I’ve written about Pap-pa – my mother’s father, Hoyt Cook – several times before. About his different lines of work, about how he achieved prosperity, and about the practical joke he played on me (and a ‘possum).
I’m writing about him again because he’s the first person I thought of when Amy Johnson Crow posted this week’s prompt for her 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge.
When we were going on a long drive, Pap-pa would chew on the side of his finger. He fell asleep easily (we wonder now if he had narcolepsy), and he said chewing on his finger helped keep him awake. He also played the harmonica on the road. One had lyrics about the “Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, on the trail of the lonesome pine.” Another had something to do with a cow and railroad tracks, I think.
He had one of those plastic figurines where you pulled down the boy’s pants and he, well, you know. He got a big kick out of teasing us kids with that.
He also told tall tales that began with, “When I was a little Indian boy…” To hear him tell it, he used alligators as stepping stones through the swamp and killed three turkeys and a bear with one well-aligned arrow.
When I visited them at their home on Lagniappe Beach in the Midway area between Gulf Breeze and Navarre, Florida, he would take me out fishing on his boat. He taught me how to bait my hook and clean the fish. Sometimes he’d bring a watermelon from his garden and slice it up on the patio overlooking East Bay. To this day, I believe watermelon is for eating outdoors, preferably while swimming.
I’m pretty sure he’s the one who showed me how to tell when a pancake is just right to be flipped. He would cook six or eight at a time on a griddle.
Pap-pa was a talker, too. He never met a stranger and could always make conversation. I was surprised when my mom told me that he ran for county commissioner once but wasn’t elected. She said he wasn’t a good public speaker. He could talk to anyone, and he was a teacher and a coach, but I guess facing an audience of his peers and trying to talk them into something just wasn’t his thing.
He was full of knowledge about the natural world. He was very observant of plants and animals and their behavior. I remember him telling me once that when a hurricane is coming, the tops of trees would blow in a circle. He shared some of his weather observations with reporters in 1977 and 1981.
This year, my husband has noticed squirrels furiously digging holes in the yard and burying their nuts. We even found a few small pecans stashed away where one of our sandbags spilled on the back porch. This level of squirrel activity isn’t something we’ve seen before in our 16 years at this home. And guess what? I’m seeing reports that a weak polar vortex could bring an early start to winter.