My mother’s father struggled in Arkansas as a poor but hard-working coal miner. My grandmother died soon after my mother was born. He raised her and her older brother as a single parent, never remarrying. I learned over time he’d left mining once his children were grown, working at various trades, including watch and clock repair. When my mother met my father, Grandpa was working for my other grandfather as a farm hand. My parents married in 1946, and I was born a year later.
About the time I was six, my father bought a farm a few miles from where he grew up, and shortly thereafter, Grandpa moved into an outbuilding on the farm. His given name was probably William since others knew him as “Will.” To my brothers and I, he was only known as “Grandpa Goldsmith.”
My dad was always a serious but caring man that had very little spare time. He spent all his time working and excessively worrying. The responsibility of a mortgaged farm and supporting a wife and three boys weighed heavily on him, and had never developed any sort of relaxation activities or hobbies like fishing, hunting, or sports.
In our youth, it was Grandpa Goldsmith who doted on our adventurous spirits. He loved to fish, so we spent many hours on farm ponds hoping to catch dinner as mosquitoes and chiggers took bites out of us. Grandpa was always seeking the ever-elusive “big fish”. If any pond didn’t produce satisfactorily, it was deemed “devil possessed.” He seemed quite serious, and since he was a religious man, I never knew what to think.
Grandpa entertained us in many other ways, like patiently cutting and shaping bows from “bodark” tree hearts, just as the Osage Indians did long ago. He put swings in the huge elm tree in our backyard, made stick horses, and created other ways to entertain three imaginative young boys. He smoked a pipe, using Price Albert tobacco from a can, and we always told him he better “let Prince Albert out.” He sometimes chewed twist tobacco, or dipped snuff. My mother would not let him enjoy his “vice” inside, considering it a nasty habit, but we boys were intrigued. Later in life, I took a few turns chewing tobacco and smoking a pipe, based on the fascination of watching him enjoy them so much.
On July 4th, since we couldn’t afford fireworks, he would open a can of carbide, put some in a small tin, add water, then cover it with a large juice can. We stood back as he lit it with a long stick. The combination produced acetylene gas, and our homemade rocket was sent flying with a loud bang. His knowledge dated back to his days as a miner when he used a carbide headlamp to light the way before the advent of battery lamps. They are still used today by many spelunkers.
Grandpa Goldsmith lived a full life and was a valuable member of our family. He spent his final years in a nursing home on the shores of a large lake, where he fished as long as he was still able. I have only fond memories of him. I miss my grandpa.