James and Bill and their wives, Peggy and Dot, lived across the block from us in Waleska. Jack was an attorney who worked and lived with his wife, Sara, in Atlanta. Naturally, he could not be as involved as James and Bill were, but he kept in touch.
Our children were 13, 7 and 4 years old when their dad died. Through the years, James and Bill did things for them their dad would have done had he lived.
Since Cindy was already a young teenager, Bill soon taught her how to drive in a cow pasture. Cindy thinks Bill was wise since he chose a big pasture.
Both Joel and John would go to their Uncle James or Uncle Bill when they had problems with their bicycles. Over and over, tires needed to be fixed.
Joel remembers when James took the training wheels off his bicycle. James and Peggy’s front yard was the first place he rode without them.
He was always eager to hunt and fish. After Joel got his first gun, he could hardly wait for deer season. James and Bill took him to our farm to teach him to shoot.
Joel was super excited. But things did not go exactly like he expected. When he would shoot the gun it would “kick.” Bill and James had some good laughs watching him getting “beaten up” by the gun. Even though he had a bruised shoulder afterwards, Joel loved it.
Another of Joel’s memories is when Bill invited him to go to a board meeting of the Georgia Peace Officers Association in Macon. Then, they drove down to Cordele and filled the back of Bill’s truck with watermelons.
As they came back the next day they stopped at police stations, state patrol posts and sheriffs’ offices giving them watermelons. Joel said everyone in law enforcement knew Bill.
But it was not just the things James and Bill did for John and Joel that mattered. Equally important was how they included them in their lives.
Peggy and Dot’s family have a tent at Pine Log Camp Meeting Grounds. They would take Joel and John with them to camp meeting.
There were church services and organized activities for children. Their favorite was water balloon fights at night.
It was not unusual for James, Bill and anybody who came by to sit around at Cline’s Store and talk. Joel loved to sit with them and listen.
After Bill and James retired — James was the postmaster in Waleska and Bill was a major in the State Department of Natural Resources — they got a new hobby. They would go to yard and estate sales, bring the things they bought to the store and sell them.
Before John left for college, he would go by to see if they had anything he needed for the apartment he and friends would be sharing in Athens. Neither Bill nor James could decide what to charge him. They always said they would “settle up” with him later.
They never decided and John never paid. I think that was their plan from the beginning.
But most of all, I appreciate the role models James and Bill were for my children.
Now that is not to say that Cindy, Joel or John never did anything they should not have done — they definitely did — but partially because of James and Bill Cline’s influence, they all turned out well.
Once when discussing something stupid another teenager had done, one of the boys told why he would never have done that. He explained that if he had, either his Uncle James or Uncle Bill would have put their arm around his shoulder and said something like this. “Son, you and I have the same last name and you are not going to mess it up.”
Cindy, Joel and John always go to the Cline reunion. It is very important to Bill and James that all the family is there and my children do not want to disappoint them. Cindy gets misty-eyed when she talks about Uncle Bill giving her big, warm hugs.
One of the boys paid tribute to them when he said that he never remembered having a father, but when he had his own children, he wanted to be like Uncle James or Uncle Bill.
So on this Father’s Day weekend, I thank James and Bill for all the fatherly things they did and continue to do for Cindy, Joel and John.
And although we are not siblings by birth, I am proud to call them my brothers.
Marguerite Cline is former mayor of Waleska.