— By JUDY SHERIDAN
Weatherford native Don Huddleston, 77, stepped into the pages of Parker County’s history in 1994 when he unveiled a remarkable tribute to the Parker County Courthouse, an intricate replica built without benefit of blueprint or kit.
Dedicated to his mother, Lucy, whose final breath is recorded in the hands of the clock tower, the engaging miniature is a masterpiece crafted by a master tinkerer — from the authentic-looking rockwork at its base to the tiny owl perched at the top, frightening off the pigeons.
“I started with a board and worked up,” Huddleston said modestly of the 19 months of painstaking effort that will one day be his legacy. “I tried to put every detail into it.”
Initially displayed in the front window of First Citizens’ Bank, Huddleston’s model has been relegated to the Courthouse Annex for more than 20 years at the request of its maker, who worried that the present courthouse — erected in 1884 — might go the way of its predecessors — up in smoke.
“That was my stipulation,” Huddleston said. “The courthouse hadn’t been remodeled, and the wiring was old. I didn’t want the two of them together.
“If everything was gone, all we’d have left would be the pictures.”
As county officials prepared for courthouse tours this spring, however, they managed to wheedle Huddleston into temporarily giving the model center stage at the courthouse, where it now beckons visitors like a jewel in a crown.
Like the real courthouse, it will be decorated for Christmas this year.
Public Information Officer Joel Kertok said the resourceful Huddleston, who answered when the call for old photos for the tours went up, has been “a huge help in Judge Riley’s effort to promote awareness of the courthouse and rally community support.”
Kertok and Huddleston met while volunteering at the Weatherford Senior Center, then grew close as Huddleston worked to collect and frame most of the courthouse pictures displayed on the courthouse tours.
His innate design/build skills, along with an ability to restore and creatively recycle what others cast away, struck Kertok as genius.
“I knew this guy was greatness,” he said.
Those pictures now fill a small wall in Huddleston’s living room, which also boasts a large, well-furnished dollhouse — built with dogwood “logs” from Cartwright Park and dedicated to the memory of his late wife, Joyce.
“She passed away two years ago, and I needed something to do,” he said. “I found little strips of stained glass she had wrapped up, and that was what started it.”
Huddleston’s latest project, on display at the courthouse annex in place of the absent courthouse replica, is a church building with no connection to any found nearby.
“I did some research through books and the library, and I couldn’t come up with one I liked so I made my own,” he said.
Outside the structure an airplane appears to soar — for the kids — he said, while a peek inside reveals a portrait of Jesus gazing down from the front of a lighted pew-filled sanctuary.
In typical Huddleston style there is carved wood recycled from an old chair, extra linoleum from a neighbor and carpet samples from a home improvement store — inexpensively pieced together and artfully composed.
“I do this for my benefit,” he said. “When someone else can get something out of it, that’s my blessing.
“I like to share.”