Local author tells tales of imaginary country crossroads
By Steve Herring
Published in News on July 10, 2011 1:50 AM
Sherwood Williams sits with a copy of his new book and one of the "possums" it's dedicated to.
Anyone who travels along rural Corbett Hill Road in western Wayne County shouldn't expect to see the city described in Sherwood Owl Williford's new humor book, "Hanging Out in Corbett Hill," but they might see the possums the book is dedicated to.
"Corbett Hill is nothing more than where one road T's into another," Williford said. "It is halfway between Smith Chapel and Grantham. The book is not really about real people and real institutions in Corbett Hill, but I have built what once was a crossroads into an imaginary metropolis with a university, university research hospital, funeral homes -- anything that a normal city would have.
"In the beginning I was actually going to call the book 'Fixin' to Laugh,' but I got talked out of it. People thought that I was assuming that people would laugh. So through some reflective thinking and my daughter's persuasion I changed it to 'Hanging Out in Corbett Hill.' Everything is made up, but sprinkled in are some bits of wisdom and some heart-touching items. But for the most part they are stories of fiction designed to make people smile or laugh."
A native of Bentonville who now lives near Princeton, Williford said he knew at an early age that he had an interest in writing, but an experience in college sent him in a different direction.
"Somewhere along the way one of my professors sidetracked me, it was a poetry festival, I will never forget it," Williford said. "He said, 'You know you have got to learn young man,' he wrote on my paper in red, 'that poets never say what they really mean.'
"Basically he was telling me that I needed to write everything abstract. That discouraged me and I never really pursued writing until about 11 years ago."
Williford worked as a supervisor in a restaurant after eight years of military service, but spent the majority of his career in the kitchen cabinet industry.
He returned to Wayne County 11 years ago primarily to look after his mother and his wife's mother who has since died.
He is retired except for his writing.
His first book, "Grantham High School, the 1950s," was a look at the school's sports history.
Williford said he sees writing humor as challenge and that he has worked off and on for six or eight years on "Hanging Out in Corbett Hill."
"I was raised by my grandparents," he said. "They were uneducated farmers, but they were both good storytellers. Some (stories in the book) are spurred by stories that I have heard, but most of the stories just came from my mind."
He already is at work on his next project and has researched more than 10,000 newspaper articles on the Grantham area for the period 1924 to 1949.
For copies of the book write to Williford at Corbett Hill Publishing, P.O. Box 175, Princeton, NC 27569 and include a check for $17 payable to Corbett Hill Publishing. The book also may be purchased through Williford's website, sherwoodowlwilliford.com.