500 Words – My Grandfather’s Story

1919 Arthur, Marvin, Raymond, Florence My Great-Grandparents Arthur and Florence and Marvin and Raymond Brown.

Growing up, I loved spending time at my Grandparents Marvin and Lois Brown’s home.  My Grandpa Marvin was one of those men that must have been raised in a home where the child was to be seen and not heard.  I can remember him hollering at us six kids that we needed to quiet down, that we were making too much noise. “Hey, Hey now, quiet it down out there.  Listen, why don’t you come in and sit down for a while.”  He always seemed his happiest when we were sitting quietly on the couch reading or doing puzzles at the dining room table.  Playing quiet games that did not involve us running around or climbing up the sides of his porch railings were the best moments for him. I still can’t figure out if it was the noise of all us kids or the fact that we were trying to scale his porch to reach the roof.  If it wasn’t that we were trying our hardest to climb the two large elm trees he had in his yard.

1958 Brown Family HomeGrandpa was born December 6, 1912 in Indiana, and he was the oldest of two, his baby brother Raymond was about 5 years younger than he was.  They grew up on a farm near Fulton or Muncie, Indiana.  By the time I met him, my grandparents were living in the wilds of New Mexico (Odd Fact: it became a state the year my grandpa was born). I can just imagine the adventures grandpa and his brother had growing up.  I have a picture of their father Great-Grandpa Brown standing next to a great big pig that is up to his hips.  1958 Arthur Brown What fun that must have been, to have a pig that size. I am sure as the daredevil I was I would have tried at one time or another to ride that pig. Even if it meant getting in trouble, the temptation would have been too great.

But that’s not the story I want to tell.  As we got older into our teen and young adult years my grandpa chilled out more.  He wasn’t as demanding for us to hush and be quiet.  He started telling us stories about his life back when he was younger. Maybe it was because we were older and more curious.  One of my favorite stories was about his adventures just before he met and married my grandma.

1927 MarvinThis is Grandpa’s 8th grade graduation picture.  He doesn’t look like the adventuresome type in this picture but he was.  Grandpa graduated from Deedsville High School in 1931.  He had a cousin that he hung around with called Happy.  I never knew what Happy’s given name was, just that he was Happy.  After he would say that grandpa would let out a little chuckle as he remembered his cousin.  I think I would have liked Happy, who wouldn’t with a name like that.  When grandpa graduated high school the country was in the middle of the Great Depression.  There wasn’t a whole lot of work to be found in a farming community and a lot of the young men started hopping trains and becoming hobos traveling around the country looking for work. I don’t know how long it took after graduation for Grandpa to decide that there just wasn’t enough work there for him.

So my grandpa and his cousin Happy decided that that was what they were going to do.  They were going to become hobos, it would be a  grand adventure and it would be the first time they would leave home alone.  Grandpa and Happy made their way to Washington state where they stayed with relatives that owned an apple orchard.  They stayed with them for quite a while.  He talked about planting apple trees and being there for the harvest.  He said it was a hard job, but it taught him a lot about responsibility.  He also told a little about the homesickness that he was feeling.  But Happy wasn’t ready to head home yet and Grandpa wasn’t ready to strike out on his own so Grandpa stayed.  Grandpa never did say how long this adventure of theirs took, but I am sure it was longer than he planned when he first set out.

Before long they met a fellow (grandpa’s words) that needed cars to be taken from Washington to California.  I asked Grandpa what that meant and he told me that instead of shipping the automobiles on rail car they would hire random people to drive the cars to the desired location and then send them by train back up to get the next one.  Grandpa said he made a few trips but after a while he got tired of that job and was even more homesick so he tried to talk Happy into going home.  However, Happy was not that interested in heading home.  Grandpa said that by that time Happy had fallen in love with California and didn’t want to go back to Indiana. Grandpa on the other hand was ready to get back home to his family.

So Grandpa decided it was time, and he struck out on his own.  He hitched a train that took him through San Antonio, Texas on his way back to Indiana.  Thinking about that journey now he must have had a front seat view of the New Mexico vistas as they passed through. Maybe that is why he chose New Mexico several years later when his doctor told him he needed a drier climate for his asthma or he would be chronically ill.  When his journeys took him through San Antonio he told a story about the experiences he had there, but I just can’t do it justice, so I will just say that he had an experience he couldn’t forget.  From San Antonio, Grandpa headed back home to Indiana. I never asked but I always thought that it was a straight shot home from there, but there could have been more adventures between those two places that he never told about.

1937 Lois Brown HS Grandma’s senior picture from Fulton High School taken in 1937.  It was shortly after he got home that Grandpa met my Grandma.  She was five years younger, still in high school, and dating his brother at the time, but she took one look at him and him at her and they decided that they were the ones for each other. They got married within days of Grandma’s high school graduation. Just over seventy years of marriage was proof that they were right.

Grandpa had many more adventures after he went back home.  Those adventures took him and grandma from Indiana to New Mexico where they lived out their lives.  The stories they could tell about the wildness of New Mexico and how it changed in the 60 plus years they lived there.  There are so many missed opportunities. I am happy to have had at least one of his stories to share.  As a side note:  I am telling this from my memory too, so I am sure that I have left out a lot of the details that Grandpa had in his story when he first told it to me 30 years ago. I wish I had thought to write it down then when I would have had his first hand experience and excitement to embellish the details. My other favorite part of the story was how he always looked at my grandma and would ask her what happened next. I guess she had heard it enough times over the years she knew how the grand adventure took place too even though it happened before they met.

2001 Marvin, LoisTaken in 2001 (64 years happy)


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