Clarence Woodward began working on “everything” at a young age
STILWELL, OKLA. – When Clarence Woodward of Stilwell, Okla., was in third grade, he moved from Red Star, Ark., to an old house on 80 acres outside of Stilwell, Okla., where his father purchased a farm. While his mother Gladys was from Kentucky, his dad Earl was pure “Arkie.” His grandparents, John and Mae Woodward, had already moved to the area and lived 5 miles away in Red Bird Holler where they raised tomatoes and later strawberries and peanuts.
Early on, Clarence showed a strong aptitude for fixing things. When he was very young, his grandfather became frustrated when the television didn’t work. Clarence got a hold of a couple of old TVs and used the three to make one that worked using his grandfather’s TV as the base. John was so sure the young boy couldn’t possibly fix a television that he first refused to turn it on.
When John discovered the television actually worked, he declared the boy a “fix-it witch,” and Clarence’s natural mechanical abilities were unveiled.
Another important early occurrence was meeting Pat Stewart, a classmate and girlfriend since third grade.
At 19, marriage was the natural conclusion of a long friendship and courtship. The couple had already started college but Clarence only remained one semester because they wouldn’t allow him to take just business classes, while Pat finished her four-year degree in three by taking 17 hours each semester and going to summer school. Clarence began working for the Talequah Ford dealership, where he remained for eight years.
Next, Clarence worked in the grocery industry for more than 20 years. After hours, he drove a truck for a good friend every day during strawberry season to varying markets, including Tulsa and Oklahoma City, while also repairing tractors regularly. Clarence was also a member of the National Guard and the Stilwell unit was ready to go to the Bay of Pigs as the conflict elevated though fortunately the situation abated as they were preparing to leave.
During the grocery years, the couple adopted three children.
Clarence’s love of equipment and repair and restoration continued throughout his life, with him still restoring tractors today. When repairing, he would go on-site to see the disabled equipment because he knew the issue only by looking himself. He would explain the problem to the farmer and then make the repair. Having restored hundreds of tractors, sold nearly as many, and repaired more tractors than he can count, he is affectionately known as “the tractor man.”
“COVID has made selling a restored tractor an unprofitable venture,” Clarence explained. “Nonetheless, I still work occasionally repairing and always restoring something.”
Pat used her degree to become a local grade school teacher. Meanwhile, the family farm grew to 400 acres with commercial cattle, crops like peas and strawberries and hay. When Earl passed in 1970, Clarence took over the farm and bought the cattle. He “messed” with the cattle for a while until he had 12 heifers give birth. The bull was too big and the process didn’t go well. He immediately switched to baling the acreage while maintaining strawberry production and selling at what was then called the fresh market.
“Things don’t modernize as quickly here as elsewhere, I had one of the first round balers in the area and baled for everyone, including myself, Clarence said. “I sold my baling equipment and now my son-in-law Mike Ketcher is going to bale the land.
Clarence and Pat’s family started with their three adopted children: sons Mark, who has passed, and Seth, and daughter Alicia. All three children were involved in 4-H and FFA, and showed pigs they raised on the farm. The family has grown to include five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, with Alicia’s husband Mike staying in farming and their children showed cattle and sheep as part of their 4-H and FFA experiences.