My Stepgranddad Christman

     My Dad’s father died early the year following my birth.  Needless to say I never knew him, and not much was ever said about him so I really know little about him.     Thank God I was not named after him, his name was Archibald Cicero ——.  One of four back up the line, his father was named James Bonaparte, because his older brother got the Archibald in that generation.  My Aunt did tell me everyone called great granddad just Arch.  I am led to believe that the Y—-‘s originally came from Germany far back in the past, and know the lower south-west Missouri was heavily populated by German stock. 

     On my mother’s side i know that my grandmother’s family came from England in 1790, and eventually moved to Missouri well before the Civil War.  I did know my mothers father,although he and my grandmother were divorced or separated by the time of my birth.  I mentioned him in one of my early-er chapters, he had the mules, whose hay I and the girl next door caught on fire.  Due to a troubled split with my mothers family after her death I did not have any real contact with him after.  My early days were devoid of any real grandfather  memories.

     With the marriage of my father in my ninth year I got a three year old step sister and gained one hell of a grandpa.  His name was Evert Christman, yes he was German too.  His parents were originally from Germany, as were those of his wife.  So both were American born but of pure blood German.  My step mother and her two brothers and sister were therefore all of German ancestry.

     I fell in love with this huge bear of a man all most instantly.  He was well over six feet tall and powerfully built.  He had a voice to fit his size and a roaring laughter that seemed could be heard for miles.  But most of all he always knew when I was around,even when in conversations with other adults I knew he was aware that I was there.  And when we were alone together even at nine he treated me as a equal.  When he was working he put me to work with him and to be included was the greatest thing in the world for a male companion starved kid.  Dad was always so involved with my mothers illness and earning a living wage he never had much time for me.  but Granddad Evert, lord ever minute spent with him was pure gold.  He let me do farm chores that would probably would have concerned my Dad.  Dad did not want me to have to work because his entire youth was spent supporting his family as his Dad was sick all the time.  No one seems to know what was wrong with him but it sounds like cancer to me just a long slow strain.

     Granddad was a farmer for the time I knew him.  But he was one hell of a section gand foreman on the railroad.  He told me stories that caused me to shiver with excitement.  My step-mom told me of her youth living in boxcars on a siding along the tracks.  When a train came by they would all grab the kerosene lamps and other breakables to keep them from falling to the floor.  Doors on cabinets all had catches on them to keep them closed.  It was a hard life and they-just barley made a living at it.  He had a hundred stories to tell and I eagerly listened to every one of them with no suspension of belief, now with age some I have questions about.

     As farmers life was hard in the start of the fifty’s.  When I first came along to him in 1949 he had just got a Farm-all Tractor.  Prior to that he was stil plowing and disking and all other chores with a team of horses named Bell and Star.  He still had Bell and Star for several years when I first came to the farm they no longer worked and were too old for us to ride or mess with.  He eventually sold them, after deciding he no longer had any use for them.  Granddad had maybe ten milk cows which got milked by hand morning and night.  On the back porch there was a cream separator which separated the cream from the milk.  After separation each was poured into   ten gallon milk cans and set along side the dirt road that fronted the house.  Every morning a truck would pick up the cans and leave clean ones behind.  This was the source of income for the farm.  This set of grandparents did not get electricity until 1952.  Lighting was by kerosene lamps and lanterns.  Heating was by wood stove one in the front room and the cook stove in the kitchen.  Water was pumped by hand and carried into the house.  Laundry was done out side the water heated in a large iron cauldron I could have taken a bath in the thing.  It was filled by the bucket full from the pump.  The hot water was carried by bucket to the back porch where Grandma had a gasoline motor washing machine the motor was the size of a lawnmower motor.  rinse water was in two tubs by the machine.  And the clothes were run through a wringer on the machine and hung on lines to dry.  I never saw grandad in anything other bib overalls, until much later in life then he had on kaki pants and shirt.

     In addition to the cows he raised hogs these creatures were huge animals and some were quite mean.  A angry hog is a frightening animal.  But baby pigs are cute to-look at and hold if momma isn’t around.  One year his hog lot got infected with  worms and he had to destroy the entire heard.  That is a blow to a poor farmer.  He could not use that lot for a period of seven years.  He purchased a seed heard as yearlings and put them on a different lot.  We were to stay off the quarantined lot for this entire time so as not to transfer and contaminated soil to other sections of the farm.  In those early days we did not have the ability to clean up and decontaminate land like today..  As a ingenious farmer he and his youngest son had devised a was to fill the stock tank a ways from the house.  They took a motor and transmision out of a old truck and and mounted it next to the pump and jury-rigged a apparatus to the transmission and the pump handle.  It looked like a Rube Goldberg thing but it worked fine.

     Later he decided to raise chickens what were called nine week fryers (this is what you purchase in the supermarket as fryers).  He built a twenty-five by one-hundred foot chicken house doing most of the work himself.  The man could do anything.  I helped him some with the chickens before moving to California with my family in 1955 at the age of sixteen.  We received the chickens as fresh hatched on contract with a poultry supplier.  We got one-thousand at a time.  The were fresh out of the egg, stupid as can be.  We removed them from the shipping cartons three in each hand with their heads sticking between our fingers and dipped their beaks in the water troughs which had holes just bib enough for their heads to keep them from drowning in the first few days.  then we dipped their beaks in the feed troughs to teach them how to eat.  We had to work quickly before any of the died on us.  Granddad was paid by how many of them survived the nine weeks.  It was not easy work nor was it short work either.  When it stormed and thundered, you had to rush to the chicken house to keep them from flocking together and smothering the ones on the bottom.  But as I said I loved being with that old man and would work myself to the bone for him. 

     He had what he called the smoke house just behind the back porch just room enough to park a pickup between them.  He used to smoke meat in there but it became impractical   in the later years, so it became a junk room.  I love to ramble in there he had so many cool things in there.  He had a complete cobblers set all the knives,skives, hammers and a variety of shoe lasts.  He used to make and resole the family’s shoes.  there was a huge axe with a very broad head and what I thought was a warped handle.  I later learned it was with one of these axes that you squared logs to make log cabins.  Big long cross cut saws and felling axes.   Wheel making tools and God only knows what else.  What sickens me is he had a huge anvil and all the tools as well as a hand crank forge, that sold in 196? when he sold the farm for $25 at auction.  I would have loved to had that I would have driven all the way to Missouri for that equipment.  I dabbled in iron work in my spare time in the factory, I never achieved his skill by a long shot. 

    I cannot do the old man justice, but I surely did love every minute I spent with him.  He visited me twice after I married and it was a joy to see him again.  I am grate-full for the time I had with him.  Well I recon I’ll take a stab at spell checking this missive and ramble on so long ramblingbob            

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