Thursday, November 6, 2008

Adventures With Grandad

My Grammy had a saying, "What's mine is mine, what's ours is mine, and what's yours... is mine too." Not that she was greedy, she earned it the hard way.

Grandad was a traveling adventurer, always with Grammy in tow. Grammy had more intestinal fortitude than any old lady I knew. Her health was never good; she had osteoporosis so badly that when she picked up my brother when he was about a month old, she broke two ribs and her wrist. For my whole childhood, the mantra was, "Don't hug your Grammy!" Despite this, she went everyplace with Grandad.

One of his favorite places was Mexico. He never spoke a word of Spanish, he figured speaking loudly would solve any language difficulties. He never used a map, he just went where the mood moved him. I wish I had any of the several photos of his stranded car. They were usually taken when he had been traveling on dirt roads and managed to sink his car, axle deep, in soft dirt or a creek. The locals always came to his rescue, hitched up their horses or mules and hauled the car out. Then Grandad dispensed the largess (American dollars) while Grammy took pictures of all their new found friends and the horses hitched to the car.

Grandad was fascinated with everything, especially large natural phenomena. When I was in junior high, my Mom received a letter from Grammy relating this story:

Grandad had heard that there was a volcano erupting near where they were traveling. That, he had to see. So off they drove in the general direction, following the plume of smoke. When the road ran out, Grandad just kept on driving.

They saw a man from a good distance, as he stood watching them drive up to him. When they got close he deliberately stepped right in front of their car. Grandad stopped and leaned out the window.

"SeƱor, you cannot drive this way, it is not safe."

Grandad had lucked out and come across a man who spoke English. Raul explained that Grandad was, fortunately, driving on the only solid path in a sea of shifting volcanic ash.

Seeing his opportunity, Grandad asked Raul if, for generous monetary compensation, he would guide him on a walking tour to the top of the volcano so that he could look into the caldera. Raul agreed and they set off together for the smoking mountain. Grammy waited in the car.

About four hours later, sure that she would never see her husband again and would probably die out in the scorched waste, she was writing a farewell letter to my Mom, her tears splatting on the paper. Her normally copperplate handwriting was abruptly interrupted by a large smear and a hole in the paper. When the narrative resumed, she said that another Mexican had tapped on the window, startling her, saying, "Don't cry, Lady, is okay. Your husband back soon."

Sure enough, Grandad came back with his new best buddy, Raul. Grammy and Grandad went into Raul's village for the night and were treated to a grand fiesta. Grandad went back there every time he went to Mexico after that, and he put several of the village children through college. My grandparents were well loved in Mexico.

Grandad didn't believe in hotel reservations either. They stopped when they found someplace that looked okay -- which occasionally resulted in sharing quarters with bedbugs.

One evening, Grandad was getting hungry as they drove through a tiny town which, like all tiny towns, had a bar on the corner. Having no fear of Montezuma's Revenge, Grandad decided to stop for dinner. He parked the car outside and he and Grammy walked on in. Half a dozen rough and burly looking men turned from their cerveza and tequila and stared at them.

Grandad tried his usual understanding through volume communication. The fellows at the bar did not seem to appreciate his efforts. One by one, they stood, until all of them were on their feet facing my grandparents. The biggest and ugliest man snarled and took a step towards the elderly couple. Grammy clutched Grandad's arm, "Let's go, Armstrong," she pleaded.

Grandad might have been adventurous, but he was not stupid. They backed towards the door. The burly guys followed them, joking in Spanish and making threatening gestures. When Grammy and Grandad reached to door, the men jumped forward. Grandad calmly reached into his pocket, pulled out his wallet and threw it as far into the bar as he could.

As the six aggressors dove for the wallet, my grandparents hustled on out of there, got into the car and drove off into the sunset.

Nope, my Grammy wasn't greedy. She earned it

1 comment:

Iron Needles said...

I loved! this story. Thanks for sharing it.

You know, that's what I tell Wonderful Guy...what's his is mine and what's mine is mine....