Lessons from Grandad ...

This site is dedicated in part to one of my most loved and influencial people in my life, my Grandfather, Stan Clark. His love of people, horses and his gererosity has left an indelible mark on my life.

He passed away in his mid-eighties a few years ago. A  lifetime of dustbowl teaching, rousing baseball, a world war, road weary grain buying, his own family and grandkids raised, whisky warmed bird and antique hunting, dog training, umpteen stories told and embellished along the way, and last, but certainly not least, some excellent horses under him (a fair number of appaloosas). He walked and talked the world of a generation twice removed. 

A generous guy who loved to chit-chat (my sister caught him talking to a fellow over his shoulder in a diner booth once, in his later years...turns out it was a mirror!). Still, he passed on many jewels of knowledge throughout my life. 

When I was about seven or eight after I had a scrap with one of my friends. I found him downstairs in his shop working on an electric motor. I complained about my buddy. He held out his leathered paw. "In life youíll be able to count the number of your true friends on one hand." He tightened his fingers, "You have to learn to hang on to them." 

What did I know? Every kid I went to school with was my friend. More little lessons continued on to my teenage years, "Anyone out past midnight is either drinking or having sex!"... Oh, how I wished!

He showed me how to whittle away at small townlife , as I carved a childhood for myself in that little prairie town. The picture above is Grandad over visiting one of his ol' time buddies, Claude Parkinson. He and Claude would hang out talking while Claude's wife would stuff my cheeks and pockets full of cookies. I learned to appreciate the old times AND those old timers! 

A sore collerbone at nine after being thrown off a horse, "Sit down and shake it off!"  This of course caused my mother tremendous concern when she learned of a break at hospital. 

After spending countless summer hours romping around our horse ranch on the edge of town. He had the horses and also raised cattle about 15 miles north of town. I'll never forget my twelve-year-old horror...as our shetland mare, Dolly, came hopping up to me one fateful spring day with a front leg swinging freely at the knee. When I saw her, I was savvy enough to know  it was the end of her...and from there on in...the end of every gopher I came across.

When I called to Grandad, it was one of only times I saw the glitter of a tear in corner of his eye. We sat side by side on the tackroom steps. "She won't feel a thing." he said, "I'll call, Al Rose", (our neighbor across the highway). When I asked exactly what would happen, he told me, "I learned a long time ago, you never want to shoot a horse, and you never watch a horse being shot. Go home now, these are things we just need to forget."

He was a generous guy, passing off $5 to anyone in need. Even when I was grown and out on my own, occasionally he'd cushion our handshake with a wad of bills, "Keep some money in your sock drawer...here, I found this in mine, put it in yours."

Fond memories of my good old Grandad are still triggered every so often. That cool, musty breeze off a fall stubble field takes me back to hopping out of bed at 4 a.m. for a bird hunt. Freezing in a pit and waiting for faint honks out of the morning mist. 

These days, the creak and slap of oiled leather or tickle of hay dust in my throat takes me back to a ten-year-old stomping out of the tackroom ready to ride. Or alfalfa sweetened barn-air in winter at midnight, and the heatened blast of a labored mare preparing to foal, in one instance lead to the delivery of Grandad's beloved appaloosa stallion, Shawnee!

One lesson rings especially true from my Grandad. Somewhere in his late-seventies, he had come to my uncleís house, in the city where I lived. Usually, when we visited and parted ways, he padded his hanshake with roll of bills that he, 'found in his sock drawer.' In this case, I hadn't seen him in a while and he had called me over for a visit. He was snoozing and just rousing from his afternoon 'siesta'. I sat on the edge of his bed to catch up with him, he asked me to lean forward, saying he had something for me. When I did, he hugged me closer than he had in years, I felt his whiskered face against my cheek, like when I was a kid and he spoke softly in my ear.

"I want to tell you something...I sure do love ya."

When it came to emotions, he was a man of few words. I knew that he meant it. Take some words of wisdom from my dear Grandad and don't forget to pass on this last little lesson to the ones you care about.