Sam Woods, 97, who makes his home at Kenton Pointe Assisted Living Center, is a man of many stories.
Having spent 35 years of his life in the military, as well as a successful career as a veterinarian and traveling the world over with his wife Nelle, Woods has a wealth of experience coupled with sharp wit and humor.
Born and raised in Murfreesboro, Tenn., Sam likes to say he met his wife through the Civil War.
“Back in the Depression in 1929 I was a pretty wild young man at the time,” Woods said. “(My parents) wouldn’t let me have the car for anything except going to church.”
Woods said a friend of his named Sam Mitchell lived across from the church. Mitchell was a veteran of the Civil War and was in the Battle of Stones River, according to Woods. He recalled frequently visiting Mitchell to hear his stories of the war, often playing hooky from church.
There was one visit, however, that would end up changing his life.
“As Mr. (Mitchell) was telling me a good story about the Civil War that he was in, I looked across the street,” Woods said. “Coming down those church steps, I saw the most beautiful lady I had ever seen in my life. I said right in the middle of his conversation, ‘Mr. Mitchell, you’ve got to excuse me, I’ve got something I’ve got to take care of.’ About the time he saw her, and realized what I was talking about, and I will never forget what that old man told me. In the strongest voice that I ever heard an 90-something year old man speak, he said, ‘boy, go get her!’ and I went and got her.”
That beautiful lady Woods saw would later become his wife of 77 years, Nelle. They were married in 1938 in Franklin, and had two children, a boy and a girl, born two years and two minutes apart, according to Woods.
Woods said he volunteered for the Army in 1943, during World War II and he has plenty of stories to tell. One involved entertaining Gen. Dwight Eisenhower’ wife
“I was activated and went to Frankfurt, Germany at the Rhine-Main Air Base,” Woods said. “My wife was real active in bridge club and all that stuff. The commander got orders from NATO that Mamie Eisenhower, that’s General Eisenhower’s wife, was going to be on the base on a certain day, and they were wanting the base to entertain her.”
The men at the base weren’t much of entertainers, Woods said, and didn’t know what to do. Woods told them they don’t have much to worry about, just turn the entertainment over to his wife Nelle.
With little choice, Nelle Woods was tasked to entertain the wife of the General of the US Army. Sam Woods said his wife held a bridge party for Mamie Eisenhower, and it went by exceptionally.
“When Mamie was getting on her airplane,” Woods said “before she went in the door, she was waving to everybody, and she picked my wife out in the crowd, ‘Nelle, had a wonderful time, I’ll see you later.’ That was a big day for my wife.”
Woods said he and his wife travelled extensively, and wouldn’t travel like everyone else — they’d travel with just the two of them.
“We would go into Paris, in the Charles de Gaulle Airport, and we wouldn’t even have a hotel reservation,” he said. “We would check into this hotel, if we like what was around that, we saw things of interest, we’d stay there a day or two. If we didn’t, we’d move on.”
Their ‘go with the flow’ mentality gave Woods and his wife many unique experiences, from speaking to a New Zealander who hadn’t spoken in years, rubbing elbows with the commodore of a yacht club in Sydney to attending a Japanese wedding.
“Nelle and I, we meet people,” Woods said. “She’s an outgoing person, she meets people, and I meet people, and we don’t know a stranger.”
Besides serving in the military, Woods also practiced as a veterinarian in Murfreesboro, in an area with people he affectionately called hillbillies.
“I did a lot of work for adjoining counties,” Woods said. “I was living in Rutherford County and the adjoined county was Cannon County, and that was hillbilly country. When I say hillbilly country, I mean if I call you a hillbilly, that’s the nicest thing I can say about you, they’re the best people in the world, honest to goodness. They’ll take the shirt off of their back and give it to you.”
Wood said many of those families had just a few acres of land, a mule and a cow and would raise their own food. A family’s livestock meant everything to them, providing they needed to survive. Whenever one of the livestock fell ill, Woods was the the go-to person.
“This fella had a milk cow, but it was down with milk fever,” a disease curable within a matter of minutes with an I.V. injection, Woods said. “This fella was sitting down on the ground, and he had this cow’s head in his lap and he was rubbing that cow. ‘Best ‘ole cow I ever had, best ‘ole cow I ever had.’ I said ‘Mr. Jones, don’t worry too much, I’ll have this cow on her feet in 15-30 minutes, she’s going to be alright.’ He said ‘doctor, if you get my cow well, I’ll give you the best gallon of white lightning you’ve ever had.”
Woods said he saved the man’s cow, and received the promised ‘white lightning’ in kind.
Woods retired from his veterinary career in 1981, after 40 years, but remained in Murfreesboro to watch over his mother. Once she died a couple of years later. Woods and his wife moved to Florida, living there for 22 years.
After their stay in Florida, Woods said his wife had taken a liking to Hawaii after their frequent visits, so they decided to move to Honolulu, where they stayed for 10 years. Woods and his wife then decided to move back to the mainland, where they could be closer to their children.
Nelle Woods died on March 19, 2018. She was 94.
Sam Woods says he’s concerned about the world today regarding the violence towards police officers, believing it to be the beginning of an armed revolution.
“People don’t realize, the policemen are our first line of defence,” he said. “If something happens around here, the policemen are going to come and protect us, and we’ve got to stand up for them.”