CHESTERFIELD, Va. — You might conclude that this community, 18 miles from Richmond, is not all that different from Metter, Ga., the seat of Candler County in the Southeastern sector of Georgia, where the subject of our story flourished as a “townie,” but has always been a country boy at heart.
The Chesterfield County population is much bigger (over 335,000) and it might snow often enough for Les Stinson to make a dent in the firewood he has accumulated in one of his sheds which is decorated with a Georgia-Florida banner which he confiscated on one of his forays to Jacksonville — an annual October occurrence in his life.
Les played tight end at Georgia in 1971-74, lettering two years and becoming a “hell of a blocker.”
He further notes, “I had to be good at blocking if I were going to play in Coach Vince Dooley’s offense. Tight ends were really tackles. We just lined up at the end of the line of scrimmage. Oh, we might get a ball thrown our way every now and then, but accommodating the rushing game was our mission. I am proud to say, we were good at what we were expected to do.”
The opposite sex, more often than not, is always on the minds of high school and college athletes, which brought about a country setting in Georgia segueing into an urban community in Virginia where farms coexist with commerce, traffic and rush hour — featuring a Mercedes or a Lexus here and there — but not for Les.
A pickup truck is how he gets about, just like it was in his days of yore, a time when his hair was hippie long, his strapping body of 6-5, 215 made him a highly regarded football player whom Georgia coveted.
Before we get to the rest of the story, let’s allow Les recall how cupid figured into his leapfrogging three states to settle down, leaving his wayward ways behind.
It had mostly to do with tobacco , which was as big in Metter as it was in Chesterfield once upon a time when a pretty auburn-haired girl named Evelyn Pell, became a tobacco buyer who worked for a company which sent her to international addresses and also the flue cured regions of South Georgia.
She showed up in Metter where her brother Ray was working tobacco season as a buyer of what amounted to “left over” leaves which you could claim for a song, but nonetheless had marketable value for tobacco companies.
Ray met Les’s brother, who introduced him to Les and subsequently to Evelyn who introduced Les to her sister Ruth who came to visit her siblings.
Les’ roaming days were over. That is how Les would become a resident of Chesterfield, marrying into a farm family where the work ethic and the outdoors he knew in Metter, hold sway.
Les is the centerpiece of a family which flocks to his house on Sandy Ford Road where he has 14 grills and is always cooking, especially on the weekends.
The family ritual is to show up at mealtime and watch Les function as he might be the chef at a signature restaurant.
Les can barbecue anything, bake a turkey “better than anybody in this part of Virginia,” and give a Boston butt a flavor to remember. He has his own homemade barbecue sauce, but when he is afflicted with time constraints, he reaches for the popular Johnny Harris barbecue sauce from the Savannah establishment which just closed its restaurant but will continue selling its food products. Les always has an order blank from Johnny Harris in reach.
Les remains a working man. He has worked with a couple of beer distributors and now is connected with a fertilizer company, a reminder to his friends that you can’t take the country out of this boy. “I don’t mind working,” Les says. “When I’m not working, I find something to do. You can’t enjoy life when you sit around and do nothing.”
Nothing Les likes more than having visitors from back home come visit him. He likes to connect with the past, but is happily ensconced in his adopted Virginia habitat. If you come his way, his upstairs bedroom, which was built to be a guest room, is always available. Come mealtime, you will get the Stinsonian treatment—something from one of those grills.
When he and Eve get away, most of the time it will be to see the Bulldogs play—bowl games, Georgia-Florida and “a couple of home games.” In Athens, he teams up with former teammates Jim Baker, Johnny Cobb, Cooper Gunby and others to cook for the lettermen on game days at the letterman parking lot at Oconee Hills’ cemetery.
“As happy as I am here, I have the fondest memories growing up in Metter, playing football at Georgia and then finding happiness with a great family here in Virginia. We are close, we love our weekends together, then Eve and I get away a few weekends to follow the Dawgs. What could be better?”
His testimony took place in the kitchen where he was giving a skillet of sausage his undivided attention—there was Ruth smiling at Les’s seasoned banter, the sausage sizzling, her sister Evelyn pitching in conversationally and a friend making notes. Les waxed on about the Virginia family farm, his affection for his small town past, his deep and abiding love of his teammates and the ultimate compliment he got when Georgia beat Maryland in the ’73 Peach Bowl.
The Terps’ defensive star, Randy White who later played 14 years with the Dallas Cowboys “after he had tried to beat my head in said, No. 87 you’re pretty tough.”
His parting shots: “Can you see if you can get Randy’s quote in the Metter Advertiser, and if you ever come this way again, me and Eve would really be hurt if you don’t come stay with us.”
As we drove away and saw that big paw waving bye, you know you had just spent time with a man with a big heart, grateful that a pretty tobacco buyer with a pretty sister had serendipitously come his way but still emotionally holding on to where he came from.