City’s master gardener liked driving train best

Published 1:19 am Friday, May 3, 2019

For 11 years, Wendell Dyess has been the master gardener for the City of Andalusia, but he said that his best memory of working with the city has been as the engineer of the Springdale Express during Candyland.

Dyess spent 20 years in the Air Force before settling down and working at Shaw for another 10 years. He began working for the City of Andalusia 11 years ago as an assistant to Ginger Hassle.

“I like to say that I was thrown to the wolves in the beginning,” Dyess said. “They hired me to work under Ginger Hassle and she decided to leave in the middle of the summer. The city posted Ginger’s job opening and honestly I don’t think they found anybody that was qualified to fill it. They called me up to Andy Wiggins’ office and told me that they wanted me to take this job.”

Despite feeling unqualified, he accepted.

“I remember telling Mr. Andy that I was not qualified for this job at all,” Dyess said. “He just kept on saying, ‘Oh you can do it, you can do it,’ and so I kept on telling him, ‘Mr. Andy, I am not a master gardener, and when I wake up in the morning I’m still not going to be a master gardener,’ I ended up taking the job and Mr. Andy’s first instructions were, ‘Wendell just keep everything alive,’ and that’s what I did.”

Dyess said that he is going to miss the people he works with the most.

“The City of Andalusia has been so good to me,” Dyess said. “You just can’t ask for a better group of people to work with. More than anything, I am going to miss the people.”

He enjoyed driving the train at Candyland so much, that he was asked to continue after he retires.

“Mr. Andy asked me to come back and drive the train and I told him that I would,” Dyess said. “I just enjoy making the kids happy. That is why I do it. I remember last year, one Sunday during Candyland it was starting to rain pretty hard and we were starting to pack everything up, but a family from Florida had come all the way to see it. Those kids looked up at me and I took them on a train ride in the middle of the pouring rain. I just couldn’t say no. That is what makes it all worth while.”

Every morning for the past 11 years, Dyess said that he would drive down East Three Notch and Church Street to make sure that everything looked its best.

“I’m sure that there have been several days where people just thought that I was taking a joy ride,” Dyess said. “But I just did that to make sure that everything looked the way that it was supposed to.”

Dyess said he would advise his successor to just make sure to do the best they can do.

“Don’t let it overwhelm you,” Dyess said. “I’m going to tell you, there has been more than one day where I have had panic attacks, because there is just so much to do and so little people to do it.”

In his retirement, Dyess plans on cutting grass, spending time with grandchildren and raising goats.

“I’m just going to keep cutting grass,” Dyess said. “I told my grandson a couple months ago that when I retire, I’m going to buy some more goats. We used to have several goats. So Monday, he called me on the phone and said, ‘Grandpa, are you retiring today?’ and I told him no, that I was retiring tomorrow [Tuesday] and he said, ‘We gonna get some goats?’ and I told him, ‘We gonna get some goats.’ ”