When Whippoorwills Call

The Whippoorwill is a migratory bird that goes farther south in the winter and returns to this part of the country in the mid to late spring. I remember hearing its nocturnal “Whip-poor-will” call hundreds of times during the summer nights of my childhood. I was told that it was time to go barefoot when the Whippoorwills starting calling.

As a child I always looked forward to going barefoot. Mother would let me go barefoot after school as soon as the afternoons were warm enough. Later when the mornings were warmer I went barefoot all day long, even to school. I always envied the kids that started going barefoot early in the spring. As I look back, I believe some of these probably went barefoot early out of necessity.

Many folks, adults and children, went barefoot around their homes, wearing shoes only when they went to church or to some other special event. Many adults even came barefoot to town during the week.

It always took a while for your feet to get tough enough to thoroughly enjoy going barefoot. I remember my grandfather’s feet had thick calluses from going barefoot so much. The calluses that I acquired were never like his. Usually by the time I obtained calluses it was winter again.

I haven’t heard a whippoorwill in over thirty years. This may be because I seldom open a window, since my house is air conditioned; or it may be the result of the wooded area around where I live being replaced with other houses; or maybe there just aren’t any whippoorwills anymore. But who misses them? I seldom go barefoot anymore anyway.

During the O.J. Simpson trial, I was getting my haircut up at Uncle Earl’s. There were several older native Fayette Countians sitting around reading the paper, talking about everything under the sun and warming by the gas heater. The discussion of the probability of a mistrial in the Simpson case became the topic. Some jurors had been dismissed and the number of alternates was getting low.

I asked, “ Has there ever been a time in local trials when they gave out of jurors?”

My uncle, who was cutting my hair, answered, “Yes, I remember once during a trial when the jury lost a member and the judge ordered them to go out on the street and find someone to fill the vacancy.”

According to his memory, the only one who could be found was Mr. Ira White who had come to town barefoot. Mr. White probably holds the distinction of being the only juror in the history of Fayette County to serve barefoot.