TOP PHOTO: Walt Goins selects a melon for Tonya Braden (gold shirt) as Goins daughter Jan Jones watches. This was his last day of watermelon sales for the season, Saturday, August 13.
By Charlotte Underwood
LAFOLLETTE, TN (WLAF) – Still gardening at 94, Walt Goins just finished selling a half acres worth of watermelons. He finished selling the last of the crop on Saturday, August 13, down on North Tennessee Avenue.
He also grew and is still growing tomatoes, cucumbers, late corn, (he already “put up his early corn”), sweet potatoes, beans, a “second run of beans”, squash and more.
After retiring from stone masonry about 10 years ago, Goins began farming full time again. Now-a-days you can still find him in the fields bush hogging and maintaining his family farm. For years he was a tobacco farmer as well, growing tobacco up the valley. He also served on the Campbell County Board of Education for 22 years.
“I just enjoy seeing things grow, and hard work don’t hurt anybody,” Goins said with a laugh.
Goins said this year he scaled back a little and didn’t put out as much variety as he usually does in the garden.
If you ask his kids they’ll tell he still grows a “huge” garden!
His daughters Rita, Rhonda, Jan and Terri help in the garden and help with canning. His sons Allen and David garden and lay rock. They said they were “lucky and blessed to have grown up with two of the hardest working parents in Campbell County.”
According to his daughter Rita Goins-Claiborne, her dad still works as hard as ever and hasn’t slowed down a bit.
“Dad still raises a huge garden and has cattle. Any given day of the week from spring to fall, except Sunday, he can be found very early until late in the evening, in the garden, in his ½ acre watermelon patch, picking blackberries, raspberries, cherries, grapes, apples, peaches, or pears on the farm,” Rita Goins-Claiborne said.
Walt Goins was married to his wife Azlee for 70 years until she passed away almost two years ago.
“She’s the reason I’m still here today. She was good. Whenever I would be out fishing or hunting and come in at 2 in the morning, she’d always ask if I wanted her to fix me something to eat. She was a good woman,” Goins said. On the farm, Azlee was often right alongside Walt. They had six children, including four girls and two boys.
All the kids said they are thankful for the life lessons they learned from their parents.
According to Rita, Jan, Rhonda and Terri, their dad “taught his four daughters to be like his two sons.” They grew up on a “working farm” as kids.
“He taught us to be responsible and able to take care of ourselves. His leadership and hard work have proven to be a very important part of all of our lives. We were taught a strong work ethic regardless of the job we do just as he still does at 94 years of age. Whether it was in the garden or tobacco fields, or for the boys also in the hayfield or raising cattle, we all were expected to do our part,” Rita Goins-Claiborne said.
“Dad is one of the hardest workers you will ever see. He literally can work circles around most people who are even 50 and 60 years younger than him,” daughter Terri Alley said.
Walt Goins was “raised that way by his parents” and passed those lessons down to his own children and grandchildren.
Born July 6, 1928, Walt Goins has been gardening since he was a kid when he would help his father Hugh. Back then gardening was a way of life for his family and weather could make or break the harvest.
He recalled gardening with his dad Hugh when he was a teenager. He said that was the last time he recalled the area and his garden receiving so much rain.
“We were out on the old place and we had about a half acre of beans planted and they was the prettiest things you ever seen and Dad said ‘buddy we’ll get well on them’ and that was in the fall of the year and they were loaded with beans. We picked a bushel for mom that evening and then it set in raining just exactly like it’s been the last week or two here and that rust hit them and we lost all of them,” Goins recalled.
He said this is the only year rust has ever hit his tomatoes. The two weeks of dry weather, followed by the rain affected how his beans grew this year as well and because of it, he only got one picking off them this year. Undeterred, he planted a “second run of beans” that he will harvest before fall.
“As he told me recently, he absolutely loves to plant and watch things grow. Until Momma passed a couple years ago, she was right there with him. She was the love of his life, and he is lost without her. Mom taught all of us to can, preserve, freeze, and cook everything on the farm,” Rita Goins-Claiborne said.
Her sister Jan Jones said they had two of the best parents in the world, and she would be “forever grateful for that.”
Jones said some of her favorite memories are bringing her dad to town to sell his watermelons, where he saw old friends and made many new.
“He never met a stranger and enjoyed his talks with those visiting,” Jones said.
His daughter Terri Alley said they were proud of who their dad is and the work ethic he and their mom passed on.
“He takes pride in everything he does and doesn’t take shortcuts. There aren’t many people left like our dad and we are thankful for every minute we get to spend with him. We are truly blessed,” Alley said.
Walt said he “always farmed”, but he also “laid rock.”
For many years he was a stone mason, laying rock all over the area. He said he started rock laying with “Uncle John” when he was about 27 years old working at Big Ridge State Park. He worked on a hundred year old cabin “chinking” the logs. According to Goins, he “laid the first stone in Deerfield” too. He spent many years laying rock and building barns. Once he fell more than 20 feet from scaffolding and quit for a while.
“We raised many a barn by hand; I don’t know how many we built, all over, up the valley and everywhere,” Goins said.
He also recalled many memories from growing up in the area such as “getting a silver certificate out at Jeanette Parrot’s Store.”
“I said that’s got my birthdate on it; she knew me since I was a little feller and she said ‘here’ and give it to me. She reached me a penny one day that was worth a right smart amount,” Goins recalled.
Walt told several fish stories about fishing in Norris Lake over the years.
He has a 28 pound “Muskie” fish on his wall that he caught in 1971 or ’72. At one time it was the record caught up at Roger’s Dock down by the White Bridge. It was the the largest caught at that time. He had been fishing from the bank when he caught it. His son Allen was a teenager and was with him at the time.
He said he hated to tell what he caught it on and that nobody believed it anyway.
He caught it on a Zebco reel with about 6 pound test line on it, and a doll fly lure that he “found laying on the bank.”
“We were Crappie fishing from the bank, and I picked up that doll fly somebody had lost and tied it on that Zebco. I kept that fish for about an hour and a half on the line; I was afraid he was going to break that six pound test,” Goins said with a laugh. He recalled other times Crappie fishing and hooking a Muskie and it straightening a hook out as he fought it.
“It straightened that Eagle Claw hook out just like your finger, ” Goins said.
He also served on the Campbell County Board of Education for 22 years. He retired off the school board 12 years ago. He was elected five times.
“I was one of the last board members to serve a six year term,” Goins said.
He recalls his time time on the school board fondly.
“I had a group that I worked with, and we worked well together. You got to work with other people. It doesn’t matter what their politics is, you take it and do what’s best. That’s how I’ve lived my life, if I promised somebody I was going to do something, I tried my best to do it,” Goins said.
A “lifetime educator”, Walt Goins has spent his time “teaching his children responsibility, the value of making good grades in school and the importance of an education.” He also taught Sunday School classes for many years and positively impacted the educational system in Campbell County with his 22 years of service on the school board.
Now that he’s retired, Walt spends his days gardening and farming. On Friday, he spent the day bush hogging. Often he works in the fields from sun up till sun down.
“I can still put it on if I want to; I’m lucky and blessed,” Walt Goins said. (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 08/23/2022-6AM)