Charles Wood, Honorary Mayor of Lizard Lick, Keeps Things Light

Charles Wood

There are small towns everywhere with best-kept secrets and older folks with many stories that many of us have forgotten to listen to. Charles “Woody” Wood may be one of the best story keepers and tellers the area has. He is a day’s worth (or two or three) of tales of his interesting life, and shows evidence of a life well lived.

Woody has been the honorary Mayor of Lizard Lick since 1974. He was given the prestigious honor when the I440 beltline was developed and regular traffic dropped off. There was hope that his appointment would bring attention to the area.

His yard, workshop, and office are a good indication of his interests and the many layers that make up an interesting person. Strewn about are a liquor still once owned by his father, who made medicinal moonshine, a 100-year-old wash basin, a cooker that is fashioned to look like an outhouse, a sawed-off school bus that has been transformed into a wrecker (just went on a call yesterday), and many other things that hint at talents and interests.

He hopes to show the still and wash basin as reminders of years passed and serve as a visual reminder of the area’s not-so-distant history. Lizard Lick was named because of how the many stills in the area attracted lizards. Not because lizards were interested in the moonshine, but more because of the flies that would swarm around the stills. The lizards would lick around looking for insects, and the town’s colorful name was born.

Woody was born in Lizard Lick in 1931, when it was just a few houses on a road. Everyone knew everyone. Though the town has grown (and eventually got a stoplight), everyone still knows everyone, and he never has to advertise. He continues to work as a welder and gets calls for his wrecker mostly by word of mouth. He once was an avid mechanic, but can’t do that as much now because, as he puts it, “Once I’m under the car, it’s hard for me to get up.”

Though raised on a tobacco farm like many in North Carolina, he never smoked. He was in the hospital once, only because he chopped off his finger while working. They took the finger and sewed him back up. He got up to go and the doctor told him he would need to stay for observation. “I’ll leave the finger and you can observe it. I’m going home,” he replied.

Woody is also an avid videographer and photographer, and his office serves as his studio, WLIZ. He is still hired to photograph weddings and some funerals. He has made many different videos, ranging from fun topics to more serious. His nephew once had a bad tooth and the school bus wrecker served as a tooth extractor, which he jokingly referred to as the tooth fairy.

Lying on the ground with a little something to drink in him, his nephew was tethered to the wrecker by a string. After two failed attempts, the third with a nylon string proved successful, and the tooth was pulled out. Woody had a good laugh and remembered when a local dentist told him he shouldn’t practice dentistry without a license. All of this was filmed and even sent to America’s Funniest Videos.

He feels strongly about smoking, but insists he never tells anyone they shouldn’t do it. He prefers instead to show them what will happen if they do. He is making a small film about the dangers and the reality of what will eventually happen. He knows only too well as his father was victim to tobacco himself.

It is no surprise that he injects humor even in a difficult subject, and that he invited his daughter to pen a script that uses cigarette names in place of people’s names. He will show the film at his church as part of a mock funeral complete with a casket and “Taps.” His intention is pure and his message is clear: smoking is bad for your health.

Woody has been given many interesting opportunities to meet different people and has had some unusual things happen to him. He was asked to film Michael Jordan at the Mudcats baseball stadium, but says he was not impressed with his lack of sportsmanship and his throwing his helmet down when things did not go his way.

He was the only photographer allowed in when Christopher Reeve, wheelchair bound, was speaking at Wake Med to raise money for spinal cord injuries, and felt very lucky to meet him. Back in the 1980s the producers of the Andy Griffith show contacted him to ask whether town leaders would consider renaming Lizard Lick “Mayberry.”

One of the oddest calls he received was from Nintendo, a game company based in Japan. They had developed a new game and were looking for the perfect launch site. Because the main character, Yoshi, is a lizard- like creature with the ability to extend his tongue over a long distance, Lizard Lick, according to Nintendo, was the perfect site for the launch. It was one of the biggest launches for the company and brought national media attention to the otherwise quiet town.

One Christmas, Woody wanted to start a Christmas parade and called the local Sheriff’s Department to tell them of his intentions. He went to Gaylee Village and rounded up participants and deputies threatened to arrest the first person who was in line at the parade, stating they weren’t allowed out on the highway. But long-time Secretary of State Thad Eure was in attendance and, once the Sheriff’s Department discovered this they came down direct traffic instead of stopping the parade, much to Woody’s amusement.

Spivey’s Corner, which is in Sampson County, holds an annual National Hollerin’ Contest showcasing the almost lost art of hollering across farm fields to communicate. Woody was fortunate one year to come in second place for his “Indian Rain Dance Holler.” This not only won him local fame, but he went to New York City to perform on “Late Night with David Letterman” and “The Maury Povich Show.” He also eventually went to Hollywood to showcase his skills on Greg Kinnear’s “Talk Soup.”

Woody is a regular guy with a very eccentric and unusual life. He’s a welder and mechanic by trade, but an artist and free spirit at heart. He can fly planes and helicopters, wrote a humor column for the “Zebulon Record,” has made his own barbecue sauce for years (which he has since passed on to his son and which won 2nd and 3rd place at Rolesville’s Hot Pick’n Finger Lick’n BBQ Fest), often works 14 to 16 hour days out in his shop, and much more.

However, family is very important to him and he and his wife of “I don’t remember exactly” years, host a family dinner every Monday for any family member who wants to come. With eight children, 11 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren it’s often that 12 to 15 people show up.

“It gives them a chance to air their problems but there’s no fussing and carrying on” he says. He has raised his children to be respectful of others and understand that everyone has different opinions and ideas. He echoes the sentiment his father passed to him, that, “If you can’t say anything good about someone, then whistle and walk away.”