Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Grandfatherly Wisdom

Stories can come from anywhere: from our imaginations and fantasies; from episodes in our lives; from observing people while sitting on a park bench or on a bus or on a towel at a beach; from the tales of our ancestors. And there are many more places where inspiration or our muse can strike. A few years ago at a family get-together in Oklahoma, one of my cousins stated that there are tales in our family that have been lost forever because no one wrote them down. Sadly, that is true but I have tried to collect as many as I can remember.

From time to time I will share those tales from the family archives: the Chanceys on my father’s side and the Kennedys on my mother’s side. This week’s stories are about my grandfathers. My brothers and I called our Chancey grandfather Granddad and our Kennedy grandfather Grandpa.

My grandfathers were quite different. I always thought of Granddad as the country grandfather and Grandpa as the city grandfather.

Granddad Marvin Chancey lived on a farm all of his adult life. He married at age nineteen and my grandmother was sixteen. After marrying he worked on a railroad before settling down in a cabin in Oklahoma and later building a very nice two story farmhouse. He was the kind of person who seldom worried or let life’s downturns get to him. My grandmother Amy was just the opposite as this first little vignette will demonstrate.

A Sunday Drive

“Nice day for a ride,” said Marvin absentmindedly as he drove the Model T Ford along the country road that led to their farmhouse.

“Yes, I guess so,” said Amy, “but I wish you would watch where you’re going.”

She had never gotten used to Marvin’s lackadaisical attitude about driving.

“Nothing to worry about,” said Marvin.

But Amy did worry. She worried all of the time. She knew she should relax and enjoy this Sunday afternoon drive but Marvin just wouldn’t keep his eye on the road ahead of him.

The road went straight for a few miles between fenced-in fields then meandered alongside a deep gully with a creek running at the bottom of it. Amy could see that Marvin was driving too close to the edge but she bit her tongue and kept quiet, holding fast to her seat.

Suddenly they came to a sharp curve and just when Amy thought Marvin was going to make the turn she saw that he wasn’t paying the least bit of attention to the road.

She screamed hysterically as the car headed straight for the gully and the creek below.

Just in time Marvin came out of his reverie, grabbed the steering wheel, and steered the car back onto the road.

“You lacked an inch going off into that gully!” yelled Amy.

“An inch is as good as a mile,” replied Marvin nonchalantly.

He drove on as if nothing had happened.


Grandpa Jo Kennedy ran a department store in northern Oklahoma with his brothers until the Great Depression came and then he moved his family to another town in east central Oklahoma where he became manager and part owner of a lumber company named after him. The following story takes place when my mother was in high school. Her nickname was Cha and my grandmother’s name was Daisy.

The Burglar

One hot summer day, Jo took his Boy Scout troop out on an overnight hike. He took his young son Mick along also.

The female members of the family, namely his wife Daisy, his daughters Pink, Cha and Em decided to sleep in the backyard. They dragged their mattresses out there and, after looking at and discussing the stars and the constellations, they finally fell asleep.

Cha woke up in the middle of the night and saw a light moving around in the house. She immediately woke her mother who saw it also. Daisy went to the next-door neighbor’s house and called the police.

While waiting for their mother to return, Cha, Pink, and Em huddled together and whispered among themselves, wondering who could be in their home. Daisy returned and soon a police car drove up. She met the two policemen by the side of the house and tried to explain about the mysterious light moving through their house.

Suddenly, a voice called out of the nearest window, “What’s the matter, Mommy?”

Mommy was the affectionate name that Grandpa always called my grandmother. He had felt sick and had left someone else in charge of the Boy Scouts and came home. He didn’t want to wake the family, not knowing they were sleeping outside, and had crept around the house with a flashlight.

The next morning he said sternly to Cha, quoting from the Bible, “It’s a wise child who knows her own father.”

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