The Mad Fishicist

A fly rodding, sheep stalking, moose calling, guitar trying, bird watching, fly tying, Katie loving stay-at-home-dad.

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Location: Alaska, United States

Saturday, December 31, 2005

The New Year in Glory (For Rueben M. Dowell June 13, 1914-December 31, 2005)

You always know a guy is a class act by how he defines classy. My Grandpa Rueben’s definition was simple and dead on: Reta. Ever since she went home, Grandpa would get stars in his eyes when he described how Grandma dressed, and how she handled rudeness, and her sense of humor, and the day they met, and their first date, and so on. Then he would take on a thousand yard stare and sigh, "She sure was a class act."
It was her opinion that he valued most, even over his own. The last time I saw him, he told me a story from the forties. I asked, "Was this in the time when everyone wore hats?" He said, "I never wore a hat." And when I think of how proud Grandma was of Grandpa’s curly hair, I can see that he never needed a hat. He had the complete devotion and allegiance and love of the only person he ever wanted it from. His curls were his crown and Grandma was his princess. When I look at my wife, Katie, I can only hope I make her feel like Grandpa made Grandma feel.
Grandpa Rueben was capable of everything, and he wasn’t afraid of anything. If he didn’t like something, you heard about it. And if you weren’t there, you got a four-page letter about it. But he was never mean or spiteful. He was articulate and deliberate and...classy. He combated his dissatisfaction over what he saw as society’s downfall with a simple prayer. I heard it every time I or anyone left his house. He would say goodbye, give a hug, and look you right in the eye and say, "Watch out for the crazies." It was good advice from a guy who’s been around a bit, and it will always be relevant.
When I was real little, maybe five or six, I remember being fascinated with Grandpa’s hands. They were already gnarled and scarred and arthritic by then, but I loved to hold and study them. I thought it was so amazing how he could build things out of nothing with those hands. He could fix anything with those hands. When I was eleven, he helped me build my first tree house with those hands. So it was so much more than cute for me to watch my nine month old daughter, Sophia, play with those hands in the hospital last month. She studied Grandpa’s hands with the same fascination I had twenty-five or so years ago. I think that was the first time I knew exactly what Sophia was thinking: "This is so cool!"
I have a list of all the incredible things Grandpa Rueben taught me, but that’s for me. Anyone who knew him would probably come up with a similar list. It’s no secret that Grandpa was a classic guy in every sense. But the one thing I’m proudest of is his almost-baseball career. The stories from his baseball days are replete with a who’s who list of baseball stars and heros. He knew all those guys and was a legitimate contender, but the oil refinery paid ten dollars more a week, and that was that. But imagine an eight year old kid playing catch with his grandpa in the mountains one day. I didn’t know how bad his hands were hurting, but I knew I was experiencing something special because it was his first time playing catch in decades. I think it might have even been his last time playing catch. I hope he considers what he did for me that day as a fitting retirement from an almost-career, because I do.
I remember asking him if he ever played pro ball. He smiled and laughed and after a pause said, "I had lunch with the Angels once." Well Grandpa, you’re back with them. Tell them you have a grandson who’s looking forward to playing catch with you again someday.

Friday, December 30, 2005

My raison d'etre; belle etoile

My enfant cherie

My cheval de bataille

first post test

Testing to see if this works. Having a fine time doing so.