Mr. Bright’s Daffodils
About 1959-60 when my family lived off Duke Street in the West End of Forest City, NC, behind Hickory Log Barbecue, Lee Bright was our neighbor. He lived in the neat red-brick house with the well-kept yard on Hwy 74 business near the restaurant. I understood that Mr. Bright was a widower, with children who lived away.
He was a slender, light skinned, well-mannered black man. He seemed quiet, but always greeted everyone he met with a nod and a smile, and was a cordial neighbor. He always waved back when our children called out “Hey, Mr. Bright.” His yard was always clean and neatly mowed, and each spring passing motorists slowed their cars to get a glimpse of his side yard, which was filled with daffodils. Their yellow heads totally covered the area as if they were a golden wash, painted with an artist’s brush. It was a beautiful, almost breathtaking sight.
We moved away and I lost track of Mr. Bright. Then I was saddened to hear that he had been killed in an accident in which he had been struck by a car when the driver failed to see him as he walked along the highway.
Afterward, whenever I passed and saw that the vacant house was falling into disrepair, I recalled how diligent he had been in keeping it so neat and clean while he lived. Still, his daffodils greeted everyone each spring, although bare areas had begun to appear where people dug up the bulbs to plant in their own yards. I was at first upset that people were stealing his spring display, then realized that each bulb they took would live on to be more cared for with the taker than they would have been in Mr. Bright’s abandoned yard. I took a picture of those that remained, fearing that there would soon be no more of them.
A few weeks ago, I saw that his house had been demolished and the lot leveled. There remained no indication that he had lived there, and no sign of the daffodils. Even though they are no longer there as reminders, Mr. Bright will still be remembered by those of us who knew him, and by those who so enjoyed the field of daffodils he shared with us each spring. I am hopeful a few bulbs still remain and will pop their heads up next spring.
Author’s note: Mr. Bright was born George Lee Bright on 11/08/1890, so would have been age 84 when he died. When he was struck by the car, he was taken to Charlotte Memorial Hospital, where he died on 03/08/1975 of a closed head injury with inter-cerebral hemorrhage. His death certificate lists a wife, Bertha Simmons, but I do not think she was then living. I could have been mistaken in my belief that he was a widower, but if so I never saw her during the two years we lived behind him. The address of his house was 1027 West Main St., Forest City, NC. His death certificate says he was a retired textile worker, and that he was buried at Wells Spring Church Cemetery, an African-American church cemetery, in Forest City. He apparently has no marker. Bill Floyd’s cemetery survey does not list him, and Bill says there were so many unmarked graves that he did not list them.