A Father’s Influence Along Life’s Trail

A Father’s Day post…

JC Warnock and friends in Hot Springsr

My father (on the far right) with friends in Hot Springs, Arkansas

I have some of my father’s traits and am thankful for those in every case. Sadly, I did not get his 6-pack abs or shiny dark hair, but I’m thankful to have inherited his legs and his enjoyment for walking our little planet.

When daddy was in high school in Smackover, Arkansas, he took a job with a local man who was doing concrete work in a nearby oil field. There were 8-10 young men moving and spreading concrete in the summer heat. At the end of the day, only he and a couple of other guys remained. They were hired to continue the next day. He was strong and determined.

I’m thankful for this photo of my father and me moving dirt in our wheelbarrows. I think about my dad every time I see a wheelbarrow, especially if it’s full and difficult to balance! I’ve never had the physical strength to match my father’s, but I’ve shown signs of his determination on occasion.



A rare photo of my father fishing


Hiking a mountain on the edge of Arteaga in Mexico during the late 90s

Over the years, my dad and I’ve shared several hiking trails. When I was a child, our family often visited state parks in the Ouachitas or Ozarks region. As an adult, I had the privilege of hiking trails with my dad at Petit Jean State Park one early spring morning. I still think about him each time I walk down that favorite trail, thankful for his strength in my legs and memories of his love for creation.


Daddy and mother at Petit Jean State Park during the 1980s.

Dad made many beautiful things from iron and he had an eye for photography. He let me “play” with his Zeiss Contessa camera when I was young. He purchased it while serving in the Army.


Photo taken on his Zeiss Contessa while serving in the Korean War (early 1950s).

He learned to weld as a young man and got into ironwork as a sideline business to supplement the family income. His regular job was shift work as a chemist and later environmental control in local oil and chemical plants. On Saturdays and some evenings, I would help in his iron shop by grinding and buffing handrails. At other times, I’d assist him with an installation. Working with my father was good experience for a teenager and made me appreciate his work-ethic.

As a hobby, he sometimes made decorative items from iron. Below are a few examples. He made the imaginary plant on the right from corroded telephone wire being thrown away next to a railroad in South Arkansas. In the center is his replica of a “preacher-in-a-pulpit” wildflower using a piece of oil shale rock as a base.



This book was personally delivered to my father as an expression of thanks for the progress of South Korea since the war.

This soft-spoken and hard-working man often said he was lucky to have been stationed in Korea during a lull in the fighting as if he should apologize. He still had opportunities to show his character in the face of danger.

Once he was leading a platoon and his point man froze as they approached a potential minefield. My dad told the point man and others to follow his steps as he led the soldiers through the area, knowing that the discovery of a mine would probably end his life but save others in his platoon. I’ve always admired that fearless quality in my father!


Lieutenant Warnock made friends with children in Korea

My parents are members of what we often hear referred to as the greatest generation. Based on close inspection of this man and his wife for my entire life, I can confirm they are members of the greatest generation.

Those of us who’ve shared the trail with them would do well to emulate as many of their traits as possible. I like what writer Neil Gaiman said recently in a commencement speech. “If you can’t be wise, pretend to be someone who is, and act the way you think they would act.” Not bad advice when you have these models of wisdom and character.


Mother and daddy with a vase he gave her before they were married, 65 years ago.

Memory Falls on Father’s Day

Cedar Falls

Cedar Falls

I enjoyed the short hike down to Cedar Falls at Petit Jean State Park, remembering many hikes with my father and friends on this trail I’ve traveled since childhood. Passing a large boulder or pressing my hand across the intricate patterns of erosion on a rock wall might prompt memories I hadn’t thought of for years.

My father is unable to hike this trail now, but I’m thankful for the time we spent together on this and other trails over the years. He had an appreciation for nature and that was one of many gifts he passed down to me.

After I spent a few minutes with Cedar Falls, a father and son duo approached. I enjoyed catching a few shots of their enjoyment at the base of the falls and wondered if this place would become a memory bank for them as it had for me. IMG_1351rr

While hiking away from the falls, I waded out into the creek with my camera and tripod for the following shot. The warm water felt good as reflections danced off rock surfaces. I did happen to think about the snake I saw a few minutes earlier that slipped from the trail into the water but figured he wouldn’t mind my short visit into Cedar Creek.

Cedar Creek below the falls.

Cedar Creek below the falls.

After hiking back up to Mather Lodge, I looked out across the Cedar Creek valley and thought of the times I’d spent there with family. I thought about one daughter’s soft singing as she and her older sister and my wife and I stared at the stars from this bluff one night. I thought of a family photo we took on the bench close by. I thought of how, as a child, I used to stand and stare at the rock walls on the other side, wondering how the flow of water over time could form such beauty.

I felt thankfulness for my daughters though miles sometimes separate us. I felt thankfulness for my parents who are still able to experience trails through the photos I share. I’m thankful to have my father and thankful to be a father. Happy Father’s Day from Cedar Falls Trail.

View from Mather Lodge

View of Cedar Creek valley from Mather Lodge

Daddy and mother at Petit Jean State Park during the 1980s.

My parents on a Petit Jean State Park trail during the 1980s.

Long Distance Hiking Partner – Thank You Dad


My father and mother at Petit Jean State Park

My father and mother at Petit Jean State Park (photo by cousin Sue Warnock, late 1970s?)

I heard a yell from down in the valley and immediately realize my error.  The voice was my father’s, and it wasn’t a happy sound.  I had paused to pick up rocks and throw them into woods down a steep embankment.  It was fun to watch them bounce their way down through the trees.   I didn’t realize my father had hiked down below, and evidently one of the rocks hit him on the shoulder.  When he got up to the piece of trail I was on, he emphasized that I shouldn’t do that again.  It was a good lesson to learn at twelve years old.  Now while hiking I occasionally stop younger hikers from throwing rocks down hillsides and this always reminds me of my father.

While visiting my Uncle Reese in Arteaga, Mexico, years later in the 1990s, I did a little desert hiking with my dad.  I stared at Arteaga Mountain through my uncle’s second floor window and thought it looked like an easy climb with little in the way of vegetation or challenge.  My dad, sister, and her son were up for it.  We consulted with one of Reese’s neighbors who had a topographic map of the area, determined a route, and drove to the foot of this “smooth little mountain.”


Daddy and me toward the high point of our hike. Daddy used a century plant stalk for a hiking stick (photo by Martha Warnock, approx. 1996).

We were surprised at the steepness of the climbs and the thickness of prickly vegetation.  Cactus plants were everywhere and had a way of reaching out and touching you.

Another surprise was the deceptiveness of the climb.  After reaching one rise, there would be a dip before rising even higher.  We hiked up, then down and then up even more.   This pattern repeated over and over.  We finally reached the peak and enjoyed the view  back down on Arteaga.  Rather than return by the up and down route, we chose a drainage to scramble down and walked back to the car.  A souvenir from that hike was a century plant stalk that my father found and used as a hiking stick.  It was light and strong and still works today.

A few years ago my father and I visited Petit Jean State Park where we’d spent many family vacations when I was a child.  We got in late and set up camp in the dark.  Early the next morning we hiked down the Cedar Falls Trail.  Robins were everywhere, and water flowed in small drainages along the trail.  A flood of  memories came over me as I thought of the many times I’d walked that trail as a child.  The house-sized boulders in front of me sat exactly as they did when I was a child. Although there had been gradual changes over centuries from water, ice, and wind, the changes were imperceptible to me.

We were both growing older in a world that seemed to change a breakneck speed.  The world we worked in had seen tremendous changes in technology and professional practices, yet here along these rocky trails, time seemed frozen.  There was something comforting about the stability of these scenes remembered from childhood.  The little drainages still flowed across familiar rock piles.  Cedar Falls still roared with power.  Deep green moss still clung to the tops of vine-covered rocks.  Bright orange and yellow lichen still caught my eye as we descended the trail.

As I watched my father hike down the trail, I thought about his years of commitment to my mother and our family.  He’d worked hard to provide for us and make it possible for us to explore the beauty of the world and learn new things.  He always had an eye for the beauty of nature, and I was pleased to think I received that tendency as a gift from him.  He took pride in his children and grandchildren, but I knew that he had made sacrifices to provide for us and make our needs more important than his own.

The few hikes I had with my father became special memories.  He is the true long-distance hiking partner, having traveled with me for more than fifty years.  I’m thankful for his many lessons, some verbal but most taught in silence through example.  He showed me how to walk a path with integrity.  Out of respect for my father and his example, I hope to walk as he walked.

Photo taken by my father on his Zeiss Contessa on a visit to Hodges Gardens.

Photo taken by my father on his Zeiss Contessa on a visit to Hodges Gardens.

Photo taken on his Ziess Contessa while serving in the Korean War (early 1950s).

Photo taken on his Ziess Contessa while serving in the Korean War (early 1950s).

Dad taking pictures at Mirror Lake, Blanchard Springs

Dad taking pictures at Mirror Lake, Blanchard Springs