Once upon a time, there lived a handsome young man of steel who told a little white lie about his age, joined the Army at seventeen, fought at the front during The War to End All Wars on many fields of battle, came home intact in mind and body, swept a lovely fifteen-year-old store clerk off her feet, married her straightaway, and started a dynasty. Thus reads the CliffsNotes version, you may thank me after the test.
But before that, a lot of other things happened.
And while those things were happening, the young man was growing steely because clearly he had good genes plus a step-father who was certifiably unhinged. When the lad in our tale was less than twelve years old, his step-dad took him to the barren plains of eastern Colorado to “prove up a claim” and homestead it, worked him like a dog, left him there and went home to Kansas. But not before taking a pot-shot at him off the porch that put a hole through his hat and knocked him flat in the hard Colorado dirt.
The boy lived out there in that little shack by himself, with the heat and the wind and the wildlife, until somebody came for him. Whatever steel he wasn’t born with must have crawled into his bones in those months, and it never left him. I know this because he was my grandfather and I know he never lost his metal, his discipline, or his looks. He and my grandmother raised six sons and three daughters, all worth knowing in their own right. Grandpa knew how to do everything and Grandma knew the rest, so there was always food on the table and a good roof on a house full of voices laughing, crying, arguing, singing, talking, yelling, but mostly laughing. Smart funny people, this dynasty.
It’s my favorite fairytale to slip into on cold gray days because it’s all true. And a thing to love is that with everything Grandpa survived in his years, he never got smelly and mean-spirited and old on the inside. He and my grandmother both figured out how to stay alive and BE alive and how to pass that on. Pretty cool.