My great grandfather Jake was a county patriarch. Bath County is amazingly rural, with half the number of people in the 21st century that it had in the year 1800. It’s the kind of place that is wonderful to grow up in, and to come back to be buried, but not so great for jobs.
Somehow Jake had managed to prosper, and raise a brood of achievers, including a postmaster, the owner of a mill and farm store, an editor and others. What I remember most about him was an incident when he was 85 and I was 5.
I spent my summers there till a was a teenager. I was an Ohio city kid. We had television back in Ohio, and I was fascinated by a cowboy show. I had the complete outfit for the show, including toy gun, small cowboy hat, the whole thing.
Jake had showed up for Sunday supper. He liked my grandmother’s cooking. He was nearly toothless, and my grandma would slice the corn off the cob and put it in a buttery pile on his plate. This was corn fresh out of the garden, which I can taste all these years later.
I was wearing my cowboy outfit. Jake looked me up and down and said is that a gun you got? And I said yes, but it’s only a toy gun. He and I argued about that toy gun for a half hour. No one laughed, although they must have been near to exploding with laughter over this argument between great grand dad and his great grandson, wearing his cowboy hat at Sunday dinner. We ended when grandma offered seconds and asked me how I wanted my corn, and I said just like great grandpop’s.
I have no idea why this small incident has stuck in my mind. It’s just there, and I can recall the light in the room and his raspy voice and the fresh taste of that corn fresh out of the garden, and I can recall the cool of the evening (it’s up in the mountains, so it was cool at night even in summer).
Jake had a bottle of whisky stashed in assorted trees along the main country roads. His wife was a severe Baptist who didn’t allow drinks at home. He got too old to drive, and got around in his 80’s by hitchhiking. He’d order the car to stop a moment, walk out in a field to a hollow in a tree, and take a couple of swigs.
Jake died at age 87, hit by a car as he was hitching. Seems like not such a bad way to go, better than sitting around the living room waiting for the archangel to come for a visit.
Deep knowledge,and happy reading.
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