It’s All Relative

I like clocks. Those of you who know me well know that I do not like being late. I stay on time by watching the clock … in a good way. As a child I liked clocks, too. I liked to take them apart.

Sadly, I wasn’t very good at putting them back together. I took apart both electric clocks and the wind up variety alarm clock. What did my mother think? Were they old clocks that didn’t work anymore? You and I both know that workaday clocks generally don’t just wear out. Maybe she gave them to me to play with? Or maybe I just took them to the basement without asking.

Asking permission wasn’t my strong point, but it certainly helped me learn. One day I was in the basement at the house on fourth avenue, perhaps twelve years old. I had read about electromagnets. The book described them as a length of wire wrapped around an iron rod. The basement had both. Well, maybe not an iron rod, but there was a nail. And, OK, we had a length of wire, only maybe a foot long at most. I wrapped the wire tightly around the nail. The book talked about running electricity through the wire to energize the iron to make a magnet. I didn’t have a battery, but there was a 110 volt outlet right there on the work bench. One end of the foot long wire would fit into one hole of the outlet, another end into the other. What could go wrong? I plugged the wires in. Continue reading

Fencing the Prairie

Fencing the Prairie

Successful Farming

Successful Farming

This is the story that triggered the Grandpa Guy’s Stories blog. Everyone in the family knows this story as it was one of Grandma Fanny’s favorites. Grandma told this story every time we visited, and we visited her often.

At the risk of repeating myself; my brother Linn, our cousin Ted and I were riding in the car to Ted’s house one afternoon. We started reminiscing about Grandma’s stories. One of us recounted the Chandler Story. Another pointed out the errors in that version, and the third one of us laughed at the incongruities of both versions, telling what was certainly the true version of the story.

Esther clearly recognizes that many versions of the story exist, and I could point out a couple of discrepancies in this version, and perhaps add more details. Grace had her own short version of the story which she recounted in one of her letters to me in 1994. Grandma Fanny’s version of the story took about twenty minutes to tell, and may have had more detail than any one of us remember. Continue reading

Stranger in a Strange Land

Stranger in a Strange Land

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Stranger in a Strange Land

As a boy, I spent untold hours at the library looking for books. My mother let me go to the library alone as early as age ten. Within a couple of years I’d bring home three or four books at a time, read them in the evening, and head back the next day to get a couple more. Over a summer I could read stacks of them. In between books, I’d have a dozen or so magazines at home to read, too. The magazines included everything from MAD to Science News, a weekly digest of the latest in science. I started reading that one in Junior High. The reading habit I picked up as a child has served me well ever since.

Through high school, I read mostly science fiction. Early on, the Danny Dunn series was my favorite, but there were several others. The books kept me busy for months, but there was a minor problem with the limited scope of my interests and the brisk pace of my reading. I ran out of books to read! I’d finished all the Danny Dunn and science fiction books in the children’s section. There were no other books for me to read. I had no idea what to do. Finally, I recognized that I had a problem and should go talk to the librarian. She probably knew me quite well because I was there almost every day and the room wasn’t that big. The librarian had a wonderful, simple suggestion for me, one that changed my life. Continue reading

Papa

Papa

Tom Sawyer Abroad and other stories

Tom Sawyer Abroad and other stories

I never knew my maternal grandfather Ted. He died long before I was born. There’s only one material connection between him and me; a copy of Tom Sawyer stories by Mark Twain. The book was a Christmas gift from his sister Frieda in about 1901. That single connection lends credence to Esther’s comment that he liked to read.

How much time did Ted have to read when they lived on the farm in Kidder County? There would have been plenty to do without taking the time out to read stories by Mark Twain. Tom Sawyer’s experiences would have resonated better with Grandpa Ted than they do with me, and my grandson would have little idea what Mark Twain was talking about in some of those stories. Even reading changed dramatically in the last 100 years since Ted received this book for Christmas. Continue reading