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Posts tagged ‘family’

Cows and Horses

Back when my grandfather was growing up, June was wheat harvesting time and every year, after school let out, all neighboring farms within a certain radius took turns helping each other harvest, with the host family preparing dinner at the end of the day for the workers.

A thrasher was towed into the center of the barn so that the farmers on the combine crew could throw the wheat bundles into it.  The combine separated the grain from the stalks and then blew the straw out the back door into the barnyard.  As the day wore on, the discarded straw continued to grow into a huge pile.

The cows came from the fields to rub themselves on the straw.  All my grandfather’s friends had learned that they could grab the cows’ tails and be pulled on their stomachs around and around the straw pile. Read more

Sugar Hill: A Partial History and Contemporary Adventure

On the way to Oriental the last trip, my mother and I stopped in Kinston, North Carolina.  I had been wanting to visit the part of the town known as Sugar Hill because its seamy history was an interesting part of my grandfather’s life. Read more

Two Days of Television and Vermin in North Carolina

Day 1

I woke up to several droppings and liquidy grossness inches from my face on the pull-out couch. Further investigation showed a few pellets down the side of the mattress and on the floor as well.

Mom: “It’s something, but not sure it’s a mouse.”

I didn’t want to think it was a mouse either, but realistically, what were the alternatives? Cockroaches? Bat? (Maybe I’m now a vampire?) Read more

Diagramming: Wild

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

I recently read the book — in bed and got snot all over my pillow.  Then I saw the movie and re-cried all over my face in the theater.  Wild is a really compelling story about screwing up and redemption; physically grueling walks through the wilderness; the joys of being alone and of reading; the crap way we treat our parents; and what happens when they die, young and suddenly.

“The trees were tall, but I was taller, standing above them on a steep mountain slope in northern California.”


Writing with Granddad

For several months, I’ve been working with my grandfather on a story of his life.  He’s now 91 years old, into his tenth decade, and has always been a natural story-teller with a sharp memory and a good sense of humor.

I’d been making recordings and taking notes for years, but only recently the right confluence of available time and mental energy inspired me to begin organizing, documenting, and researching the many tales he has told me since I was a child.

The process typically starts with his conveying a story, either through an interview-style conversation, a recording, or his own writing.  If we’re talking, there’s often a lot of “You understand?” punctuating.  Sometimes he draws diagrams or maps — ostensibly to illustrate his points but mostly to make sure I’m grasping everything.  Then, I type up a draft, which he reads and comments on. Read more