Friday, July 31, 2009

An Ode to Grandparents

While browsing the Survivalist Boards today I ran across this thread. The topic was "what did your grandparents teach you?" For many people, grandparents were often the cornerstone of their real life education. Here's what my grandparents taught me:
  • How to shoot. And to keep your finger off the trigger until you were ready to kill something.
  • How to listen. Once when I was a kid, grandpa gave me $20 with instruction to go into the store and get some candy for all of us along with a specific dollar amount. Apparently I only heard the word candy and saw the $20 because I came out with $20 worth of candy which in those days was quite a bit of money. He never got angry but when he needed your attentions he would say "listen up Pardner" kind of like John Wayne. That day I got a lecture on listening and we ended up eating that candy on random occasions over a period of many months.
  • To pay cash for everything. Granddad always had a wallet full of cash. Mostly this was because credit cards hadn't been invented then and also because of his second financial lesson which was to never be in debt to anyone.
  • How to enjoy the wilderness. Granddad spent some years with the CCCs (Civilian Conservation Corps) which was a jobs program created during the Great Depression. Most of his time was spent in the wilderness doing various jobs like trail building, firefighting, etc. During that time, he mostly lived outside. He never got tired of camping out, with or without a canvas tarp as a shelter, and neither did we.
  • All of your food scraps (except meat which went to the dogs) are to be saved for the compost pile.
  • Grow your own vegetables, fruit, and's fresher and healthier than the stuff you can buy in the store.
  • If you do need things from the store, read the ads first and save money by shopping sales.
  • Don't swear. Grandpa could use some colorful language on occasion but I can count on one hand the number of times grandma swore and if she did, everyone watched out because that meant she was really pissed.
  • Take care of your animals. This isn't the goofy dress your dog up in clothing and pamper them but when it was really cold, the dogs were allowed to sleep in the kitchen. They were always provided clean water and given food and attention but they were animals so they lived outside so that they could do their job like protecting the house (dogs) or keeping the mice down (cats).
  • Make do with what you have. If something broke it was repaired. If it couldn't be repaired then it was replaced but that happened only rarely.
  • Give to those in need. My grandparents had a farm and many times they would give food to neighbors or even those who stopped by but were unable to pay the full price because it was the right thing to do.
  • If you are going to buy something, it should be something that held its value. Granddad always bought cars used but he had a prized collection of firearms and guitars that he wouldn't hesitate to pay top dollar for.
  • How to trade. Grandad was a horse trader from way back so he would just as often acquire things by bartering or trade than he would by purchasing an item.
  • Take work when it was available because you don't know when more work will come along. Since my grandparents came of age during the Depression, they never turned down work. Besides having a farm, granddad was a welder, they ran barn dances on Saturdays, grandma worked in a factory during World War II and she also worked on the election board each year...basically if there was a job to be had, they took it.
  • How to bake, cook, preserve food, and sew. Grandma was an expert at all of these things. I can still whip up a mean apple pie thanks to grandma.
  • Cook with cast iron as much as possible.
  • Everything in moderation. Junk food was fine as long as it was a rare treat and not a dietary staple.
  • Work outside every's good for you.
  • Family takes care of family.
  • Treat your employees well. And feed them lunch.
  • Keep quite about your personal life. No good will come from discussing your finances, problems, or other personal information with others.

There's plenty of more things I could write about the lessons learned from grandparents because they really are an integral part of the extended family unit. They have the time to pay attention to the grand kids and pass along valuable skills while parents are often more focused on working and paying the bills. I hope parents realize how valuable time spent with grandparents is for their kids and, on the flip side, I hope "modern" grandparents realize how important it is that they spend time with their grand kids imparting their valuable wisdom.

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