Monday, July 12, 2004

It would be a shame to lose it...

I think I finally talked my dad into recording the stories of his youth. He's a pretty good writer, but he's decided to tell the stories into a tape recorder and give them to me. "Writing is hard work!" he said. I'll second that one.

I love hearing the stories my parents tell of the Great Depression. My grandfather on my dad's side was somewhat of a "round-a-bout" in his younger days, and it's no wonder after being thrown out of his own house at one year of age and raised by his uncles, one of whom shot his father off his horse and killed him. He never knew which uncle lifted the rifle and they all went to their graves holding the secret--probably because my grandfather would have exacted revenge. I am quite sure of that.

He began working in the coal mines when he was only 9 years old and pretty much raised himself, hopping railcars to find work, living in hobo camps in between and doing his share of fighting. During Prohibition he ran the most popular moonshine still in the area and had a standing order with the county court judge. He literally had no fear and practiced hard-knock justice, but every few months he would drink himself into oblivion when he began thinking about how he was treated as a boy. It was a rare occurrence when he showed vulnerability. I guess it hurt so bad he intended to render himself unconscious.

His mother never took him back in but he loved her. Many years later when her husband, a very large man, decided to "smack her around," my grandfather grabbed a huge piece of wood, marched over to the house and whacked him in the head. He stayed in bed for three weeks recovering. I am pretty sure he never again lifted a finger toward her and she lived to be 101.

By the time I knew "papaw," he was old and gnarled, working in his huge garden well into his 90's. "Let me put some 'maters in a poke, fer ya," he would say. Who knew he had been dubbed the "meanest man in the county" before his graying years? With the hardship he endured, I'm surprised he didn't wind up behind bars or worse. He lived a few months short of age 100- bent in every direction; crooked as "a dog's hind leg," but never completely broken.


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