My paternal grandfather died in 1964 and memories of him have been creeping into my consciousness lately. Gramps, as he wished to be referred to, was a man. He was educated, refined and a real gentleman. That said, he was no liberal snowflake. Just the opposite. In the vernacular of the day he was a man’s man. He surveyed much of what is the current state of Maine on horseback and spent weeks at a time in what was wilderness. He was a veteran of WW1 and when he spoke of other veterans his voice lowered and he would get the 1000 yard stare. I adored him. He had opinions about what a boy should learn and he was not reluctant to proceed to teach me. 

I was about 8 when he turned to my grandmother and said, “it is time the boy learned to swim”. He picked me up, waded out to deeper water, released me and said, “swim boy”. I did and I had no fear. 

When I was 10 he presented me with his old single shot 22 rifle. The following weekends he taught be about firearm safety, how to clean a firearm and how to store a firearm. (It was my gun, but it stayed in gramp’s locked gun case). He had no interest in sport hunting but from his days in the wilderness was comfortable in hunting for food or to protect a camp from roaming carnivores. 

He showed me how to build a rock dam in an Adirondack stream and return in a week to find it teeming with little crawfish like critters that made perfect bait for fishing. We built a worm farm with coffee grounds and soil so we always had bait. 

He taught me how to cast a fly rod and how clean the rod after every use. When dissembling the rod is was mandatory to rub the male end of the connection on the side of your nose to lube with natural oil. 

He showed me how to move through the Adirondack forest with a light step and I learned the pleasure of sitting quietly and watching and listening. Small wild critters quickly realized we were no threat. He showed me how to use a compass (one of my friends just guffawed), but alas I am one of those unfortunates born without a sense of direction.

In my memories of him I can’t recall hearing a harsh word or a word spoken in anger. He had strong opinions and was not reluctant to speak them but he would always respectfully listen to the opinion of others.

His final days were spent hospitalized and then was the only time I heard him complain. He did not complain about the pain, or of being sick, but rather of his loss of independence. He was a man.

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