We’ve all met unforgettable people in our lives. Some were great in their fields. Some were just people we loved or who had a certain something that drew us to them. This is about one of the unforgettable people in my life.
James Anders Grammer grew up on a poor farm outside Northport, Alabama. He had to drop out of school somewhere around the sixth grade to go to work to help the family income.
When I was 10 years old, we stopped to visit his parents on one of our vacations, and I couldn’t believe the house he grew up in. I kept looking for Ma and Pa Kettle.
Uncle Jim served in the army during World War II, rising to the rank of Staff Sergeant. He met my mother’s sister while stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado. I don’t remember why she was there, but they met at a church social and started dating. They married early in 1944, just before he shipped out to Germany. I don’t know whether this was his first overseas assignment or not, but I know he never talked much about his experiences over there. It think it was too horrible for him to want remember it.
Returning home to his wife Maxine, my Auntie Mac, and his twin daughters, my cousins Jane and June, he was ready to trade his rifle for a tractor. My grandfather and his brother owned some farm land near Lamesa, Texas, and Uncle Jim moved his family there to start farming.
That first season—1946—he and his brother-in-law, my Uncle George, farmed part of that land together. After that year, they went their separate ways, each farming on his own.
For a man with a sixth-grade education, Uncle Jim was amazing. Early on, he realized the shortcomings of his background and asked Auntie Mac to help him correct his grammar and his manners and whatever other rough edges he may have had. The humility and gumption it took to ask for that have always amazed me. And she always saved any correction until they were alone. I never heard her correct him about anything in anyone else’s presence.
In addition to making a multi-million dollar fortune farming, he managed to make himself into a gentleman and a real thinker. He could come up with comments and observations no one else would have thought of. Undoubtedly shortchanged in his reading education, he made himself into a voracious reader. He loved history and could talk about it for hours—particularly history of the War Between the States.
As a child, I didn’t spend as much time with him as I did with my Uncle George, because his farms were farther out, and he generally stayed gone all day until late in the evening once he left town in the morning. I did go with him some, though, and he was always gracious about taking me.
One thing he did I’ll never forget happened the summer I was eight years old. We turned off the highway onto the dirt road leading to his main farm, and he pulled over and stopped and asked me if I’d ever driven a pickup.
Are you kidding me? An eight year-old driving a pickup? I said no, and he told me he thought it was about time. We traded places, and he began telling me what to do.
This wasn’t one of today’s cars which practically drives itself. It was a 1949 Chevy pickup with a floor shift. In order to reach the clutch and brake and accelerator I probably had to scoot down a little and look through the steering wheel instead of over it, but I drove that sucker. Didn’t go into any ditches or anything either.
From that day on, every time I went to Lamesa I’d badger him and my Uncle George both to let me drive. They wouldn’t let me drive on a paved highway, but unless they were in a big hurry they’d let me have it on the dirt roads.
Uncle Jim was such a successful farmer that he retired in his early fifties, buying a motorhome and traveling extensively. He spent several months at a time in Colorado and Oregon each.
After a few years of retirement, though, he got far enough back into farming to help my cousin Mike farm his land. He continued this for several years until he had a stroke just before he turned 66. Over the remaining six years of his life, he recovered most of his mobility, speech and thought processes, but he was frequently frustrated when an after-affect of the stroke would cause him to stumble verbally right in the middle of a sentence or prevent him from saying a word he had in his mind.
After 46 years of watching the West Texas skies and hoping for rain, he received a fitting reward from God when a huge rainstorm blew out of nowhere and postponed his funeral procession for several hours.
Ø Who are some of your unforgettable characters?
Ø How have some or all of these people affected your life?
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