Wednesday, November 17, 2010


My aunt Helen sent me a picture of me and my grandfather--one I've never seen before. We all called him Gramp. Over time he became a legendary figure, a no-nonsense man from that generation of pipe-smoking, hat-wearing, crusty tough guys who you normally don't see spread out on the lawn and playing with a toddler.
The note is from my mom.  I'm not sure where this was taken--it doesn't look like our yard.
Gramp lost a leg as a teenager. That much was true because I saw him several times without his prosthetic. He told us he was run over by a train, but he had lots of stories; about living with the Indians in Canada and about meeting Clark Gable while working as a lumberjack (and encouraging him to go to Hollywood). Who knows?

Also to entertain us, he often recited this poem (unless my mom could stop him before he got to the end). I can't remember all the verses, but here's the general idea:

Went down town, bought me a shovel
Shovel wouldn't dig, traded it for a pig
Pig wouldn't squeal, traded it for a wheel
Wheel wouldn't run, traded it for a gun
Gun wouldn't shoot, traded it for a boot
Boot wouldn't fit so I threw it in a pit
And covered it with shit
And that was the end of it.

But mostly he is remembered for not being overly sentimental. I was crying like a little girl in the backyard once, probably for no reason at all, and he walked out and told me to shut up and then walked back into the house. I don't remember the exact words; he may have said Shut your yap or even Quit your belly-aching.

He was right--it's not complicated. There's no crying in the backyard...

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