Cory Waters loved pigeons. As a child in Los Angeles, he learned to train them and sell them as a way to make money.
Waters, 36, was finding life difficult during the last 12 months and decided to try his hand, once again, at raising and training the birds of his happier days.
Waters and his son, Cory Jr., 17, recently found pigeons for sale in Texas and set out to purchase 18. After securing their order, the father and son packed the birds into their vehicle and headed back to Arkansas with hope for a brighter future.
But the dream came to a tragic end Monday night near the 116 mile marker of I-30 in Benton, a short 20-minute distance from their home near 7th Street in Little Rock. At approximately 8:15 p.m., while crossing the interstate to purchase gasoline for his vehicle that had run dry, the older Waters was struck repeatedly by vehicles and died shortly afterward. Son Cory witnessed the final moments of his father's life.
Finding employment had been difficult for Waters Sr.. He had hoped to fall back on a skill he knew well in order to provide for his family. In addition to his son, Waters had two more children for whom to provide. Cortland, 10, and Ciera Nicole, 8, along with Cory Jr., have been staying with their grandmother, Maxine Waters, in Little Rock.
In March, an odd set of circumstances placed Waters at a place and time that put him in the hospital for 30 days. While sitting in his car, bullets hit the door of the driver's side. Cory Jr. had been robbed at school earlier in the day and had gotten into an argument with the alleged thief. Later that night, the young man had been looking for Cory Jr. and shot at the car, believing the driver to be the younger Waters. One bullet entered the father's left hip and traveled up to his chest, causing damage to internal organs.
The bullet remained in his chest until the time of his death Monday night. In an ironic twist, the shooting took place on the side of an interstate highway, about three blocks from his home.
"I didn't think he was going to make it," said Maxine. "But now it was a freak accident that took him out" Monday night.
Maxine describes her son as a laid-back young man. He was born in Los Angeles in 1977. Maxine, originally from Little Rock, moved her family back to her hometown in 1992. Three years later, her son graduated from Joe T. Robinson High School.
"He liked to play dominoes and basketball." said Maxine. During an interview Tuesday, she reflected on her son's life.
"He loved pigeons," she said. "He could train them to go up into the air and flip. He had gone to Texas to buy pigeons because they aren't for sale in Arkansas. He wanted to teach his two sons how to train pigeons." said Maxine.
The pigeons her son had purchased in Texas are now in a cage behind Maxine's home, exactly where her son was planning to keep them.
"Now he won't get the chance to teach his sons," Maxine said.
When Cory was born, he was not expected to live. He was a 10-month baby.
"The doctor told me my baby was getting ready to die. He was eight pounds when he was born and he had these big ol' eyes and I thought I had had a monster."
Maxine is no stranger to planning funeral arrangements for her children. In 1999, her daughter was killed in a traffic accident near a busy intersection on Cantrell Road in Little Rock.
"There wasn't a traffic signal at the intersection. They put one up after she died."
While in California, Maxine worked for a well-known individual who shares the same name — Congresswoman Maxine Waters. She said working for a person with the same name as herself created confusion at times, but she enjoyed her work. She served as a field representative and a secretary and worked with programs associated with the University of California.
Her son may be gone, but Maxine said she has many happy memories. She will enjoy watching her grandchildren grow into adulthood.
If she wants a memory of happier times, all she need do is look at the 18 reminders in the cage in her backyard.