COOLEEMEE — They finally got her goat.
It happened on Hazel Winfree’s 90th birthday, but you need to know the back story first.
As a youngster, Winfree lived on Main Street in Cooleemee across from a two-story house full of Milholens. There were 10 people in the Milholen household, and Hazel, an only child at the time, couldn’t resist watching all the activity going on, especially with Eugene, a boy her age.
“I was dreadfully lonely and bad to slip off,” Winfree says.
One day the Milholens bought a goat, whose job would be to eat away a lot of the underbrush in the back of their house so the family could plant a garden.
Two of Eugene’s older brothers, H.L. and George, built a cart to be pulled by the goat, and Eugene rode and steered that cart all over the neighborhood.
“I was so jealous,” Winfree says, and you can still hear her spitting with contempt. “I was furious. You talk about green with envy.”
Up to this time in Hazel’s life, her parents had suffered mightily in trying to raise a bigger family. Hazel’s little sister, Martha Jean, died at 4 years old.
Little Hazel didn’t realize it then, but her mother was pregnant when Martha Jean passed away, and she lost the baby in a miscarriage from all the heartache. It was a boy.
“It nearly killed my daddy,” Hazel adds. “He wanted a boy to hunt and fish with.”
But Hazel’s mother became pregnant again, and her parents, not wanting to tempt fate, never told Hazel that a baby could be on the way.
On the day her mother went into labor, Hazel’s father carried her to the other side of town to stay at an aunt’s house. She didn’t suspect anything. He returned to pick her up later in the afternoon.
“Pumpkin,” he told Hazel as they headed back, “I’ve got a nice surprise for you when we get home.”
Hazel just knew a goat had to be waiting for her at the house. She had made it clear to everyone how much she wanted a goat — a playmate like the one Eugene Milholen had.
As she walked into the house, both of her parents were beaming and making a fuss over “the red, wrinkled thing” in her mother’s arms. But where was the goat? Hazel made a scene and let the world know she was quite disappointed in the new baby sister, Mary Alice.
“It made me so mad, I just wanted to strangle that baby,” Hazel says. “… I wanted a little sister (to play with), but I didn’t want a baby sister. I wanted a goat and a cart.
“It took me a long time to get over it.”
Hazel’s preference for a goat over her baby sister became family legend, and Mary Alice (now Mary Alice Hasty) took many opportunities over the years to remind Hazel about it and tell the story to their friends.
“It’s going to haunt me as long as I live,” Hazel says with disgust, adding that the teasing “came to a head a couple of years ago.”
You should know the sisters are deeply devoted to one another, and they teamed in recent years to research, compile and author one of the more important Davie County history books: “The Civil War Roster of Davie County, North Carolina.”
The book accomplished identifying every man from Davie County who ever served in the Civil War and, where possible, included short biographies on each — 1,147 men documented before, during and after the conflict.
“We loved every minute of it,” Hazel says.
Hazel worked many years in the composing room at the Salisbury Post and is now a retired lab technician. Mary Alice is a retired school administrator who lives in Mocksville.
Back to the birthday party. On April 27, a Sunday, Hazel wasn’t thinking much about her birthday, but she was enjoying an afternoon visit from Mary Alice.
She had no idea about 30 friends and neighbors were gathering outside her house and setting up a card table with a birthday cake and punch.
While Hazel was laughing and talking with “Shug,” her nickname for Mary Alice, a grandchild of a neighbor came into the house and told her to come outside.
Hazel says she nearly fainted when she walked onto the porch and saw all the people.
“And so help me,” she adds, “there was a big goat tied to the tree in the front yard.”
Yes, Mary Alice and friends had finally gotten Hazel’s goat. Her name was Emily, and she was on loan from a Davie County farm.
From all accounts, Emily and everyone else had a great time at Hazel’s surprise birthday party. The goat story was repeated once again, but this time Hazel didn’t really mind.
Anybody would be green with envy to have a sister as sweet as Shug.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or firstname.lastname@example.org.