Bill Sand is 100 years old and lives in Buffalo, Wyoming.
I’ve been going to Duffy’s Bluff for breakfast every morning. It’s a little local restaurant, gas up and convenience store. Almost every day, I’ve seen the cutest elderly couple and asked them to please participate. The fellow’s name is Warren, I haven’t gotten his wife’s name yet.
A couple of days ago, they waved at me as I walked in. I thought that maybe I’ve made progress. On his way out, Warren stopped by where I was sitting and said, “I feel like I should know you.”
As I began telling him that I’m trying to get him and his wife to participate in this project, the couple in the booth next to me chimed in, cheering Warren as a town icon and prodding him to do the interview.
He told all of us that he would talk to his wife and see.
After he left, the couple told me that I should definitely talk to Bill Sand. He is 100 years old and would probably say yes.
So, I looked up his name in the phone book and called. His grandson answered the phone and told me to come by whenever was convenient.
When I arrived at his little yellow house, there was no answer. I sat in the shade of the huge cottonwood tree in his front yard. He had nailed a thermometer to the tree and it read 101 degrees. But, knowing that he was my first centenarian, I was ready to set up camp if need be.
I called his number and it rang like an alarm throughout his property. I have no idea how many speakers he has attached to his phone, but, I was worried that I might disturb the neighbors, so, after three or four rings, I quickly hung up.
I sat on his front stoop and stared at the beautiful old tree, revisiting my thoughts that cottonwoods are my new favorites.
A few minutes passed and a car pulled up. This was his grandson, his grandson’s wife and two kids. He told me, “Oh, he’s probably taking a nap. Let me see.”
With that, he opened the front door, said a few words and then motioned for me to come in.
As I entered, Bill was sitting in his recliner in a bright yellow shirt, dress pants and was definitely looking his Sunday best.
I told him what I was doing and that I would be honored if he would participate.
He didn’t question me in the least. He had full trust in me which felt good. Really good.
In addition to the interview, he told me about sending money to his grandson to help him and his family relocate from Mississippi to Buffalo. They are living with him now. Just so you know, later in the interview when he refers to “these kids,” he is referring to them.
He also told me that his wife died of Alzheimer’s and how he lost 40 pounds worrying and trying to take care of her. Finally, he had to put her in a home and she died a year ago.
I asked him to step outside, beside the cottonwood for the photos. He walks really well and this was no problem for him. But, as we were re-entering the house, he slipped on the top step, lost his balance and grabbed me to stabilize himself. Then he gave me a big, sweet hug and apologized for his whiskers saying that he should have shaved.
Me: What is your full name?
William Arthur Sand
Me: Where were you born?
Bill: Jeisyville, Illinois
Me: When were you born?
Bill: April 23rd, 1912
Me: What can you tell me about living in “this town”?
Me: What’s your highest level of education?
Bill: high school
Me: Who is your favorite singer?
Bill: I like ’em all about the same.
Me: What’s your favorite song?
Bill: No. [long pause] We’re not much for music are we? What’s that one about the ages?
Me: Rock of Ages?
Bill: Yeah. My wife sang that one. She sang at the Methodist church. Oh, I like most any of ’em.
Me: Looking back over you life, what would you say are some of your happiest moments?
Me: What would you say are some of your saddest moments?
Me: When you feel down, what do you do to make yourself feel better?
Me: What life experiences have you had that made you really proud?
Bill: Well, I think my health and my uh high school activities.
Me: What life experiences do you want to have that you have not accomplished yet?
Me: If there are any, what ways would you like to improve yourself?
Bill: Well, at my age, I can’t do anything. [giggles] Not anymore.
Me: What contributions have you made or would you like to make?
Me: If you could offer a new-born child a single piece of advice, what would it be?