Thursday, February 9, 2012


I loved to smell the smoke from his pipe as it drifted across the front porch to where I sat on the steps. It was a peaceful, comforting and disarming scent. He had taken my two older brothers and I to Plainview for a couple of weeks to "help" him at the stave mill where he worked. I think he was actually helping my parents out after the arrival of the twins, Bill and Janet. The stave mill made the oak slats used to make whisky barrels out of short oak logs called "bolts". The first thing they did was to cut both ends off the bolt to make them all exactly the same size. Our job was to help him pick up the ends and other scraps and pile them up to be sold later as fuel for the wood stoves in town. We had put in a hard day and came home to one of Granny's famous country meals. Now there he sat, still in his overalls and long sleeve khaki shirt, leaning back in his rocking chair with one foot propped up on a post silently puffing clouds of blue smoke; his mind drifting like the smoke to pleasant far away places. I think this was his favorite time of the day and I knew for sure that it was mine.
This trip he had planned to only bring my older brothers Gary and Gene back home with him. I guess he didn't think he could handle all three of us and keep us safe around the mill. He could tell that being left out hurt my feelings so he decided to take me too. Plainview was a long way from Waldron and the roads were crooked and steep in places. I got terribly carsick when I was little so they always had to let me sit by the window for obvious reasons. I tried all the remedies and none worked so it was just the price I paid to be able to spend a week or so with Grandpaw.
The stave mill was loud and hot but it was great fun for us. Grandpaw let us think we were really a big help. I usually got sawdust in my eye the first day and it seemed to stay in there until I got back home. It was not all work though. He would sometimes load us up in his old red pickup and take us fishing down on the Fouche River. Other times he would take us swimming at Lake Nimrod. It was fun to play on the giant sawdust pile at the mill while we were supposed to be working. Granny always packed us a fruit jar full of ice water wrapped up in a brown paper bag. It sure tasted good on those hot July days.
Grandpaw's house was a happy place for us boys. Although he lived in town, he had a big garden and room for a horse and some chickens. He even had a small pond we could fish in but we found out the big pond across the street with the NO FISHING sign was a lot more fun and had bigger fish. We often walked barefoot up the long sidewalk to town to get ice cream or a coke at the drugstore.
Sunday night was sort of special because Bonanza was on. It was one of the few times he ever turned his television on. We would usually plan ahead and have a Pepsi and a candy bar stashed away for the big event. His ritual was to attach a paper bag to the hanging light bulb to direct all of the light towards the TV while we sat in the dark side of the room. Someone had told him that was better for your eyes. Grandpaw passed away in 1966. I still miss him and I'll cherish forever the memories we made together.