Hi, I’m Travis.
Thank you for taking the time to visit. Hopefully something you find here will help to encourage, inspire and entertain you.
I was born in 1972 in Clarksdale, MS. Clarksdale has a rich blues heritage. In fact the entire state of Mississippi has a diverse background of famous people, some dead, some still alive. The fertile soil of the Delta is where I was planted for the first few years of my life.
A couple years into life I was blessed with a baby Sister. What an amazing miracle. I fiercely protected her and always will. She has since married and made me the blessed Uncle of two girls and a boy. I to this day do not have my own children, but when the first Niece was born she changed my life. I felt a love I had never experienced before. Of course with each one it took it to a whole new dimension. Certainly wouldn’t want to leave out the fact that with all those blessings it brought me a Brother! I couldn’t be an Uncle without him.
My Daddy and Momma farmed soybeans, wheat and if I am not mistaken possibly cotton. Farming is in my DNA from both the Haley’s and Fortner’s. Every male on both sides have farmed at some point in their life and the Aunts with the exception of maybe a couple married farmers. Sadly only one Uncle is still farming and doing a mighty fine job I might add.
About three years after my roots started forming my parents were divorced. This is an example of what alcohol can do to marriages. Even though I was very young I still have a few fond memories of life with my Daddy and Momma together. From that point on of course life was very different. Even with all the healing that God has worked in my life their divorce still plays a role.
Thankfully God made these amazing guys called Step Dads! I was very blessed that God brought one of these amazing men into my life. One hot August day in the late 70’s he and my Momma were married. What a blessing he has been and still is in my life. He came complete with another Sister for me. We had a great time growing up together.
Soon after the formation of the new family I found myself being moved from the place I called home. My Step Dad was traveling back and forth to Louisiana to work in the oil industry and it made more since to move so that we could all be together. The eight hour commute was a bit too much.
The first grade brought with it an entire new culture. It seemed like a different planet to me. I had no other family there and besides that I missed the plum tree that was in my Grandmother’s yard or as I called her Mam Maw. The one thing that was familiar other than humans was the mosquitoes. They were just as plentiful. So here I am a MS boy in Cajun country. Hunting and fishing is as much a part of my DNA as farming. Instinctively I found myself catching Crawfish out of the ditches. It was the best I could do. I remember it like it was yesterday.
Summers and Christmas were special to me. See I was still on a different planet and I longed for my home state. I would even get to spend time at my Daddy Joe and Mam Maw’s. He farmed so I got to get in the dirt. Oh and don’t forget eat plums! Man the smell of biscuits and Mrs. Buttersworth are making me hungry right now. If I had a buck for every biscuit she cooked I would take you on an exotic vacation right now, yea you reading this right now. Background check is mandatory.
First through the third grade it seemed I had a grip on everything for the most part. Around the fourth grade it got more and more difficult. Maybe it was that hit on the chin I took from the urinal in the 3rd grade. Actually it was being separated from my Daddy and MS that was taking it’s toll on me. This by the way is no reflection on the blessings I spoke of earlier. Just a fact in life and as a young kid I needed my Daddy in my life.
In the middle of the 5th grade at about the age of 12 I was offered the opportunity to work at NASA and take part in the new space program. I had only flown in a small plane at that point so I declined. No, actually I was given the opportunity to move to Mississippi. Man, that was a dream come true. All I could think about was how I’d get to be on the farm, fish and hunt. So my answer was YES! The day came and I was leaving to go to what I felt was home. The excitement numbed me until the final goodbyes had to be said. See that whole divorce thing does complicate things. I looked from behind the young and teary eyes of a 12 year old into the teary eyes of my Mom and Sister.
So now I land on the planet of Cotton and Blues. I learned more about fishing and hunting during the winters. Gardening in the Spring. Oh summers? I learned what it was like to work on the farm, working harder than most of the ones that were getting paid. Being fed, clothed and having a place to live was decent pay when I look back on it. A couple summers in my probationary period was over and I started making $2 per hour. It felt great to work and get paid! My first major purchase? A boom box. I scratched and saved $80 some odd dollars for it. I was then transported to Planet Coolville.
Life was good. Farming, hunting, fishing, gardening… what else could a man want at that early an age? Girlfriend? That would have been nice! Through all this there was still a longing in my life. See I was there with Daddy, but my Mom, Step Dad and Sister… they weren’t.
I found myself at night when it was all quiet thinking about them. One night in the dark of the night I heard a still small voice ask me: Why aren’t you praying? Now I will be the first to tell you there were times that smoke was in the atmosphere and I don’t mean the kind that is related to nicotine. The still small voice spoke again, Why aren’t you praying? Here I am in the dark trying to sleep and for the first time that I know of God speaks to me. I was not thinking about him or reading a Bible. I was not exactly sure how to respond. So, I started to pray to the best of my ability. Most nights I did my best to pray something. It wasn’t a long prayer in King James, but it was something to acknowledge to Him that I didn’t know why I wasn’t praying or how to, but I knew that I should be.
Within a 2 year period of landing back in the cotton fields a prayer was answered. The oil industry was so bad that my Mom, Dad and Sister moved back to the depressed Delta. Finally at least geographically speaking my family was together. No I didn’t pray that the oil industry would fail..
The next decision would dramatically change my life. Yes even more than turning down the NASA deal. It would really take me to heavenly places in my life. The school system in Marks, MS was terrible. The building was one of the first ones erected after The Ark settled on dry land. It should have been condemned 20 years before I started to school there in the early 80’s.
The decision? It was to move back to my Mom’s. The influences around me were not all good. I had already experimented with drugs and alcohol. It is amazing how God let those experiences happen in my life. Who knows why, but one day I tried to smoke a roach. One “hit” and I was spitting and ran to brush my teeth to get that nasty mess out of my mouth. Wait.. no not a roach as in bug! It was… well marijuana. Once was enough.
I remember frog gigging one night with my cousin and step brother. I drank a wine cooler. We did really good that night and had a bucket full of bullfrogs. So many that they began to escape. I remember being “tipsy” and not able to be much help retrieving them. Thankfully, I do not remember drinking after that. Even tried cigarettes and never could “get it”.
The one thing I could pretend to get was dipping tobacco. I thought it was cool and somewhat liked it. I’m told I used to lick the Skoal cans left behind at family softball games as a baby. No I don’t remember that.. but always liked the smell of it. Maw Haley had a heart to heart talk to me one day. She said, “Son, if you don’t stop putting that nasty stuff in your mouth it is going to rot off.” I was young, ignorant and stupid, but not dumb. That ended my career with Gold River or whatever variety it was at the time.
So back to the next move… I ended up moving back in with my Mother and Step Dad. By this time they had started faithfully going to a great Church. God started it in my Sister at a youth camp. Soon after my Step Dad was back in right relationship with God. The Lord then changed my Mother’s life. So now I have the entire family praying for me. Phew did I need it. I was forced to attend church with them.
I remember going the first few times and it scared the daylights out of me. They were not like the churches I had known all my life. I mean I went to church and had to be quiet. Couldn’t move a muscle. Didn’t dare sneeze because it might cause another reaction to fire off and that would totally be embarrassing! The music was great. These people would raise their hands, say amen OUT LOUD and sometimes VERY LOUD. On one occasion they began to dance around and shout. One lady in particular comes to mind. She was doing a jig by a window in the side aisle and the curtains came falling down to the floor. Boy was I unsure about all that.
I still was able to see Daddy occasionally on the weekend. So one night I began to share with him what I had seen. I went into great detail and even came up with the term “curtain jerkers”. Boy did he get a kick out of that.
This church was composed of a very small congregation. When you have small numbers of people and want to put on an Easter production, it takes everybody to pull it off. You really don’t get the opportunity to opt-out. Tryout? Not in their vocabulary. Okay so it’s Easter. I can wear a bunny suit right? NO! That’s right bunnies really have nothing to do with Easter. Camel, donkey, leper, thief, disciple, wise man, Joseph, Mary (of course not I’m a man), and the role of Jesus goes to Travis. Wait! Jesus? So here I am a sinner playing the role of Jesus in an Apostolic church. What a way to break into my first acting role.
I don’t remember anything about the entire production except for this… Walking down the aisle with this small version of a cross, it begins to sink into my spirit what He did for me. I probably looked more like Gomer Pyle on Valium than Jesus. As I got to the back room it was me, a wooden cross, and more importantly Jesus. No not me as Jesus, I mean His Spirit. Tears were streaming down my face as I began to have more revelation of the price He paid on Calvary for my sins and the sins of the entire world.
A few more curtains in the floor later… the tears were still filling my eyes at the end of each service. I blamed it all on the recent death of my Great Grandfather, Mr. A. L. White. Better known to me as Papa. I found myself in the altar with tears dripping on the wooden altar beneath me one night. It was yet another attempt by God to reach me. I just wasn’t ready and didn’t understand what was happening.
To be continued…