 100th birthday with his family and friends at Mt. Carmel Church, where he began attending before World War I.
Millard Whittle was born on May 1, 1910 to James and Bessie Davis Whittle. William H. Taft was president. Mark Twain had just died, claiming that he came to Earth on Halley's comet and left this world when it returned. Maybe that's when Millard Whittle hopped off the comet and took his place. You see, like Mark Twain, Millard Whittle is a story teller. Not appearing to be anywhere near his biological age, Millard Whittle still has an elephant mind and spins stories of distant yesterdays as if they happened only just yesterday.
He'll never forget the killer tornado that struck the Mt. Carmel community 81 years ago. "That afternoon of the tornado was rainy. There was a thunder cloud back in the west," Millard remembered. Millard and two or three of his friends went to play catch with an older man, who loved baseball too. "We got tired and started home. I looked back toward Chester. It looked like a whirlwind, except it was getting bigger and bigger. Pretty quick the wind picked up. Shortly that thing swept out there where we were. We had to hit the ditch. I don't think right there it would have picked us up, but it would have blown you down. You couldn't have stood up out there," he continued.
"I'll never understand. That tornado came in from the west. It tore everything down between Chester and over here on Highway 338. When I approached Mt. Carmel church, it just flattened it. It just went right down. It didn't tear it up. It just squished it. It made a right turn at the new school house across the road there, a hundred yards away, doing just a little damage to one of the porches. I guess it blew a board or two off it. Then it headed directly in this direction," Whittle concluded.
This is Millard Whittle's 101st baseball season. He loves baseball and would have loved to play it as a career, wishing he could have had the opportunities like kids do today. Whittle did play a little ball, playing a few games for Mt. Carmel H.S. and a semi-pro mill team in Thomaston. He has seen all the rookies from Babe Ruth to Jason Heyward. His favorites were Bob Feller and Dizzy Dean, but Millard is, win or lose, a die-hard Braves fan, still watching and listening to every game he can. The pitching foursome of John Smoltz, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Steve Avery were his most recent favorites.
For fun Millard sits in his fifty plus year old rocking chair on his front porch on a warm day watching the cars go by. He remembers his first car, a 1930s Model A, which he bought in 1936 from a Buckhorn school teacher. "I think I paid $175.00 for it. He just had the engine reworked. They must have done a good job on it, because I drove it for 14 years," Whittle chuckled.
For a man who remembers a lot, Millard wants to be remembered as a Dexter man who tried to treat everybody like he wanted to be treated. "I don't think I will leave any enemies here." Mr. Whittle said. "If I owe you some money, I'll pay you back. If I owe you an apology, I'll do the same," said Millard, who farmed his land for more than seventy years. On Sundays, he attends Mt. Carmel Church, where he taught Sunday School, helped others in need and, along with his wife Julia, kept the grounds well groomed.
Although Millard Whittle has more than his share of memories of the past, he never loses sight of the future. He keeps up with the news on television and in the papers. Whittle pondered, "I don't know where we are headed. That last depression ain't like this one. Our leadership is way different. One day, some of these countries that we owe so much money to are going to want their money, ain't they? How we got into this mess, I don't know. I thought, we thought, we were electing good common sense hard-working people."
Mr. Whittle invites his friends to join with his children, Winston, Royce and Jane, this Saturday from 2-4 p.m. at Mount Carmel Church to celebrate his milestone. If Millard Whittle had just one wish on this, his 100th birthday, he would wish for our society to change. "I'd love to see the world as a whole change back to the way it used to be. Everybody is in a hurry now. People loved one another back then. I realize if you went back to the way we used to be, money was short, but if I had anything to do with it, I'd love to see some of the old days," Whittle prays. So when you blow out your candles, all of us will be wishing and blowing with you. So, here's to you Millard Whittle, may you have another century or at least until your comet returns in 2062.
Meanwhile, the mourning doves still coo, the mockingbirds still mock and bumblebees still buzz out on the Millard Whittle place, just as they have for the last one hundred years.