09 Apr

My grandfather was an Appaloosa horse rancher in Ola, Idaho. Horses bred from his stud, Dark Warrior, were sold all over the country. Born in 1899 and a product of his generation, Grandpa didn’t talk much or show his feelings often. He worked hard, rode hard, and worshipped God. My mother was the eldest and the only daughter, followed by three sons.

Grandpa expected his children to work the ranch. Doing your part was expected. The third-born child (second-born son) didn’t like the ranch or the work. It happens. He left as soon as he could, rarely communicated, and was estranged the rest of their lives. It was much the same with his siblings. He seemed to resent them, according to Mom.

I heard about this uncle every now and then from Mom. He was in California and started his own church. He got married. He got divorced. He left California. As executrix of my grandparents’ estate, the next time Mom heard from him was when he accused her of cheating him out of his fair share. My mom was the type who would put a quarter or a dollar in with her children’s birthday presents if the total didn’t add up to the exact total of the other kids’ gifts. She was crushed that her brother would think that of her.

We heard he finally settled Boise in his later years. That was the last we heard until we read his death notice in late March.

Forgive the long intro, but I wanted to put in the backstory. 🙂

After Mom died, we were going through her things. We found a poem that Grandpa wrote about this wayward son. This rancher, this taciturn, stern man put down on paper what he couldn’t share with any of us. Hopefully, he was able to do so with Grandma. He died just shy of eight weeks after she did. He had no previous illness and was strong and agile for his age. The doctor said it was of a broken heart. Grandpa loved her so deeply that he couldn’t go on. Here is the poem.


by Edwin Antonio Gardner

Many years we’d been together
Just our little family tree
Kay and Bud and Marvin, Lary
And of course there’s Ma and me.

Come Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year
Made no difference what the day
We’d be eating, joking, hopin’
It could always be that way.

Christmas day in fifty three
Turkey’s cookin’ shoppin’s done
Presents wrapped, we are waitin’
But there’s one who wouldn’t come.

If he only knew the feelin’
Of the parents he forsook
Or by magic he could peek in
See their silent, vacant look.

Then at night when all is still
And outside there is a chill
Ma and I will think it through
Of what it was we didn’t do.

Ma will read a bit of Bible
And we’ll have a silent prayer
Then we’ll finally seek our rest
Thinking of the one out there.


Posted by on April 9, 2012 in Family, Idaho, poetry



23 responses to “1953

  1. Liz Flaherty

    April 9, 2012 at 5:05 AM

    This is so sad. I hope everybody has found each other now.

  2. Johanna Harness

    April 9, 2012 at 6:27 AM

    So sad, Janis. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Janis McCurry

      April 9, 2012 at 7:11 AM

      When we found this poem, we sent it to our only living uncle, the older brother. As I mentioned, as the grandchildren, we don’t know if Grandpa expressed emotions to his children. We remember going to the ranch in the summer and boy, were we afraid to disappoint him! The poem was a revelation.

      The poet in Grandpa makes me think about the continuity of how one expresses oneself.

  3. ramblingsfromtheleft

    April 9, 2012 at 6:54 AM

    Okay, so I didn’t not expect to sit here early on a Monday morning and have a good cry. Good becuase that is a beautiful story. Cry because of the sadness those who seem taciturn actually suffer. Thank you, Janis.

    There was one among three, the boy in the middle of a tall strapping first born and a outspoken baby girl. He was dark and my mother’s favorite. My memories were always of him leaving, going off to find adventure, long letters to her and his baby sister. He returned and made peace with his father and was present at his bedside the day his father died.

    But he never stopped wandering and she never stopped waiting for the next call, the next letter. Because you see, he always came home. In a flurry of excitment, on the eve of Christmas or the day before her birthday, he always came home. Until he came home to us for the last time, to rest near his father in the same place, to find their final peace together. She was never the same. The story of the prodigal son in the bible is so real … because no matter how many children parents have … it is always the one that is gone that they miss the most.

  4. Janis McCurry

    April 9, 2012 at 7:12 AM

    Thanks for the comment. It’s my hope that the poem eased Grandpa’s sorrow in some way.

  5. marsharwest

    April 9, 2012 at 8:37 AM

    Tears for sure, Florence. My goodness, Janis, this is a beautiful and tragic story. How fortunate you’ve been to find your grandfather’s poem. Not being much of a poetry reader, much less a writer, I have such admiration for folks who can string words together this way. To think that a man such as you’ve described your grandfather (and I do love a good backstory!) could do this is really inspirational. Thanks for sharing.
    My mother wrote lovely stories about her early life that I treasure. Even more, the one article my father wrote for Air Force magazine. Not a typical activity for him. Thanks for reminding me of my own heritage.

    • Janis McCurry

      April 9, 2012 at 10:11 AM

      Our family has realized how much as little kids we didn’t know! We also have a funny short story he wrote about a runaway wagon & horses through town when he was a young boy. We found that first and thought this was our grandpa?

  6. Mary Vine

    April 9, 2012 at 8:48 AM

    What a great poem he had written. Writing is in the family.
    Thanks for sharing this, making us all want to be a better person in our families.

  7. Meredith Allen Conner

    April 9, 2012 at 9:14 AM

    How sad and how beautiful Janis. The poem is so touching – especially after reading the backstory. Thank you for sharing this.

    • Janis McCurry

      April 9, 2012 at 10:13 AM

      Although sad, it enabled me to know more about the man, not just the gruff grandpa, and I’m grateful.

  8. Liz Fredericks

    April 9, 2012 at 10:10 AM

    Janis, your grandfather was very talented and complex. I agree with Marsha on good backstory and with Florence on how heartbreaking it is to know the taciturn hurt and can’t share it readily. Most of all, Mary’s observation rings very true – writing is in your family and we’re grateful to your reminder about family.

  9. Janis McCurry

    April 9, 2012 at 10:13 AM

    Thanks, Liz. Makes me wonder if there were other writings that were lost.

  10. stephanieberget

    April 9, 2012 at 2:53 PM

    Just beautiful, Janis. My husband’s brother was like that, and his father never said much but as my FIL got older, he’d mention his son once in a while. DH’s grandmother wrote stories all the time and folded them into little pieces and slid them behind photos in the many albums she kept. When she died,we went through the albums and out fell these little gems that told us much of her life story.

  11. Janis McCurry

    April 9, 2012 at 3:26 PM

    Treasures to cherish. Thanks, Steph.

  12. Lynn Mapp

    April 9, 2012 at 9:57 PM

    Oh, Janis. Thank you for sharing the story and the poem. You know me. I was crying well before I go to the end. It was beautiful.

  13. Janis McCurry

    April 10, 2012 at 7:16 AM

    Thanks, Lynn.

  14. Jan Hambright

    April 10, 2012 at 9:25 AM

    Thank you for sharing this story, Janis. I’ve stopped sniveling long enough to type now. Strange how our perception of people, especially when we’re children, are formed using our interpretation of body language. My grandad on my mom’s side was a huge jokester. He would always talk to us kids with a stern look on his face. We learned our table manners, etc. while sitting around my Grandparent’s table every Sunday after church. But, once I got old enough to reconize the little twinkle he would get in his eyes when he was joshing us, the gig was up. Great memories!
    It’s just sad that your uncle was never able to make peace with his emotions and reconnect with his family on some level. Makes me want to remind my children, that no matter how wide they spread their wings, they can always come home, whether they believe it or not.

    • Janis McCurry

      April 11, 2012 at 7:11 AM

      I agree it makes me want to ensure my arms are always open.

  15. Peggy Staggs

    April 10, 2012 at 9:56 AM

    How sad. It makes you wonder why one person in a close family choses to throw all the care and love away. It sounds like your uncle ended up a very lonely, bitter man. How sad.

    • Janis McCurry

      April 11, 2012 at 7:13 AM

      Yes. Were there outright shouting matches or just simmering resentment that ended up in the leaving? It makes for many of your favorite “what ifs?”

  16. Clarissa Southwick

    April 16, 2012 at 10:37 AM

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful poem. Although it’s sad, it really does convey the emotion of estranged family. It’s a good reminder for those of us who still have little ones at home.


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