My Grandfather was born on his parents homestead in South Dakota, he died on the same land some 100 years later. In between he lived an entire life on this land. It was a rich life full of family and fun and lots of hard work.
He graduated from high school which was a feat for that time and place. Afterword he took off to Montana to attend a school to be what I think would be today called a Park Ranger. He was disappointed to find that all the spots in the school were full, mostly with the sons of prominent politicians and business leaders. He went home and married a girl from the neighboring homestead. As a wedding present they were given 4 homesteads owned by both sets of parents and an uncle.
They were able to lease some grazing land from the government and all in all their land came to be about 40 square miles. As far as I know my dad and his 5 brothers were also born on this land. I spent many summers there and it holds a spot in my memories. They ran cattle, they leased parts of it to neighbors in their golden years who ran cattle on it. In order to keep it my grandfather took outside jobs during lean times. He built bridges in Eastern South Dakota as one example.
In my lifetime he was going blind. When I can first remember him he was still driving but only on his own land. His approach to losing his eyesight was to just keep doing what he loved, living on his land. He took joy in every day and every little wonder he found there. His attitude has had a real impact on me as my own health deteriorates I really try to enjoy each wonder like he did and to take the time to see them.
He had a saying for everything. If someone asked him how he was he would say "I'm just as fine as frogs hair and twice as rare." I never heard him use a real swear word. But he called everything he was annoyed with a pig. For example while trying to fix a piece of equipment if a bolt wouldn't go in the hole he would say something like "Get in there you pig". If he was really unhappy with how something was going he might use a "dadburn" on it. If the situation was really intense he would pull out a "dagnab it".
He loved to play games. No trip to the ranch was complete without playing cards, scrabble and horseshoes. If grandpa liked you he would play chess with you, but he would never let anyone win, not even his favorite grandchildren. If you were going to win against him you were going to earn it. But he would try to teach you to do better next time by explaining how he beat you in 3 moves.
One time we went out to the ranch and he had bought an organ and he could play it beautifully. None of us knew he could play an organ. He often caried a harmonica in his pocket and would play songs while fishing or waiting for the next load of bales on top of the haystack in the sun. He was constantly singing little songs and limericks. While he wouldn't use bad language, some of his songs were quite bawdy.
He loved nature. And he knew everything about the animals and plants on his land. I remember fishing with him, while we sat on the bank he would imitate the song of every bird that sang. He would tell you all about them, where they lived what they ate, where they went for the winter. After he lost his eyesight if you described any bird at the feeder he could tell you all about it. I came to love birds because of him.
He had a superpower that amazes me still. Like I said his land was 40 square miles and when we went to the ranch to help with hay or fish or hunt there was a lot of time in the truck. I would always sit by grampa. He would be quiet for a while and then he would have a story to tell you. He would point out the window and say something like "Do you see that tree on the ridge next to the third fencepost?" and I would look and indeed there was a ridge with a tree and three fence posts. He was never wrong, I never had to play along to humor him. Things were always where he said they were. Superpower.
When you are little you don't know much about grown ups but you do know which ones want you around. He always wanted me around. I remember him waking me up from my nest on the davenport (couch) for the morning milking. He would milk the cow and I would milk the goat. He told me the goat was just my size.
Eventually of course he was completely blind. Yet every time I saw him he told me I was beautiful. I chose to believe he was using his superpower.
About the Creator
I am a 50 something year old mother of grown children with stage 4 breast cancer. I have been told I should write a book about my life. I am probably never going to do that, but I do want to record some of my stories, so here we go.
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!