The racing accomplishments of the Wood Brothers over the past 61 years are well documented. Their on-track records have been compiled by NASCAR statisticians and are now available to all simply by a few clicks of a computer’s mouse. And other parts of the team’s history, artifacts that tell even more of the story, can be found in racing museums across America.
The Woods’ family history also is well preserved, thanks in large part to Crystal Wood, sister of the original brothers Glen, Leonard, Ray Lee, Delano and Clay.
Crystal Wood, who only saw her brother Glen race one time and hasn’t been to a NASCAR race since Buddy Baker was driving the family’s famed No. 21 Ford, considers herself the team’s No. 1 fan, but she also has spent countless hours documenting and honoring her family history and heritage. She’s traced her father’s and mother’s family trees back to the 1600s. The Woods are of English descent, while her mother’s family, the DeHarts, were French Huguenots.
“I have worked on heritage books within the county, and I’m into genealogy,” Mrs. Wood said. “The mantle has been passed to me.”
While the genealogy records are important to her younger family members, the things that really bring the family history forward are her home-made Christmas ornaments.
For the past 21 years, she’s made ornaments for her kin from things their grandmother, her mother Ada Wood, once used.
They’ve been made from clothes pins, hair pins, canning rings, buttons, marbles, puzzles, Christmas cards, nails, quilt pieces, beads, yarn, and even the spark plugs once used to weigh down the draperies. They’re items the grandchildren remember seeing their grandmother use.
They survived the years because the Wood family homeplace remains much as it was in Walter and Ada Wood’s day. Walter died 44 years ago, Ada’s been gone for 21.
Ray Lee Wood now lives in the home house and has made few changes. Many of Ada Wood’s clothes pins, buttons and such were still in the drawers where she left them when Crystal retrieved them to make ornaments. The neat, white-framed house still looks and feels like home to several generations of the Wood family.
“The furniture on front porch is the same,” Mrs. Wood said. “The old shed is the same, the old long table in kitchen is the same…That’s what we cherish.”
And just as going to a museum and looking at a red-and-white Mercury Cyclone with David Pearson’s name above a gold No. 21 on the door, takes a race fan back to some of the greatest moments in NASCAR history, seeing Crystal Wood’s ornaments brings back precious memories for the Wood family members who receive them.
“As they receive their ornament the memory of our mother comes back,” Mrs. Wood said.
For Glen Wood’s daughter Kim Wood Hall, the angel ornament is among her favorites. The angel’s body is a spool of thread and her arms and legs are buttons - all materials from her Nannie Wood’s sewing box. And there’s the star ornament, made from the 150-year-old beech tree at the homeplace, where the family gathers each summer. The ends of the star are seeds from the beech tree, and the center is the seed pod. A gold cross ornament is made from nails, one of them slightly bent, from her grandmother's tool drawer.
“All the ornaments made us feel that Nannie Wood is still with us and are very special to us,” Mrs. Hall said.
Crystal Wood said the Christmas ornaments have become a family tradition in themselves.
“They are forever guessing what I’m going to make next,” she said. “They do look forward to it. I never dreamed when I first started this that it would become what it has.”
Just as her brother Leonard has a knack for fashioning innovative race car parts, Crystal seems to know just what to do when making unique and meaningful Christmas ornaments. She combines her skills as a seamstress with her craft-making talents.
“It comes natural to try to figure out ways to make something pretty of an everyday thing,” she said.
As another year rolls around and the racers in her family are looking forward to adding some new accomplishments to the Wood’s racing records, Crystal Wood is seeing to it that the family also will be able to carry its Christmas ornament tradition well into the future.
She’s been busy gathering materials and ideas.
“I’m four years ahead already,” she said.