Lots of memories were raked up and mulled over, over the last week and a half. Memories mostly of Grandma, but sweet memories of Grandpa surfaced as well, things I hadn’t thought of in years.
Pastor Walker was reminiscing at Grandma’s funeral, and with one phrase he brought back a flood of memories of my Grandpa, including how much I loved him. This one phrase was the first thing he said, every visit: “Hello, old scout!” he’d practically shout at me, or at my siblings, or at whomever it was who came into his line of sight. No matter that he said it to everyone, it always felt special, intentional. “Hello, old scout!” and he’d pull me into a crushing hug, or slap my shoulder. It was a signature phrase of his, and went right along with his squinty-eyed smile, eternal plaid shirts, tuneless whistling, limping gait with one shoe thick-soled because of a broken leg during the war, muscled arms and work-hardened hands.
Grandpa was a farm boy son of German immigrants, who grew up to be a combat veteran in World War II; a man who didn’t treasure his army decorations but let his kids play with them and lose them; a man who loved animals and loved the country, who built his house in the middle of his property on the hardest spot to access and in defiance of a friend’s advice, and was colorblind so bought a bright orange Jeep, thinking it would blend into the South Dakota landscape. He was a small town veterinarian in eastern South Dakota, with stories to rival the best of James Herriot. If only he had written a book. He sang in the church choir, was a rancher in the Hills in his retirement, had horseback accidents well into his 70s but walked home and was none the worse, and ultimately went out with his boots on – he died in his mid 80s of a heart attack checking cattle in his bright orange Jeep on a logging road that probably has a grade pushing 50% (and I’m actually not kidding) just after a massive thunderstorm. What a way to go, doing what he loved.He was a man who never retired. As a rancher in his “retired” years, he built fence, planted trees, built a log cabin, worked cattle, rode horse, continually worked at improving the land, and in short never quit doing work. Good, physical work. The above picture was taken by my uncle when Grandpa was well into his 80s. That’s what he looked like as a retired man. He was a man who loved to work. What a wonderful example, and I hope to imitate him in that.
In the time that I worked for Jack, the rancher who rents pasture from us, I’d meet people who’d hear my last name and ask, “Say, are you Doc Adrian’s granddaughter?” I loved that, absolutely loved that. Not that I could take any credit, but I was proud to be Doc Adrian’s granddaughter.
And what a legacy he left. Not only has he left a spiritual legacy, as a strong man of God, which is the best and most important legacy to leave, but if it hadn’t been for his financial wisdom in dealing with the success God blessed him with, we never would have come out to South Dakota. As it was, we had a place to move to, and that made all the difference. The beautiful family property is a huge part of what has given me a love of wandering, and some of my best memories have taken place around “the home place,” and new memories are created every time we explore. I think he would be delighted to know that his granddaughters are living in the log cabin he built out of trees cut off the family ranch, and I think he’d love to know that I’m on the same fire department he was on.
I miss him. I didn’t realize how much until I was reminded of Grandpa’s greeting. Because somehow those three words and the way he said them summed him up. All his love and enthusiasm and enjoyment of life. “Hello, old scout!”