Monday, October 12, 2009

Ode To Grandpa Huck

My grandfather was a natural born storyteller. When he came to visit, we kids would gather around him and beg him to tell stories like Gefilte Fish over and over and over. He hated farming, though that was how he made his living. Legend has it he had wanted to be either a lawyer or a preacher but, for some reason, he was too afraid to go to high school; he never got past an eighth grade education.

My grandfather was one of the many German-Russian refugees that came to the Mid-West and parts of Canada in the first part of the twenty-first century (his mother may also have been Jewish, though there is no way to know; he certainly was fascinated with Jewish culture). He was born out in a tent where the migrant workers lived, his mother back in
the fields shortly after his birth. When he was a child, he often told us, the only toys he had ever had to play with were bones. Although I doubt this was actually true (he told it to us, of course, to try and teach us a lesson since he found us so wasteful), we believed him; when my younger brother was in the fifth grade he had to interview someone about the best Christmas present they had ever received. My brother knew immediately he wanted to choose my mother. She told him the story of a ballerina doll she had gotten one year but soon saw that he was disappointed. When she asked him why he said: "I figured you might have gotten a human skull." After all, grandpa had played with bones so why not mom too, and the human skull is the ultimate of all bones....

A few years before he passed away I asked my grandmother to record him telling his stories. She did, and I still had the cassette in my old wardrobe at my parent's house. When my mother recently moved I for
got to mention it and all the old cassettes were thrown out....

Still, he was present when I went the harvest festival in Nebraska. All of the old farmers there looked more or less exactly like he had. Did they also hate farming? Do any of them also have a poetic, story-telling soul? Who knows, but it's nice to think he might not have been the only one.

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