Words to Live By…


Grandpa was filled with wisdom, words to live by. He passed out advice like it was nearing its expiration date. He once told me, “Never admit to being intelligent or having a driving license.” I’ve been trying for years to figure out what that meant, or what predicated him to verbalize it but I’ve remembered it all these years. It stuck with me and I have, in turn, passed it on to my daughters and my grandson. I felt somewhat duty-bound to do so, somewhat compelled to make them ponder the meaning of this advice in the same manner as I have .

Sometimes Grandpa would use an event as a life-lesson moment to teach my sister and I something important. One event that clearly illustrates this proclivity was the time my cousin, my sister and I stole cigarettes and “chawin’ tabacky” from my dad and grandpa, respectively. I was about eight years old. My sister and my cousin would therefore have been ten, or so. We went out behind the barn and commenced to experiment. As we hung around smoking and chawin’ and generally acting cool and sophisticated we watched the local wildlife. There was a frog sitting on the ground near a growth of tall grass. I was thinking of catching the frog and chasing my sister with it, but before I could act on this idea a snake struck and snatched the frog into his mouth. My cousin screamed and my grandfather came running around the corner of the barn with garden tools in hand. We watched as the lump, which was the frog made its way down the body of the snake and my grandpa pinned the snake’s head down with a pitchfork. Grandpa then used a shovel to cut the snake in half right in front of the frog-lump. The frog slid out of the bisected snake and hopped away.

Grandpa looked at us kids and said, “Let this be a lesson to you kids. The early bird gets the worm but the second mouse gets the cheese.” Now, I understand what the lesson means. I understand very well, but I’m still a bit unsure of how to relate it to the snake and the frog.

Grandpa was a story teller. Often his words of wisdom would precede a story or sometimes, like a modern day Aesop he would summarize his story with a moral, more often than not though he would simply announce some great truth.

I leave you with some of the more colorful ones that I remember.

 Never discuss religion or politics with anyone you want to remain friends with.

Never play cards with a man called ‘Doc’.

Never sleep with a woman who has more problems than you do.

Only you can decide if you want something more than you fear it.