Grandfather

My Fathers Eyes

I’m sitting here at work and waiting. Waiting for a phone call from someone I need to talk to about running a class and waiting for someone to come in so I can fit test his respirator. Sometimes this job is a lot of hurry up and wait. Waiting leads to thinking and pondering.

This morning getting out of bed was not high on my priority list, though it had to be done. I hit the snooze button on my alarm, only for it to magically go off again right away (I’m sure to the annoyance of my wife). I looked at the clock and it said it was five minutes later, but I know that was a lie. I had just hit the snooze button, no way it could be five minutes later. I dragged myself out of bed and in to the bathroom, cat weaving in and out of my feet, to discover the top hinge on the bathroom door was broke. Mentally cataloging another fix, I closed the door, turned on the bathroom light and looked in the mirror. It wasn’t my eyes looking back at me.

I saw my fathers eyes in the mirror looking back at me, clear as day. Sure it was my face, but it was his eyes. Not the eyes of my dad in the months before he died, but the eyes of the man I remember from 20 years ago. Still blue, but bloodshot and wrinkled in the corners, a bit of a permanent sun burn, and tired.

There is a picture of my grandfather (mom’s dad) when he was still in the army, but after he came back from Korea. He was around 21, in uniform, and sitting on some grass looking up at the camera. I first saw this picture when I was about the same age as he was in that picture. We looked just alike, scarily so. My cousin looked at the picture, looked at me, and said “You could have been twins!” Scary, especially as you know if you read my blog, my mom says that him and I are very much alike. However, as much as I may look like my grandfather, act like my grandfather, and in many ways think like him, the eyes staring back at me in the mirror are not his.

They are my fathers.

Categories: Family, Father, Grandfather | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Fun with Ford F250

About then years ago my grandfather bought a 1984 Ford F250, with a gas guzzling 460ci V8 under the hood. This was right before fuel injection, but while everyone was trying to meet newly stringent emission standards, so the engine is carbureted and a MESS of vacuum tubes. He promptly threw on an MSD ignition system to do away with the “abomination” that was the Ford system, a K & N air filter, two chamber muffler, air bag suspension and then plopped a big Lance camper in the bed. You know the kind that sit in the bed, hang over the top of the truck, have a bathroom in it? Yep, that kind. He took it on a few trips, one of which he developed an vacuum leak and burned up a cylinder. My grandfather, not one to half ass anything, bought the best crate engine (still a 460) he could buy and had it installed. The engine has a brand new crankshaft on it, not a regrind and probably has less than 2,000 miles on it since it was put in the truck.

About four years ago he went to start it up, but it wouldn’t start. Battery was good, starter solenoid was good, and relay was good (at least he thinks). In his trouble shooting he decided it must be an ignition switch or wiring issue under the dash, so he started tearing all that apart. he didn’t get very far as it was the middle of summer, not in a garage or in any shade at all and laying down under a dash board is ruff on a young person, let alone an (at the time) 82 year old man with a bad back.

So, he stopped working on it, saying he would get to it when it cooled down…..four years later he decided to just give it to me. So now that it has been sitting for four years without being started it has more issues than just the ignition.

1. All three batteries are horribly corroded (one truck battery, one deep cycle batter for the camper in the engine compartment of the truck, one deep cycle battery for the camper in the camper) to the point that the clamps on the wires are messed up.
2. Gas doesn’t last that long. Both fuel tanks (19 gallon midship and 17 gallon aft) need to be dropped, pumped out and flushed.
3. While the tanks are out, the fuel pumps will be replaced.
4. Carburetor need to be cleaned out.
5. Fuel lines should be flushed or blown out.
6. Original ignition problem needs to be diagnosed and fixed.
7. All fluids need to be replaced and anything that can be lubed and greased (oil, auto tranny fluid, diff, etc.) needs to be lubed and greased.

Did I mention this truck is sitting about an hour away from the nearest decent mechanic? Consequently I will be doing all this in the dirt of my grandfathers yard, with the help of an 86 year old man who can’t really help. Grateful for the truck, just wish I had a little help with it. Nothing I can’t handle though 🙂

Categories: Cars, Grandfather | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Grandfather stories, part 2

The second in my series of stories my grandfather tells. This will be about my Grandfathers childhood:

My grandfather grew up during the great depression. As a child he remembers people in soup lines because there was no food, people trading services for food that they grew because there was no money and he remembers the Hobo’s. Growing up, my grandfather used to frequent the hobo camps. He would sit and listen to them play harmonica, tell stories, eat their food and generally have a good time. He described them not as the Hobo’s that we think about, but as honest men that were just traveling place to place looking for work. Sometimes they would steal crops or chickens to eat, but that was because they were hungry and there was no work to be found.

He said that growing up his family never went without food. When he was young and his dad was a lawyer in Cleveland, he would trade his legal services for food. Some people would pay in vegetables if they grew vegetables, if they raised pigs they might pay with a slaughtered pig, etc. Later on, after moving to California, my great grandfather was able to provide food through working and my grandfather would provide food from hunting and other means. One of these other means was road kill.

Back then the bumpers of cars were a lot higher off the ground than they are now, and the speed limits were a lot slower. My grandfather says that these cars would be going down a road and hit a bunch of “prairie chickens.” Evidently these birds had long necks, which put their heads at just bumper eight of the car. The car would go by at 30mph or so, and “Thwock!” the bumper would start hitting the heads of these birds, killing them but not harming the bodies. My grandfather would gather them up, take them home, clean and dress them. Dinner is served.

If he didn’t get his birds this way, he would get them with his rifle. At the age of seven my grandfather received his first rifle, a .22 Iver Johnson self cocking safety rifle . As he states, his father didn’t believe any boy should pass the age of seven without a rifle. My grandfather said that he immediately went out and shot all the glass insulators off the telephone poles. My great grandfather found out and immediately took the bolt out of the rifle, hiding it in a drawer somewhere. My grandfather said that some months later he came across the bolt, put it back in his rifle, and went on his merry way. My great grandfather of course knew, but never said or did anything.

I know in the previous segment I wrote about my great grandfather, recounting my grandfather’s stories. However, I didn’t tell the ones that specifically detail some of the interactions between him and my grandfather.

When my grandfather was young, he always went around barefoot in the summer time. Shoes were expensive and as a child he would have out grown them or wore them out too easily. He said that one time he stepped on a board that had a very large nail in it. The nail went in the bottom of his foot, out the top, effectively nailing the board directly to his foot. His brother and his friend Billy (who I will talk about more, directly) helped him in the house and sat him in the kitchen. My great grandmother put a big enamel wash basin under my grandfather’s foot to catch the blood, then went and brought my great grandfather in. My great grandfather kneeled down, looked at the board and then looked my grandfather in the eye, pointed at him and sternly said “Now don’t you cry.” He then proceeded to pull the board and nail away from my grandfather’s. My grandfather says the he sniffled, but never cried.

My grandfather often speaks of his friend, Billy Masters. Billy lived in a severely abusive household and many times my grandfather remembers Billy having bruises and welts all over his body, received by his father for some offence that had been given. My grandfather often tells a story about the two of them playing out in the woods one day and Billy missing his curfew. My grandfather repeatedly tried to get Billy to go home, but Billy was having too much fun. The next day when Billy came over, he had been beaten black and blue. When my grandfather tried talking to him about making it home on time, Billy just said “I was having fun. Besides, a beating only lasts a little bit.”

One day, while out in a farmer’s field, they came across the farmer’s tractor. He and Billy jumped on the tractor and started it up. The tractor started rolling along and my grandpa looked at Billy and said “Do you know how to drive this thing?” Billy of course applied in the affirmative. Well they went rolling along and pretty soon were heading to a swamp at the back of the farmers property. Billy said that he couldn’t stop the tractor, so both the boys jumped off. My grandpa said that the tractor ran itself in to the bog, the turning back wheels digging it deeper in to the mud, until it eventually sank almost the whole way in. When I asked my grandfather if the farmer ever was able to get the tractor out of the swamp, he said that he doesn’t know. He did say however, that whenever he and Billy would pass by the famer’s house, the farmer would watch them like a hawk.

One of the Billy Master’s stories that my grandfather tells more than the rest is about the time that Billy sold my great grandfather a lock. Evidently my great grandfather had just finished building doors for a big barn like shed. It may have even been their garage. Standing there he said that all it needed was a lock. Billy Masters heard him, went over to him and said “Mr. Heath, I have a lock I will sell you.” My great grandfather told him he would look at the lock, so Billy went home and retrieved the lock.

My grandfather says that his dad looked at it, pronounced it a brand new lock, and asked Billy what he wanted for it. Billy told my great grandfather that he only wanted a nickel for it, so my great grandfather gave him a nickel for the lock. He then put the lock through the hasp of the doors, locked it and began to walk away, when he stopped and asked Billy for the key. Billy looked at my great grandfather and the exchange went like this:

Billy Masters: “Why Mr. Heath, there isn’t any key.”

Beverly: “WHAT?! NO KEY?!”

Billy: “No Mr. Heath, you don’t need a key, just these.”

At that point Billy produced what my grandfather says looked like a couple bent nails. He walked over to the lock, stuck them in the tumbler, stuck his tongue out of the corner of his mouth and proceeded to pick the lock with them. When he was done he handed the bent nails to my great grandfather. My great grandfather laughed at Billy and said “Take your lock and give me my damn nickel back.” He then walked away, shaking his head and smiling.

As my grandfather grew up he was separated from Billy. He often states “I wish I knew what happened to him.” My mom and I looked the name up some time ago, and we found a few different ones that might be him. Unfortunately they all turned out pretty bad, so we never said anything. We don’t even know if any of them were the right Billy Masters anyway.

My grandfather didn’t need Billy Masters around to get himself in to mischief, even as an adult he has a mischievous streak a mile wide, though it has been tempered with age. One of his favorite stories is about the time he took a bucket of grease and brushed it up and down the railroad tracks. He said a steam locomotive came along, hit the grease and that was it. The tires started slipping and the train wouldn’t go forward. Of course me grandpa was standing there, smiling sweetly up at the train engineer. The train engineer looked down, smiled back and pulled a lever. The lever opened bins of sand underneath the locomotive, which covered the grease. The locomotive was then able to move its way down the track.

As a side note, not knowing this story, I did something similar as a child. I’ll save that story for a later date though.

As my grandfather got older he became a fighter in school, a smaller guy (he didn’t get bigger until about 18) that bullied and fought the big guys. He actually caught the eye of a man named Gus Gursing (Gurzing?), a gym teacher who had at one time been a professional boxer. He taught my grandfather how to fight, which may have been a mistake because he just found himself in more fights after that. Always beating up bigger kids, or putting up enough of a fight that it just wasn’t worth fighting him.

He gained a well-deserved reputation as a trouble maker and hung out with the same. He likes to tell the story of how he and his friends would go to the gas station next to his high school at lunch where they kept bottles of beer and various kinds of soda in a barrel of ice. Of course the ice would melt and become ice water. He says that the bottles of “Dad Old Fashioned Root Beer” looked just like the bottles of generic beer that were floating next to it. The ice water would make the labels on both the bottles loose, so he and his friends would switch the labels and buy the beer to drink with their lunches. He says that after a while the gas station caught on and stopped putting the beer in that barrel.

My grandfather said that early in his school career he had been held back a year, so his senior year of high school he was already 18. He was still very much a trouble maker and getting in to fights, when one day someone picked a fight with him, not the other way around. Even though he did not start or want the fight and the gym teacher went to bat for him, the principle of my grandfather’s school told my grandfather that he was being expelled and transferred to another school. I do not remember the name of the other school, but it is where they sent all the juvenile delinquent types; my grandfather says it was more of a prison than a school. Being 18, my grandfather said “Nope, I’m not going.” He walked off school grounds and that was it.

He says that two months went by before anyone noticed and called home to see where he was. His father answered the phone and talked to the school, with my grandfather right there in the living room. My great grandfather said something along the lines of “Well he’s 18, so he doesn’t have to go if he doesn’t want to.” Though I am sure my great grandfather was disappointed in him.

Next up, the years between school and Korea.

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