Sheri Wren Haymore
If we want to hear an abiding love story of 70 years, we need to lean in close and let the tellers weave their story. If we want to feel the story, we must listen for the words not spoken. Words like trust and mutual respect. Determination. Harmony. Pay close attention and we may learn that the secret lies in consideration for the well-being of one another.
It was my privilege to hear the story of Billy and Carol Snow, married 69 years this past Christmas Eve, and life-long residents of Surry County. Their story began when Carol was cheerleading for Copeland High School and Billy attended the game with his friend, who happened to date Carol’s cousin. Double dates followed in a Model A Ford with the girls sitting pretty in the rumble seat. With a chuckle, Billy said he didn’t realize how small the rumble space was until he bought a Model A to celebrate their 50th anniversary.
Perhaps they were too young, as Billy stated, to understand forever love; I gathered from their smiles that they were both thrilled to get started making a life together. For a while after the wedding, they lived with Billy’s parents until they could afford to rent a little house. From the beginning, their life together was carried forward by the momentum of hard work.
Billy shared that he left school and immediately went to work, hauling lumber and pulp wood with his father and brothers, all the while farming during the summer. When he began “trucking,” as he said, for Nub McCormick, he was working seven days a week. Billy recounted the remarkable partnership he and Carol formed with Nub and his wife, Peggy—a partnership that lasted 47 years on the power of a handshake and friendship.
Those years were surely both interesting and difficult, as Billy mentioned hauling granite for the NC Granite Corp up and down the East Coast, hauling dirt during the construction of I-77, and trucking jobs that kept him away from home all week. Since we want to get at the heart of their marriage partnership, I turned to Carol and asked what her life was like during those years.
Not surprisingly, she too was dedicated to a life of work, first working for Quality Mills, and then keeping children in her home while raising their own three children—Dale, Karen, and David. After David began school, Carol joined Peggy in the office of their trucking company. On the home front, with Billy on the road most of the time, Carol said, “I was the secretary, doctor, and money manager. I kept up the house, the yard, and the kids.”
Smiling, Billy put in that Carol, seeing the need for a larger home for their family, purchased a house he’d never seen. And she conscientiously paid the $47 per month mortgage payment and repaid her father-in-law for his down payment contribution.
Even through the difficult years, they managed to enjoy an occasional night out with friends, frequenting Town and Country Restaurant in King followed by live country or bluegrass music. Seeing the warm humor that passed between the couple, I can imagine the laughter and tall tales that flowed on those evenings.
When I asked them to recall their favorite memories, Billy immediately said, “Racing.” He and their sons raced dirt tracks all over the state, including Friendship and 311 Speedway. In fact, their only vacation for many years was to attend the Daytona 500 every February.
Because I know them to be people of faith, I asked how faith played a role in their marriage. Their initial response involved church—how Carol walked with the kids to church when Billy was working on Sundays preparing the trucks to go out for another week; how after Billy tired of being away from home and took on a role within the company that kept him close by, he and Carol joined a church together and have remained there ever since. Here’s where we catch the words unspoken: Dedication. Consistency. Making a quiet impact on their community. Walking a path of faith that leaves footprints for their children and grandchildren to follow.
When I asked them to define love, there was laughter, followed by a glimpse into how their faith has influenced their life together. “We never fought. We don’t argue,” Carol said. “We don’t always agree or see things the same way, but we know when to back off. We never go to bed mad. We spend time together. Love means being good to each other.”
Billy added, “When there’s an issue, don’t stir the pot because it will just get bigger and bigger. We make decisions together.”
When I asked if they considered themselves best friends, they both answered, “Oh, yes.”
I asked them to share advice they may have for a young couple just starting out. Their answers blended into one: “Be together; money is not all you need. Don’t over-spend; don’t buy anything unless you have the means. Work together on finances. Discuss purchases and make decisions together. On the other hand, if you can afford what you want, don’t wait. Do it now.”
While you may never have met Carol and Billy Snow, chances are that you are familiar with “Snow Village,” their beautiful property on the Mitchell River just downstream from the gates of the historic Reynolds estate, Devotion. When I interviewed the Snows in December, they had just sold Snow Village and downsized to a home closer to their son and daughter. I got to hear the story of how they came to live on the river those years ago.
Carol said that because they worked long hours and their home in Dobson was on a busy road, she wanted a quiet retreat for weekends, maybe something on a pond or stream. After searching for some time, Billy remarked to Carol that they already owned property on a river. Carol said, “Where? I’ve never seen it.”
“Neither have I,” answered Billy. He had purchased it previously from Carol’s sister.
The Mitchell River is, of course, both scenic and peaceful, exactly what Carol had envisioned. They built a picnic shelter and set up a small camper. When an engineer verified that the land beside the river was not in a flood plain, they set out to build a log cabin.
Billy told me, “I thought we were building a small cabin. I didn’t realize until it was done that what we had was a large log house.” (I might call it a stunningly beautiful log home.) Once they had tested the commute during a deep snow and learned that their remote road was the first road a snowplow contracted out of Elkin cleared, Carol determined that this would be their permanent home. Over the years, they added the lovely chapel and reproduction general store that became a destination for many a family out for a drive. The village, their honeybees, and family gatherings on the river all made for enjoyable retirement years.
When it came time for the couple to downsize, the house they had their eye on came on the market, and a couple from Texas fell in love with their log home and village and purchased it all. Carol said, “There’s no need to get in a hurry; things happen for the best when the timing is right. We’re very grateful.”
Providential timing. Trust in an unseen Hand. Faithfulness to work and each other. It all adds up to a timeless love, and I’m grateful to Billy and Carol for showing us the way.