Grandpa was not part of the academic and financial communities. He had little formal education. Growing up in a fatherless home in the later part of the nineteenth century afforded little opportunity for school attendance. He also was not a financial wizard. It seems that he always bought the wrong farm and sold it at the wrong time. When I was in my pre- teen years Harv, his familiar name to some, sold his farm and began the search for another. He decided not to buy a piece of property in the flat, dry area of west Texas. His choice was a small place some twenty miles from the farm that had just sold. No one could know that in a handful of years the land that he chose not to buy would be in the center of a large oil field. The people who owned the land became wealthy. Grandpa did not make enough profit on his new farm to make the payments when they came due.
I received no "inheritance" in the usual sense of the word. If any of the relatives received money after his death it was never mentioned. However, he left me something more valuable than a prominent name or money. As I have grown older and have had an opportunity to look back at my life, I find that many of the characteristics of my life that I feel are more positive are things that I learned from him. It was a long time before I realized this.
When I was still a school student we argued a little bit on the occasions when we would be together. My goal was to be a scientist. I enrolled in all of the science classes that I could. Grandpa was an active member of a Baptist church and believed the Bible word for word. If he should state his belief that the world is flat because the Scripture mentions the four corners of the earth a heated discussion would follow. I often thought that he was not nearly as intelligent as my science teachers.
I still do not agree with some of his interpretations of the Bible, but I also find that I must disagree with many so called scientific truths presented by my teachers. Later scientific discoveries have disproved many of the things taught to my generation as scientific facts. My opinion of his intelligence has changed and my respect for his conviction has increased.
Perhaps it is good that Grandpa is not living today. The increase of big government programs and controls would disturb him very much. In the years of the great depression even the bare necessities of life were scarce. This was especially true in some of the farm homes. The drought in the early nineteen thirties caused farm production to suffer. Small crops and low prices caused many hardships. The Roosevelt administration attempted to bring some needed relief.
The farm subsidy program was a financial blessing to many but some, like Grandpa, refused the aid. Even though he needed the money he felt that the price was too high. His argument was that the government should not have control of the lives of people. Telling the farmer what and how much he could plant was a violation of this principle.
Freedom can be costly as Grandpa discovered. He refused to participate in any government program. His crops were sold for less at a time when the higher price was almost a giveaway. He kept his freedom and considered it worth the price. Some might call him stubborn, foolish or even worse. Others may say he was a brave American. I have to admit that I am proud to have some of his stubborn blood in my veins.
Although he probably never heard the term, Grandpa believed in the work ethic. Working was a natural and expected activity. Some things he seemed to thoroughly enjoy. Tending his bee hives were more of a sport than a chore. Caring for his orchard was not a bore. Mending the broken farm machinery seemed to be a challenge. Contrary animals could bring pain and aggravation but he was usually able to meet whatever crisis that arose with resourcefulness. An example is the time a mule stepped on his foot and refused to move. A hard bit on the mule's ear finally resolved the standoff.
Observing a person working in all types of situations enables us to know something of the individual. Seeing and talking with a man when he is doing an unpleasant task can lead to a true understanding of the person. There is no way that Grandpa could have enjoyed digging johnson grass out of a field. Using a goose neck hoe is not pleasant at best and cleaning this pesky growth from a crop is hoeing at its worst.
As a young teenager I worked a few weeks each summer on Grandpa's place. He had sold his farm and was sharecropping a not too productive piece of land. Hoeing beside him and trying to keep pace with him was not always easy, however it was not altogether boring for me. I knew that my work days were limited and our conversation helped ease the pain and relieve the tiredness.
In retrospect I realize that I learned a lesson about work from that experience. Harv Staggs spent long hours, sweat, got dirty and tired doing something that he did not enjoy. He did not complain or curse his fate. There was work to be done and he did it in the best way that he knew how. I feel that all of the time he was thanking God that he had the strength to do it.
Often someone talks about the money or property a friend or relative has given them. Usually I can say with sincerity that I am glad for them, however I doubt that I would trade my inheritance for theirs, even if I could.
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Another story by Horace: Learning To Be A Cat