One of my favorite songwriters is John Prine. He’s not much of a singer but his lyrics are quite memorable. The first time I ever heard Grandpa was a carpenter, I thought he was writing about my own grandfather, Guy McClintick because he described him so accurately in the chorus: Grandpa was a carpenter, he built houses, stores and banks. Chain smoked Camel cigarettes, hammered nails in planks. He was level on the level and shaved even every door.
And voted for Eisenhower because Lincoln won the war.
As I’m writing this blog post, I’m sitting in a cabin on the property my grandfather bought in 1921. As I look out my window to the north, I see the log cabin he built in 1923 with the logs he harvested right here on the west side of Lake Margaret near Nisswa Minnesota. The original log walls are still in decent shape but the foundation, floor and roof need to be replaced for it to have any chance of making it another hundred years. I still marvel at my grandfather’s tenacity and adventurous spirit but how he ever got my grandmother to leave the city and move up here is beyond my imagination. What makes it even more incredible is that my Uncle Jim was just a baby when they moved here in the fall of 1921. They had no electricity or running water and they had to heat the house with firewood, which meant my grandfather had to start chopping wood the moment he arrived and he had to keep at it all through that first winter. Two years later he decided to build his log cabin in his spare time with a little help from a neighbor. I wonder if he realized he was building a monument?
Here’s a photograph taken today. The log walls are original but the rest has been redone once before in the 1980’s.
Every time I spend a week here in Minnesota, I am driven to do what I can to keep his memory alive. Mostly, I do my best to keep the forest at bay because if it’s left alone it will take back the whole place. I mow and prune and trim and rake and burn and drink beer vigorously just to show respect for all that my grandfather left for me. And since this is Father’s Day, I think it’s only fitting that I take the time to write about my grandfather, my father and me as a grandfather and a father.
I’m extremely proud of my family heritage and I will do anything to keep it going as long as I’m alive. My grandfather lived to be 82 and my dad made it to 90 by being hard workers and finding ways to make a difference every day. They were the best role models any young boy could ever ask for and I learned what it means to be a good man by eagerly watching them work. Now I get to do that with my son Thomas and my grandson Granger. Granger got his first ride on the John Deere and he grabbed the wheel right away. He’s only ten months old but he already gets it, if you want a John Deere you have to work for it.
In the history of the world, the greatest accomplishments have always been achieved by average people like my grandparents and parents. They aren’t famous but the things they achieved are monumental. My grandfather built Portview Resort with his bare hands and a lot of help of help from his friends. He was instrumental in getting electricity to this part of Minnesota in the 1930’s. He survived the Depression years with very few customers and WWII, while all his boys were away fighting for freedom. My dad almost died from malaria on Guam in the South Pacific in 1943. He made it home, married my mom and started his own printing business which led to the company he and I shared for 50 years. Life, for my grandparents and parents, was never easy but it was always good. They had faith in God and a belief that hard work always paid off in the end and they were right about all of that. That’s my inheritance and the same one I will leave for Granger and Verity and any other grandchildren I may be blessed with in the future.
I sincerely hope that all of you who are reading this today will take a moment to remember the men who gave you life, who worked hard to support you, who honored your mother and left the world better than they found it. None of us is looking for a medal for our achievements. We did those things because we all signed up to be good fathers and that’s what it takes to raise a family the right way. All the great men who have been like father figures to me have had a common theme to their lives. They found ways to serve their families, their friends and humanity in general by sacrificing themselves to the greater good. On this Father’s Day I think it’s important to say thanks to all those great men who came before me and to be reminded that I now have the same obligation to my grandchildren, to leave them a world better than I found it.
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