Lawrence was the father of Vic West, the chief deputy with the sheriff’s office. Vic has other siblings but it is through him that I met Mr. West.
For reasons that I cannot recall, Vic and I went to Mr. West’s residence on Brickmill Road. Vic introduced me to his father and Mr. West reached out to shake my hand.
Mr. West had the largest hands of anyone I had ever known. Both of my scrawny hands would have easily fit into one of his. He was an intimidating character from the very beginning.
While we were there, Mr. West began to insist that Vic take care of some family matter. I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree because Vic would not do as his father asked.
The more Mr. West insisted, the louder both of them got with their responses to one another. Mr. West finally relented and we left.
I told Vic as soon as we were outside that I had already made up my mind during their argument that regardless of how things went, he would have been on his own.
All I really noticed as they spoke to one another was how big Mr. West’s hands were. One swipe from them and lots of damage could have been done.
A while later, Vic attended the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Va., for a three-month program. While he was there, Vic’s teenage son, Jeremy, lived with Mr. West.
Jeremy has since grown into a responsible adult. But he was like most teens during those days.
Vic called me and asked me to go by his Dad’s and have a little talk with Jeremy.
I of course agreed and headed that way. I knocked on the door and Mr. West answered it. We exchanged pleasantries and I told him that I would like to speak to Jeremy. He looked at me and said, “What has he done?”
I told him Jeremy had done nothing and that I just wanted to speak with him. He looked at me a little more sternly and a little louder said, “He did something or you wouldn’t be here.”
It was then that I realized this entire thing could have been handled better by phone from Virginia than in person. He did let me talk to Jeremy but I didn’t waste any time doing it. I called Vic and thanked him for the experience.
On another occasion I was at Vic’s home as he was putting down a wood floor. Mr. West was outside running the saw and cutting each piece precisely to the right dimensions.
Vic looked out the window and saw his Dad had obviously taken a break because he wasn’t standing near the saw. So he gave me a piece of wood and told me to go down to the saw and cut it.
As I did Mr. West came around the corner and with those big hands took the piece I had just cut and threw it in the scrap pile.
He asked me what I was doing and I replied that I was only cutting a piece of wood as Vic had asked me to.
He said, “I am the saw man and you didn’t cut it right.” So he cut another piece exactly the dimensions as I had just cut and told me to take it in the house to Vic.
When I walked in, Vic was bent over laughing because he had watched the entire thing happen from the upstairs window. I have no doubt I was set up. But I guess that is sometimes what friends do to each other.
Mr. West became very ill several years ago and suffered greatly before he passed.
I won’t pretend to know what all Mr. West accomplished in his lifetime. But this I do know.
Anytime any of his children needed a roof over their heads, because of him they had one.
He was a man who loved his children and took care of them as best he could up until the day he died.
When he passed, the world lost one of its characters.
But more importantly, my friend lost his father. And it’s the only time I’ve seen him weep.
Chris Collett is a lifelong resident of Cherokee County.