Since my Grandpa John Nichols died before my birth, he’s always been a bit of an enigma to me. I know him only through the stories of my family. For example, my cousin Max tells me that Grandpa was a history buff and knew about all there was to know about the presidents and their terms in office. In those pre-Google days, Grandpa had all the answers. He was the reference book of the family. He’d been well trained because around the table at dinner time, he and his brothers were required to present something they’d learned that day for the enlightenment of the rest of the family.
“Grandpa,” Max would ask him, “who was the 14th president?”
Grandpa spoke in a deep bass voice and thought carefully before he answered.
“Now, let me see, son,” he’d said, staring off into the fire. “I believe that would be . . . . hmmmmm, maybe that would have been Franklin Pierce. Yep, he was born November 23, 1804 and died on October 8, 1869. He was our only president from New Hampshire and a Democrat to boot. What else you need to know?”
That vignette comes to me via Max.
I have another courtesy of my Grandma Nichols, who’s been dead since I was twelve years old, but I vividly remember her telling me this story. She and Grandpa, who she always called Mr. Nichols, and their 4 children lived on a farm in Jeff Davis County. They were hard workers and managed to keep the wolf away from the door. Grandma raised chickens and sold the eggs. One day she decided she wanted to put up curtains in the house, so she sold some of her chickens to finance the fabric, which she then sewed and hung up at the windows. When Grandpa came in for dinner, he was surprised and inquired how she’d paid for this luxury. In response to her answer, he said,
“Mama, you didn’t have to sell your chickens. I’d have given you the money.”
“Yes, you would,” she replied, “and you’d have fussed about it everyday for the rest of our lives. I’d rather do it my way, thank you.”
Most of my depictions of Grandpa came through my daddy’s eyes. Grandpa was exceptionally religious and belonged to the hardshell or Primitive Baptist Church. He worked hard at living what he preached. When Daddy was in high school, the postmaster offered him a job because he had a beautiful and legible handwriting. He went home like a dutiful son to talk it over with his father, who said absolutely not. The job required some Sunday work. Grandpa told Daddy he could not continue to live under his roof if he took the job. No son of his would work on Sunday.
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