A Valentine Story
By Bill Shepard
They called it “puppy love” all the mill village folk, and said it wouldn’t last!
She was the daughter of a strict “holiness preacher” and he was a typical mill village boy. The two met one day as they were returning from the school where they both attended. The long walk home from the school gave time for the children to mingle and play and exchange talk of the happenings at the school on that day. Today was no different. The boy, riding on his beautiful red and white bicycle neared the group of playful children. A voice from the crowd called out, “Bill, have you met the new preacher’s daughter?” I had not known we had a new preacher! Our eyes met, and then she looked another way, but not before I could get a good look!
I sped away on my bike, but the face in that crowd would not disappear. On my way home, I stopped at the little store when I knew the children would soon be passing, and went inside. I took a position near a window where I would have a good view of those who passed by. I wanted another look at the face I had seen earlier. I did not have long to wait. The crowd had grown smaller, some having gone in other directions as they neared the village.
There it was, the most beautiful face I had ever seen! I had never felt this way before, and I knew I was in love with this girl, the girl that was called, “the preacher’s daughter”.
I wanted to learn more! Later that very day I inquired of one who lived near the church parsonage if they knew the name of the new preacher’s daughter. They did, but neither of us could spell it! I had never heard the name before! I know now, it is spelled E u f a u l a.
It was Valentine’s Day, February 1938. I still did not know how to spell that name. It had been only a few days since I had first heard it. My attendance at Sunday School had improved a little, but I had been warned that the preacher would not allow his daughter to talk with the boys. We had never spoken and we saw each other from a distance only.
It was just a simple little valentine and purchased for a penny at McClellan’s Dime Store in town. Not knowing how to spell her name, I wrote the words “Give to the preacher’s daughter” on it and gave it to an adult to be delivered. The little valentine made its mark, and today, (77) seventy-seven years later, it still remains in her possession. The words “give to the preacher’s daughter” are still legible. Years passed and the preacher’s daughter became my life-long companion, and still remains my valentine. The following poem, written many years ago, tells the story.
She was thirteen, my blue-eyed queen,
When she first came to our town.
She had a little pug-nose and chubby little toes,
And her hair was chestnut brown.
She was a beautiful thing, my life-time queen,
I’m sure it was love at first sight.
To change her name became my game,
And I worked at it with all my might.
She became my queen, that sweet little thing,
And I crowned her the queen of my heart.
She reigns on the throne of our humble home,
Only death can cause us to part.
We’ve been side by side, through life’s long ride,
We’ve traveled through good times and bad.
She has the wisdom of gods, and I’ll give you the odds,
My life without her would be sad.
Note: On this Valentine’s Day, seventy-seven years later, I took the valentine from it’s place in safe-keeping, and presented it to the “preacher’s daughter” and to my sweetheart again! 77 years!
Mr. Shepard is a native of Darlington, S.C., and a current resident of Piedmont, S.C. Signed copies of Mr. Shepard’s books “Mill Town Boy” and “Bruised” are available for purchase at the News and Press office. He has been sharing his tales of growing up in Darlington for decades, and we are delighted to share them each week.