Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Tribute to Stanley

ho·bo [hō bō] homeless traveler
a poor and homeless person, especially somebody who traveled around the United States looking for work in the 1920s and 1930s.

I am the product of a hobo. Let me rephrase that. I am the PROUD product of a hobo. Last week, my sixteen year old and I found ourselves in an area of town that we rarely frequent. The streets were filled with migrant workers waiting for the chance to labor for a day’s wage. This was a foreign concept for my son. As I tried to explain the process, the image of my maternal grandfather came to my mind. Pops didn’t have much in the way of material wealth, but he left a wealth of stories proving dedication and perseverance can pave the way for a better life.

Pops came to America at the turn of the twentieth century. He was eighteen years old. He left behind his entire family, and other than a sister who made her own journey, never saw them again. He worked whatever jobs he could find. The early years found him cutting back and forth across the nation in search of the elusive better life. He told many a story of jumping railcars and run-ins with the police because of his vagrant lifestyle. When he met Grandma, he decided to settle down and work the coal mines. I didn’t know him until he was in his eighties and really can only remember those last few years of his nineties. Blindness and old age had finally crept in, but he still wasn’t afraid of a little hard work. He must have been 93 the year he cut down our family willow trees, in the middle of summer...in temperatures that were nearly 100 degrees.

Pops never had much money. He never owned his own house. I don’t think he even owned a car. However, he did a great job raising eight respectable kids, who in turned raised their own generation of musicians, doctors, law enforcers and engineers. Now the next generation is creating their own life stories. Pops didn’t leave much in the way of material belongings, but he did leave a treasure-trove of rich stories that continue to set the course for the generations of today.

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