Papaw was from Arkansas, but moved to Del Rio, Texas, during the Depression. He lied to join the Air Service Corps (he was too young and an excellent liar) and spent time in Salt Lake during World War II. After I moved to Idaho, he always told me about living in Utah, hunting rabbits and going to the Mormon dances. He apparently really like the Mormon dances.
He played stand up bass, gunsmithed at night, went on trail rides, had orchards in his retirement, and made crosses from rocks and shells almost until he died. I'd like to think that my interest in too many things came from him.
What was best about Papaw, though, was his storytelling. Texans are proud storytellers; I started professionally telling stories in second grade with UIL events. I'd like to think that most of his stories are true, though as I get older, I think I find myself embellishing my own stories. We always listened with a grain of salt, but you just can't make some of that stuff up.
Papaw literally knew everyone in Texas. In college, I could tell him a friend's name and where they were from, and he always knew their grandparents, or cousins, or some distant relative. He knew people who had camels in Big Bend, country singers, drug runners, and just regular folks. And he had a crazy story about every one of them. Even at his funeral, the preacher told a story about fishing with Papaw when he was little. The preacher had hooked his dad in the ear and they had to go back to shore so Papaw could get it out.
Papaw retired early from Union Carbide and he and Memaw moved to Yoakum and planted peach and apple orchards. I remember looking through his stacks of seed catalogs when I was little and dreaming of what I would plant; I still get excited scouring the catalogs, but now I get to order what I want. In honor of Memaw and Papaw, I'm planting a pair of Honeycrisp apple trees this year.
There's so much more I could say, so many stories I could share--dancing with him in the driveway, the wonderful smell of his tobacco, the road trip to Arkansas, or teaching me a rain dance, but I would need to write a book to share it all.
I will miss him a lot.