OKEECHOBEEE – Okeechobee Mayor Dowling Watford has been seen out and about on crutches, causing many to ask how he injured his foot. The mayor says the tale is not very interesting and he suggests folks come up with their own stories of how he was injured.
Lake Okeechobee News fans on Facebook shared these theories:
• “I may be wrong, but I could have sworn I saw Mayor Dowling practicing 60 yard field goals at the High School a few weeks back, early one morning….I must have watched him try 50 or 60 or ‘em….most of ‘em made it, too….next thing I know, he’s walking around on crutches….coincidence? I think not…’ – Andrew Werdna Tomlin
• “Foot in mouth? We share very similar injuries. Long recovery.” – Jerry O’Bannon
• “No matter what he has stated during this time in the cast, he forgot to tell the truth: He DID NOT listen to Cheri! And the resullts were?” – Terry Burroughs
• “The city councilmen broke his foot when he did not agree with them wanting to shut down the city fire department.” – Gregg Maynard
• “He was helping an elder cross the street and once they made it he saw a cat stuck in a tree. While climbing the ladder to rescue the cat, he noticed smoke coming from a home nearby. He got quickly got the cat to safety and rushed to the home. He single handedly put out the fire and saved the family dog. Finally done with his duties he returned to city hall only to trip over his own feet, steps from desk and injured his foot. His only remark was, ‘It’s all in a day’s work around here.’ #dowlingthehero #ourmayorsaveslives.” – JeffnKaren Varnadoe
• “I heard from a ‘reliable source’ that the mayor was water skiing on Taylor Creek when he hit an alligator. After going airborne but skillfully recovering, despite his injured foot, the mayor of course insisted the boat driver take him back to check on the gator to make sure it was all right.” – Katrina Elsken
• “They were making shine in the woods ,and he tripped over propane tank hose that keeps fire under the mash, and he dumped out all the mash …Ha ha! Hope you feel better sir.” – Barbara Thomas
• “Running the 440 low hurdles!” – Bobby Bennett
• “He was like Red Foreman on ‘That 70’s show’ - put a foot in the …” – Cindy Layton
• “He shouldn’t be kicking the dog - paybacks are vicious …” – Ruby Fulford Handley
• “I may be wrong, but I could have sworn I saw Mayor Dowling practicing 60 yard field goals at the high school a few weeks back, early one morning. I must have watched him try 50 or 60 or ‘em …. Most of ‘em made it, too. Next thing I know, he’s walking around on crutches. Coincidence? I think not.” – Andrew Werdna Tomlin
• Jerry Bryant came up with the longest tale. He wrote:
Mayor Watford’s recent stint on crutches is really a reoccurrence of an old injury.
Many years ago, a young man, a recent high school graduate, was working in his family’s horse-drawn carriage business. Their slogan was “You may have to face the wrong end of the horse, but everybody rides!”
The young man worked in the used carriage department where he specialized in selling surplus postal delivery carriages from the Federal Office of Rural Delivery. Each of these units was required by law to be clearly marked “F.O.R.D.” for full customer disclosure.
One day in 1837, the young carriage merchant heard that there was an army unit coming to Florida on an important mission. Northerners were in need of a place to go for several months each winter to escape the cold, stock up on fish, and catch up on their boasting about how great things are where they come from. Being a somewhat patriotic fellow and growing weary of the grind of selling F.O.R.D.s, the young man sought out the army commander and joined the action.
The young man had limited experience beyond puffing the virtues of carriages “broken in” through daily jaunts down rutted country roads. And even though his equestrian background included only one end of the horse, his company sergeant assigned him to care for ‘Old Whitey,’ Col. Zachary Taylor’s trusted steed.
Now one little known fact about Col. Taylor is that he could not bear the hot, muggy weather all day long in his wool uniform. He soon developed a habit of removing his uniform britches and pacing in front of his tent as he bellowed out orders to his troops. And in doing so, he exposed another closely held military secret. “Old Rough and Ready” Taylor wore white skivvies emblazoned with purple hearts.
On the day of a planned attack on a party of original Floridians who were well aware of the impending encounter, Col. Taylor prepared for the skirmish by begrudgingly donning his full uniform, including the lower half which was hanging on a nearby cypress branch.
Just outside the officer’s tent, the young carriage salesman was painstakingly brushing the cockleburs from Old Whitey’s long white tail. Always a helpful sort, he liked to work near the tent so he could respond quickly to his leader’s needs. But, as he often spoke about to his army buddies, he also admired the Colonel’s heart-spangled drawers and promised himself he would have a pair made one day if he had to buy every flour sack in the country.
Col. Taylor interrupted the young man’s horse grooming, “Private, bring me my trousers, on the double!”
The young private quickly dropped the horse brush and, with only his immediate mission in mind, dashed toward the cypress tree on which the commander’s uniform bottom hung. On his third step, the private’s brogan sunk deeply into Col. Zachary Taylor’s personal latrine, which contained a copious quantity of that which every military veteran knows flows downhill. The loud snap and immediate pain told the private his ankle was broken. The Colonel’s britches, the horse tail, and the day’s mission would all have to go on without him.
Later after the battle, Col. Taylor visited his wounded soldier in the medical tent. Shaking the young man’s hand firmly, the Colonel announced loudly for all to hear, “Private, you have served me faithfully and with dedication. Your injury was unfortunate, but was in service to me and our nation. You deserve to be rewarded. Your buddies have told me about your one main desire in life. So, I hereby present you with a pair of my heart-patterned skivvies for you to have for your own. Wear them proudly .”
Thus, on that hot Florida day in the army medical tent staked in that cypress swamp near the big lake, Private Dowling Watford became the first recipient of a Purple Heart as a result of injury in action.
Private Watford was physically unable to continue his military career, so he returned to the family business selling F.O.R.D.s. And to this day, though they are now closer to a lavender hue, he wears his Purple Hearts to every Veterans’ Day and Memorial Day event, as well as every Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast. He is very humble and modest about it, but when you see him there, just ask him to give you a peek.