Leader of the Pack
At 13 years old, Douglas felt confident enough to run his trap line alone in the snow-covered Tennessee mountains. Although his father warned him about the dangers of going out into the mountains alone, Douglas grabbed his .22 caliber rifle and went on his way. It wasn’t long before he found himself being chased by a pack of wild dogs. He dropped his rifle on the ground as he clung to the branch of a tree, hoping to stay away from the six dogs that were barking and scratching at the tree trunk below him.
His chances of survival were slim, so Douglas began to pray. Before he knew it, the figure of a man appeared with his arms reaching out towards the dogs. What happened next is something Douglas remains grateful for to this day; a life-saving encounter he’ll never forget.
Guided by a Heavenly Voice
When a snowstorm leaves Douglas and his younger brother, Buddy Earl, stranded at their bus stop from school, the two decide to walk the three-mile commute home. Normally, their father drove them to and from the bus stop, but because the school closed suddenly due to a heating system failure, their father had no way of knowing they were on their back. The temperature continued to drop, as the two made their way through the biting cold.
Douglas, determined to protect his brother, led the way and held on tightly to the plain cross that hung around his neck. A gift from his grandmother. His breath grew shallow and his chest burned, while Buddy fell to his knees. He prayed that they would make it home alive, when suddenly he fell into a warm light and a sweet voice told them not to worry. Douglas and his brother woke up wrapped around their mother’s arms—but who had carried them there?
Miracle Rain Shower
Douglas headed up to Chestnut Mountain on a hunt for a bear that was raiding his family’s beehives. He followed his dogs as they picked up a scent in the huckleberry bushes and before he knew it, they were a mile deeper into the mountains than he intended to be. Douglas knew it was time to give up his hunt at the first sight of dry lightning. It hadn’t rained in the area for over seven weeks and the forest was dry. That coupled with the dry lighting, Douglas thought, was a recipe for disaster.
He was heading home with the dogs far ahead of him, when a sudden burst of lightning covered the entire sky and brought upon a trail of flames that quickly began to cover the ground. It wasn’t long before the forest around him became engulged in flames. He was about to accept his faith and return “home with God,” when he felt the rain. Or was it? When Douglas got home with his still-dripping clothes, his mother asked how’d he gotten so wet, since their side of the mountain hadn’t gotten a drop of rain.
An Angel from Mamaw
As a child, Douglas was always in awe of his grandmother’s special weaving skills. He was eight years old when he first saw Mamaw weaving, or ‘tatting,’ a strange shape together. She weaved a strand of thread through her fingers at a quick speed and held delicate white beads together with knots and loops. She explained that she was making an angel before sending him off to bed. When he woke the following morning, Douglas saw the angel that Mawma had made hanging from a string above his bed. Her wings were laced with small beads and her color was whiter than snow. He’s much older now and Mamaw has since passed, but he always keeps the angel she made by his bed as a reminder that she, along with the angel, are always watching over him.
An Angel’s Dazzling True Colors
Easter was a special holiday for Douglas, because it meant candy, chocolates and of course, his mom’s horehound candy. He joined Mama in the kitchen as she prepared this year’s batch. She asked Douglas to bring some of the horehound over to Granny Tipton, an elderly neighbor who most of the neighborhood kids referred to as Granny Witch, because she lived all alone in an old house with just a scary black cat to keep her company. Douglas hesitated to deliver the candy to her house, but after realizing Mama wasn’t giving him a choice, he went on his way.
Once there, Tipton opened the door and invited him in. He was taken aback by all the vibrant colors that shined bright as he entered her house—particularly a colorful candy dish. It was then Douglas realized that Tipton wasn’t a witch at all, but rather a lonely lady who simply needed a friend. Douglas went on to invite Tipton to church that Easter weekend, and Tipton so grateful for his friendship, gifted him a colorful heirloom Douglas has gone on to treasure for the rest of his life.
An Angel Named Jim
In 1949, Douglas and his family moved from the mountains to the city so his dad could work as a mechanist at a tool and die shop. Douglas and his brother, Buddy Earl, would spend most afternoons walking along the railroad tracks near their rented home to collect any coal that fell off the passing train. Their dad was on sick leave after coming down with pneumonia and they were running low on money so Douglas and Buddy collected as much coal as they could to take home for warmth, even if it wasn’t the best quality.
During one of their coal runs on a cold afternoon, a fire man from the engine cab of the train stopped Douglas and his brother to ask why they were dangerously running the tracks and digging in the snow. Douglas explained what they were doing and the man, named Jim, did something incredible that day, two days later and three days a week throughout the winter. Although Douglas and his family moved back to the mountains once spring approached, he remembered his guardian angel in his prayers and continues to do so, even all these years later.
Angelic Treasure in the Henhouse
When Douglas was in the sixth grade, he was forced to get new glasses which prompted the kids in his class to call him ‘Four-eyes’ and ‘Blind Berry’. Although his mom assured him the teasing would end soon, Douglas was discouraged to return to school. During dinner one evening, Mama sent Douglas to the henhouse to gather some eggs. Even more upset now after being teased by his siblings for being assigned a girl’s job, he grabbed a basket and headed towards the henhouse.
Upon arriving to the henhouse, Douglas noticed something unusual. A pure white egg lay among the brown ones, an unusual sight considering their chickens were Rhode Island Reds and Dominickers, therefore weren’t capable of laying white eggs. Douglas excitedly returned home to show Mama what he had found and was pleased to find out that his special white egg could possibly contain a message from an angel. All that needed to be done was to boil the egg and leave it in an icebox overnight. After much anticipation, Douglas cracked the egg open the following morning and slowly peeled the shell. He then rotated the egg to read a special message, his mother told him, from his guardian angel.
A Poultice and a Prayer
Douglas would often walk along the creek at the forest’s edge with Mamaw to gather plants and herbs to take home. Mamaw was a fourth generation medicine woman who knew all about home remedies and nature’s healing. People in the Great Smoky Mountains swore by her cures so when their neighbor, Jim Reed, discovered his daughter was sick, he turned to Mamaw for help.
Little Sally was so sick that Douglas could hear her wheezing even before he and Mamaw entered their cabin. Mamaw handed Sally’s mother some herbs to boil in water and sent Douglas to collect stump water from a chestnut tree for Sally’s chest. They spent the night at Jim’s cabin so Mamaw could keep an eye on Sally and pray for her well being. Douglas slept through the night and woke the following morning to find Sally sleeping peacefully without a fever or difficulty breathing. Douglas wasn’t sure what had happened, or what secret he had missed, but he discovered his Mamaw’s faith and willingness to believe.