Lory Willis and her sister Bonnie Mikulenka of Glen Rose remember the tall tales their father Clyde Carnes would pull out of thin air.
“My dad was a great story teller,” Willis said. “Growing up, his stories never got old. He just had a way of making his stories interesting.”
The stories, which were usually for his own amusement, kept his four children and wife entertained for many years.
“He would tell the story of where he was bitten on the side of his neck when he was young and if you looked real hard you could still see the scar,” Mikulenka said. “One of our aunts fell for it over and over. The closer they got as they tried to see the scar while he was telling the story and then he would yell and jump and scare them.”
His stories were not the only thing his children remember about him. More often than not he was cutting up and creating fuel for stories that would later be told about him.
“He would also hook up mom’s hot and cold water from the washing machine to squirt some of the teenagers that would come over to try to get even with him,” Mikulenka said. “He could sit in the house in the wash room and squirt them as they tried to enter the house.”
Kids weren’t the only ones who were relentlessly teased by Carnes, the parents fell for his mischief too. On Halloween he often dressed in a white sheet and wore his paint stilts. Standing still, he would wait for the children to pass him and then scare the parents that were lagging behind.
Carnes was married to his wife Doris for 55 years.
“It was a lot of fun,” she said. “I’m a quiet-type person and he is the other type. There was never a dull moment.”
Doris still has an old tin photograph of Carnes from nearly 60 years ago. On the back he wrote a short description, “In FW on my way to see Doris. Left Jim in FW to hitchhike to Llano. It took 14 hours.”
“I don’t think I’d ever meet another man like him,” Doris said.
And she is right.
From his unique projects, like building a house of nothing but doors or constructing a “do-nothing machine” for his children, Carnes kept his family smiling all the time, something he was always doing too.
“I don’t ever remember him frowning - when he did we knew we were in trouble,” Mikulenka said.
Along with the smiles came the whistling. They weren’t just any old whistles either - they were the mood ring to Carnes’ life.
“You could tell what was going on by his whistle,” Willis said. “He had a whistle that meant come here; one that meant I am just checking on you and one that meant you are in big trouble!”
When the children did get in trouble, Carnes always decided to have some fun with it - fun for him anyway.
“We would fight every day over whose turn it was to wash the dishes. So when we couldn’t agree on that he had a routine for us to follow. We had to sit while the other one got up and washed one dish and then had to go sit. Then the next one had to go wash one dish and go sit,” Mikulenka said. “It sure took a long time to wash dishes that way.”
When his children were grown and had children of their own, he began to concoct more stories and even tried his hand at a little magic.
“He could spot a quarter and retrieve it from your ear, the car bumper or the ceiling fan,” Willis said.
Five years ago, there was a pause in the laughter. Carnes suffered a stroke which stunted his speech and motor skills, but through it all he managed to keep his sense of humor.
“He would give us ‘the look’ if he didn’t like what we were doing to him or saying. If he liked what we were saying he would give the little mischief grin he had,” Mikulenka said. “We know that he knew all of us and he understood. Every now and then he would call one of us by our name and we would be on cloud nine.”
The family now mourns the loss of Carnes who passed away on July 5. Although he is gone, the laughs and giggles caused by his stories live on in their hearts.
“I feel so lucky to have had him as a dad,” Willis said. “I have always heard that it is not what you take with you but what you leave behind. I truly believe that. He was not a man of great wealth but he left a great wealth. A wealth money can’t buy. You can’t put a price tag on being loved, being a great parent or a great spouse. I feel blessed and rich because of the wealth my daddy left with me.”
The laughter may have made everything look like fun and games, but underneath Carnes’ children were learning lessons that would last a lifetime.
“Dad was always making things better for us growing up. He was the most caring, hardworking, funny person in the world,” Mikulenka said. “My dad made me a better person the way he raised me. I learned to work hard for what I wanted and to appreciate all the little things in life. He always smiled and joked. He was a funny man.”