Tuesday, August 22, 2006


This evening I was thinking about my grandfather’s hands. I remember well the hands of both my grandfathers. Strong, thick fingers, scars upon older scars, rugged and leathery. The hands of men who worked hard.

I was replacing the blade on the lawnmower; a job which carries a substantial risk of, skinned knuckles at least, if not worse. I know this from prior experience and have just relearned it afresh.

I am not especially gifted in the repair and maintenance of things mechanical, but I have an abiding interest in how things work and, thanks to my maternal grandfather, George H. Polley, an especial appreciation for motorized lawn equipment. His life’s business and his professional success rested on his skill in the sale and repair of lawn, garden, and farm machines. For many years he ran a successful, respected business in a very small Indiana town. When I was young, I would go to work with him and play in his store, dismantling old engines, watching him work on new ones, listening to him sell a chainsaw, or going with him to deliver a riding lawnmower somewhere out in the country. He has been dead for nearly 20 years now, but still I often hear stories from men who worked for him or people that knew him or did business with him. He was a highly respected man in this area of the world. And it seems he always had a Band-Aid on his hand, or a cut that was healing up from his work.

My paternal grandfather, Lee Wisdom Pike, was principally a carpenter. For many years he worked for the Katy Railroad in north central Texas, designing and constructing bridges, trestles, and rail yards. The history of the railroad is very strong in our family. My brother and I are the first generation not to have spent some time in the employ of a railroad. At least not yet. I was much younger when I knew Grandpa Pike, but I recall vividly that he was missing a finger, about half of the forefinger on his right hand. That was a fascinating thing to a little kid. He and my grandma lived on West Texas Street in Denison, Texas. There was always lots of wood to play with at his house. I distinctly remember looking at his hands one day when I was quite young and we were both down on all fours in the backyard as he showed me how to properly position a nail and swing a hammer. That is a very useful skill.

Both of my grandfathers, and even more so, my father, taught me most of I know about what it means to be a man in the world. I learned how to live from these men, less from what they said but from who they were and are. Their lives continue to teach me, and I am grateful. My earnest prayer is that I have passed on some of their love, their faith, their strength, their wisdom, and their humility to my own son. Time will tell, to be sure, because life is a marathon, not a sprint. And yet already I have seen in him the same quiet strength of character and power that I felt from the lives of these forefathers that he never knew.

I am truly blessed by the God of the past, the present, and the future.

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