Joshua Holston was a boy full of adventure, spending his summer nights chasing lightning bugs and looking for crickets.
And when it was time to go to bed, he’d crawl into his beloved Mickey Mouse sleeping bag, lantern and flashlights by his side, and go to sleep – zipped up tight.
On Thursday, 4-year-old Joshua’s life was cut tragically short when he stepped into the path of a dump truck at the intersection of Broad Street and Lynn Avenue in Elizabethton.
“He didn’t get to grow up,” his mother, Tiffani Holston, said in an interview Saturday morning with the Elizabethton STAR. “He didn’t even get to start school or play T-ball.”
For four years, though, before that horrible day last week when it all went wrong, Joshua – nicknamed “Booger” by his family – brought laughter and smiles and joy to all around him.
“He was the most happiest kid you could know,” his father, Chris Davis, said.
Chris, Tiffani, Joshua and his 3-year-old sister, Kylie, lived on White Road in Elizabethton, and, his parents said, just enjoyed life.
Joshua wasn’t even 5 years old and hadn’t been to preschool, but he already knew his ABCs, colors, shapes and how to count.
Chris said he doesn’t remember a time when his son, a spunky blond, wasn’t happy. Joshua was born at 5:57 p.m. on March 12, 2008, at Sycamore Shoals Hospital. Chris said he remembers being able to touch Tiffani’s belly and feel Joshua kick.
Even then, his mother said, Joshua was ready to go.
“He was happy from the time he was born,” Tiffani said.
And, maybe, she said, he was a little spoiled, too.
He had lots of attention from family and neighbors who found themselves captivated by his smile. Often, Joshua would receive candy as a reward.
“Everybody,” Tiffani said, “was his friend. Everybody loved that kid.”
He didn’t, as many children might, shrink from the night. It was, in fact, one of his favorite times – especially in the summer when he could snap up lightning bugs and crickets.
“He liked looking for crickets,” Chris said. “In the nighttime, me and him would go out there and look for crickets.”
And those lightning bugs lit up his smile.
“They’d catch them every night,” Tiffani said. “I would sit with them from 10 o’clock in the morning when it was really nice in the summer till 10 o’clock at night catching lightning bugs.”
The boy also enjoyed finding pennies. “He loved pennies,” his mother said. “He would find a penny in a 100-mile radius.”
With his dad, he’d play baseball and loved to go fishing at Watauga Lake.
When he wasn’t at home, Joshua loved to go visit his maternal grandmother, Charlene Saunders, who lives in Unicoi County.
“He loved to go spend the night with his Nana,” Tiffani said. “It was like his favorite thing to do was to go spend all night with Nana.”
Charlene made her grandson one of his favorite possessions – a pillow that looked like the boy. He called it his “pillow kid.”
At home, Joshua, sometimes wearing his very own tool belt, was always on the move – “running around the home at 100 miles per hour,” his dad said. He made such a commotion, the neighbors, his father joked, could surely hear him running through the house.
Joshua’s favorite television program was SpongeBob SquarePants, and he enjoyed the animated film, Rango. He had also begun playing X-Box video games, which he played with his 10-year-old cousin, Logan. He and his cousin had even been playing video games Thursday morning.
Taking a walk – as they did Thursday – was a normal, family outing, his mother said.
“He liked to go to Big John’s and get candy,” his father said. It was at Big John’s Closeouts where family friend, James Ward, who Joshua called “Papi,” works. When Joshua bounced into the store, he knew “Papi” would treat him to a Tootsie Roll.
Last Thursday, Tiffani, Logan and Joshua set out for a lunchtime meal at McDonald’s. The family’s dog, Franklin, a beagle-Chihuahua mix, tagged along, too. Chris stayed home with Kylie, but he’d made plans with Joshua.
“He was supposed to come home,” Chris said, “and work with me.”
“We always walked around,” Tiffani said. “I took them out because they had been cooped up in the house.”
Once they got to Broad and Lynn, they waited to walk across the street. Tiffani said Logan went across first. Tiffani said she was just five feet from her son when he was struck by the truck.
At first, Tiffani said, she didn’t think he had been seriously hurt, but it soon became apparent that the accident had dealt a terrible, horrifying blow.
The little boy, who chased lightning bugs late into the night, thundered through the family’s home with gusto and found a best friend and sleep buddy in the family dog, died only a short time later at Sycamore Shoals Hospital, the same place he entered the world only four-and-a-half years ago.
At the scene of the accident, dozens of bystanders prayed. Some tried to help before emergency personnel arrived. At least two bystanders performed CPR until paramedics and firefighters arrived.
Tiffani hasn’t been back to the scene of the accident, but Chris has seen the growing memorial there – flowers, stuffed animals, balloons, all left by those wanting to remember and grieve for Joshua.
Chris said he is thankful for all the people who came to help Joshua.
“I appreciate everything they did,” he said.
At home, Franklin, Joshua’s loyal pup, lays and cries, waiting on his Joshua to come home.
“He loved his dog,” Tiffani said. “Franklin was with us when it happened. He loved Franklin.”
Friends said Joshua was a child full of life.
His mom calls him a “one-of-a-kind.”
“I never,” she said, “met a kid like him.”
Joshua is survived by his parents, Chris and Tiffani; his sister, Kylie; his maternal grandmother, Saunders; paternal grandfather, Sherrill Pickering and wife, “Grandma” Samantha, Elizabethton; paternal grandmother, “Mamaw” Sandra Davis, Elizabethton; three aunts, Amber Mayse, Stacy Nave and Taylor Pickering, all of Elizabethton; special cousins, Logan Stines and Kelsey Mayse, both of Johnson City; and several other cousins.