Thursday, July 4, 2013

"Independence Day" - the second in my Grandpop series.

Howdy Folks,

This is the second in my Grandpop series - You can read the first - "Perhaps I've Just Lived Too Long (HERE) - Many Coffee Clutchers really enjoy visiting with Grandpop. I hope you will too.

"Independence Day"

The grandchildren sat transfixed by the old man. In a semi circle under the massive oak they watched and listened as his tired voice told grand stories of his youthful days, before he'd gone to the big war, when he was a cowboy on the vast ranges that still surround them here in the Texas panhandle. His three old mares had joined us too. They stood behind him almost asleep. I chuckled when I thought they'd heard all these stories before. So had I.
The Coffee Clutch family
It was pleasant under the big tree, even though the thermometer on the side of the weathered barn told me it was just under 100 when we'd strolled by it on the way to Grandpop's story tree.

Grandpop was deep into the story about the time he and his best friend, Tex, who didn't make it back from the war, were asked to escort a special lady from the train station to the ranch and got caught in a thunderstorm that had them holed up under the wagon for 2 hours. "Boy howdy," I heard him say, "She was sure enough as mad as a hornet. Why you'd have thought Tex and me had conjured up that big blow just to ruin her travelin' dress." He paused and looked around the circle of young faces. "I think it was the first time I ever heard a lady cuss." He chuckled. "And she was good at it too."

I looked back at the gathering of folks between the house and barn, too far to hear any of their voices. Smoke was drifting up from the campfires where steaks were grilling, and a few games of horseshoes were going on. Looked like guys against gals. I could see cousin Fred boring everybody he could lasso, bragging over his new Cadillac.

I remembered when I sat under the tree listening to Grandpop's stories. He never told any stories about his time in the war, at most he'd mention it took him away and he married Grandma the week he got home. He'd use that as a lead into how they set out together to build this little ranch, and raise a family here, 3 boys and 2 girls. "Why when we bought this little chunk of land there wasn't even a single building on it." I heard him say.

I'd be turning 60 in a few months and I thought about how much this tiny ranch and that old man meant to me. His horses, his stories, his advice. I cupped my face so no one could see the tears swelling in my eyes. I thought about all the years I was too busy to come home for his big Independence Day shindigs. A pang in my gut told me I'd not get those visits back. Those were lost chances. My wet eyes surveyed the smiling faces watching him talk and an uneasy feeling swept over me as I wondered who would be the family's anchor when he was no more. We all came to him when we were troubled. And when we had the biggest news to share.

Independence Day wasn't the only big shindig here at Grandpop's ranch, but I always thought it was his favorite. At some point one of the children would always ask why he liked 4th of July so much. Of course as I grew older I sensed that he steered the conversation in that direction so he could tell them. "This is the only country in the entire history of the world to be founded on the principle that everyone is equal and that the independence of everybody was what matters the most so everyone can be whatever they want to be." It's that freedom that makes our country so wonderful he would explain. Of course some of the youngest wouldn't totally understand until they heard the stories a few times. It takes a while to understand what's truly important, I suppose.

I thought again of the years I'd missed Gandpop's shindigs. It does take a while to understand what's important, and I understand now sometimes we need to lose it a little before we truly understand.

Somebody at the barn jerked the rope on the dinner bell and yelled, "Come and get it!" Bouncing to their feet the children yelled in unison, "Come on Grandpop!" I took his hand, helped him to his feet, and for the first time ever I noticed how frail he'd become. How tired his eyes. A shiver ran through me. A small panic. Who will tell the stories under the big oak when he's gone? Will anyone remember?

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry

You can read the next (3rd) Grandpop story, "Grandpop's Horse" (HERE)


  1. wonderful story, thanks for sharing this one Dutch!

    1. Thanks Jessica ... Feel free to share.