Yesterday, my hubby and I went to the Carson City Rendezvous. This event occurs every year in June. I like to go to see the stagecoach and horses, plus my favorite ragtime banjo player CW lures me in with old songs like “See the Elephant, ” “Ragtime Banjo,” and “I’ve been working on the railroad.”
I sit on hay bales, while listening to CW, Mr. Spoon, and Professor Numb lips as they play the music that reminds me of my grandfather. Before my grandfather died in 1994, he used to play harmonica in a ragtime band at school events. I listen to the trio and think of my grandfather.
He grew up the man of his house because his father left his mother and four children for another woman. My great-grandmother never talked about him. She homesteaded next to her parents and raised my grandfather through the Great Depression. When WWII came around my grandfather had three children and a wife. He left his family for patriotic and economic reasons to fight in the Pacific theater. He was a Navy man.
I remember my grandfather as cheerful. He would start the stories about his escapades as a young man-child. He and his young friends used to chase the girls with a skunk. Of course as the story goes, the young men outwitted themselves because the skunk pushed against the back of one of the young men’s legs (they were probably about ten years old) and sprayed the lot of them. The teacher sent them home to clean up and they couldn’t come back to school for days afterwards.
After the stories, he would pull out his harmonica and over a campfire we would sing “Springtime in the Rockies,” “She’ll be comin’ around the mountain,” “Little brown jug,” and others. He was a performer. I understood later that my father felt that my grandfather had left him during the war. My father never got over that abandonment issue. And my mother used to think that her father-in-law judged her, finding her deficient.
But, as a child and even when I grew up I never saw those things. I saw a man who loved his children and helped them when he could. He loved his grandchildren and he was entertaining. When his mother lost her home and was ill, he took her into his house. When his wife, my grandmother, started to lose her memory and mind, he took care of her. And we had so much in common. Both of us was the oldest child. Both of us grew up faster than we should.
So my next step? I honor my grandfather every time I listen to the ragtime music he loved. I honor my grandfather whenever I write and publish something. He was also a poet. He was also a writer.
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