Most of us have heard that expression, “He’s a spitting image of his father!” We may even have used it a time or two to describe someone. My father had a good friend who was a missionary among jungle tribes in South America and every time Mr. Missionary came through our town, sometimes 8 years between visits, he had dinner at our home. A couple of years after my father died, his friend came home to the States and stopped by. He saw me, grabbed me in one of the tightest bear hugs I have ever had, looked into my face with tears in his eyes and said, “You look so much like your Dad!” Then he hugged me again. A guy never forgets moments like that.
I opened Grandpa’s Bible and found a verse in Genesis, chapter 1, verse 26, which tells us, “And God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness …” I don’t know all there is to know about God but I can tell from looking around that He is a Creator, a Master Designer, and a Genius. I can also tell He has a sense of humor as I look at giraffes or watch river otters at play or try to figure out the purpose for a hippopotamus. And if we were created in His image then there must be some of that creating ability in all of us. My brothers Rick and Jeff could draw, paint, carve, and build wonderful things out of wood, and as soon as they got good at one task they stopped and tried another. My Mom, Mary, taught little toddlers on Sunday mornings for 40+ years and found innovative ways to get facts into those little minds. She made boats out of walnut shells, used cotton balls for clouds, and carried turtles, bird’s nests, and bugs of all kinds in to share in her classroom. And we have climbed back up the family tree to Grandpa and his story. It may be hard to believe that Grandpa Miller, working so hard to provide for such a large family, had time for whimsy and creating.
On several visits I discovered Grandpa had been playing in the creek. Playing in the creek is great fun and I have never grown tired of that pastime so I highly recommend it. Grandpa used boards to create a channel and direct the flow of the water. That in itself was an accomplishment but at the end of the sluice he added some whimsy – a water wheel of his own design and making. I passed many hours watching those boards turn and splash the water, all the while thinking Grandpa could do anything and wishing my back yard had a creek. It did several times during the spring rains but that is another story. The little boy in the picture is my Cousin Terry and I am hoping someone can tell me who the pretty lady is. The impressive structure in the background is the now famous outhouse described in Episode 4.
Grandpa loved to rock on the front porch and he loved to swing. There was always a rope swing or two with board seats hanging from the sycamore trees in his yard. I never knew how he got those ropes that high in the trees or tied the knots to the limbs. It had to be some kind of special Grandpa Magic. I do not remember Grandpa’s glider as I had just come into the world in February of 1958 but that little boy is my bother Richard and he was testing the action of Grandpa’s yard glider in August of that year. What a great way to pass a hot afternoon! Grandpa dreamed this glider up, built it from natural materials, and made it work.
Grandpa was big on holding a family reunion each summer, usually on the closest Saturday to July 4th. For many years we met in his front yard and Grandpa had things planned to entertain the troops. I never tried my hand at the pole but it was tall and very slick, and there was a $1 bill waiting at the top. (Editor’s note – $1 was a lot of money way back then!). Shed your shoes. Rub your hands and feet in the dirt to get some traction, and shiny up that pole. Reach the top and the prize was yours for the taking. It sounds easy but many tried and fell short. Cousin Bryan not only won the dollar but he was sitting on top of the world that day.
My Mom was always on the lookout for things Grandpa might enjoy. It’s hard to find things to give someone who is an accomplished giver like Grandpa was. Givers don’t need much, do they? Mom found a winner one day. It was a wind powered whirligig that looked a bit like the picture. We installed that item on a pole in Grandpa’s yard and at first nothing happened. I sensed disappointment on Mom’s face. But then a strong breeze blew down the holler and the washer lady really went to work on those clothes, bouncing up and down like there was no tomorrow. I saw Grandpa toss back his head and laugh a deep, long belly laugh and then he said, “It looks just like Let!” The wind revisited every few minutes that afternoon and every time, Grandpa stopped in mid-sentence to watch and laugh and tell us it looked like Grandma under the apple tree.
Take time to play! Find time to create! Enjoy a little whimsy!