Pappy (Grandpa Combs)

He was born in North Carolina in 1887. He grew up in Texas in a house without running water, electricity or screens on the windows. He learned to work hard, even in the heat. Because, he said, “In those days, if you didn’t work, you didn’t eat!” That’s just the way it was at the dawn of the last century.As a young man he had helped his sister homestead in Oklahoma. That meant he had to help clear fields so they could be used for farming or ranching. And they had to build a house on the land or they would have to give it back.??While in his twenties he lived in Kansas, working for the Rock Island Railroad. He was a relief man for the depot agents. He would work in one town for awhile, then another, then another.He had a motorcycle, or as Pappy said, “a motor-sickle,” and an itch to settle down.??He ended up in Dodge City, Kansas, with a wife, a baby and the first Harley-Davidson dealership west of the Mississippi. His business almost failed before it started. A long winter with no sales used up all his savings. An order finally came in for his first motorcycle. It was coming on the train, C.O.D., and if the buyer hadn’t offered to pay for it in advance, Pappy wouldn’t have been able to get it off the train.??Things got better. And he could afford time off to ride his Harley with a sidecar to Colorado, all the way up Pike’s Peak. With his wife and baby daughter in the sidecar, and his toddler son balanced on the handlebars, they made the trip up and back.??His knack for business, and his family grew. He weathered the depression by diversifying. At one time or another he had car dealerships, auto parts stores, and land in Colorado, Kansas, Missouri and Louisiana, along with stock in oil companies.”The secret to business,” Pappy would say with his voice deepening, “is to buy low.” Then his voice would rise in pitch, “And sell high!”??But tragedy hit hard. His cherished wife, Ruth, died from childbirth complications, leaving him with four young children and a broken heart. He kept going though. Until, his son, Paul, died from eating apricot pits. Pappy was devastated. He said. “I went out and sat in my car for a long time one night, asking God. Why? Why take such a sweet mother from her children? Why take such a good little boy?“??He couldn’t make sense of it. “Finally,” he said. “I remembered something from the Bible. ‘Now we see as through a mirror, darkly…now we know in part…then we’ll know in full. I knew I’d never understand it in this world. But someday in heaven I will.” His faith gave him the courage to go on.He picked himself up, dusted himself off, and went on.??I didn’t meet Pappy until he was a well-established businessman. He had my father, and a couple of my uncles working for him, while he lived semi-retired in Missouri. Pappy was my grandfather. He always seemed bigger than life to me. Wearing a straw cowboy hat and talking with a booming, gravelly voice tinged with a Texas drawl he would enter a room, and command everyone’s attention. He was demanding and downright scary to me, a quiet little boy.?But I watched him watch me. And I watched him when he would come to our house. He would sit out in the evenings and watch the kittens play and I knew he was all right. But I was still scared of him.??I grew up with him visiting us and us visiting him. I remember big family get- togethers and everyone teasing Pappy’s daughter, my Aunt Janell, about her latest hat.And I remember Pappy’s second wife, Mamie, getting up early every day of the week fixing a big breakfast of bacon, eggs and toast, all fried and greasy. The eggs would be as black as the cast iron frying pan.??Then came the day when I was old enough to play chess with Pappy. My Dad had spent time teaching me the game, but I was much less than enthused. Chess is a game of the mind and concentration. My mind wanders. Chess is a game of strategy and offense. I’m by nature, aloof and evasive. Nonetheless, I sat in a chair across the chessboard from Pappy, squirming.??Outside I could see my brothers and sister playing in the summer evening. I decided to lose as quick as I could and get out of there.But every time I tried to throw the game, Pappy would stop me. “You don’t want to do that!” He’d scold. Reluctantly I played the game. It eventually ended and I seldom played chess with him after that. I think Pappy understood. It just wasn’t my game.?Years later, I hestitantly stopped to see Pappy and Mamie with my wife, two-week-old baby daughter and our dog. Pappy didn’t recognize me at the door. His back was stooped and he reminded me of a buffalo. His eyes were dim from cataracts and his hearing was bad. “It’s me, Paul.” I said. “Your grandson.”??Pappy smiled and ushered us in. Mamie fussed over us and they insisted on feeding us a meal and begged us to spend the night. I watched Pappy take some pills. “I take a red one, a white and a blue one. I’m very patriotic you know!” he laughed and I laughed with him.??Soon he and I were talking. We talked about motorcycles, music, babies, dogs and marriage. He told me some stories and I told him some of mine. He reminisced about how he used to work on magnetos on motorcycles and the first time he had ever seen a socket wrench. “I thought that was slick!” He whistled.We joked and for the first time in my twenty-two years I finally realized Pappy was a lot like me. We thought the same way about a lot of things, and we both liked to laugh. His sense of humor was a lot like mine.??Although Pappy argued that we should spend the night, I explained to him that I had to be at work the next day, bright and early. “Well, okay.” He said with a bit of sadness in his voice. “Just remember you’re always welcome. And you can always call, or write. I always want to hear from you. I’m always interested in you. You know that don’t you?“??”Yes.” I said. I reached out and shook his wrinkled hand. He gave a firm handshake that spoke of a love that I had never realized was there before. I felt emotion rising in my throat, and my face felt flushed. It was hard to leave.??“You take care of that baby, now. You hear?” He said as we walked out the door. My heart was light and I felt like I had made a new friend. We wrote a few letters, back and forth after that. Then I didn’t hear from him. He wasn’t feeling very good.??It was just a year and half later I was living in northern Minnesota when my Dad called. “I have some bad news,” he said. I knew what he meant before he said it. “Pappy’s passed away.”??I thought of him standing at the door, not really seeing me wave goodbye to him. But he waved at me as I drove away. Now he was gone. A few weeks later, I received a message from Pappy. He had typed it out on his typewriter to be sent to all his grandchildren after he died.??To all my Grand Children, Grandpa is not here anymore, he has gone across to that Golden Shore to be with Christ forever more. God has promised and I know it is true, that he will make all things new. A Children’s Home it will include, where you may come, and not intrude. My Eyes and Ears can see, and hear, and never fall, throughout the year. A perfect home where all may come, a home up there for every one, to last through all eternity. If along life’s way, you are doing good, and loving people like you should You will reach that Goal, and hear that word, Well Done.??Of this Ditty you may make, and let whoever will partake. The date of this is some time in the future, but some time in the future, I won’t be able to write. Today is September 11, 1974??Written by Rufus Edgar Combs?.?And now Pappy knows.