Friday, April 11, 2014

Saying Good Bye To A True Homestead Hero



Disclaimer: I am not really even sure how to start this post but I feel sure if you will stick with me it will be worth your time.

How do you say goodbye to a Hero? How about a Mentor? Teacher? Adviser? Spiritual Leader? Friend? Family member? Now that you have all of that rolling through your mind, imagine saying goodbye to a person who was all of those. April 10th,2014 I said goodbye to my grandfather. Had he have lived till June he would have been 89 years young. He was the toughest and hardest working man I have ever known. He is a very big reason for me being the way I am.

Granddad was born in 1925, remembered The Great Depression ,and served during World War II. He knew more about farming, gardening, homestead livestock, hunting, fishing, foraging, and wild herbs than anyone I have ever had the privilege to meet in person. He could work with wood or metal and get done what he wanted doing.

This is not going to be just a eulogy so hang in there.

I don't remember how old I was the first time my granddad took me to dig ginseng. We walked all over the mountains around home and it seemed that he knew every single plant and whether it could be used for something or not. I have learned a lot of things from books and blog posts, but nothing compares to having a person standing right there showing you and answering your questions. Herbs that I remember us talking about include: ginseng, arrow root, lambs quarter, burdock, plantain (he called it something else but I cannot remember what), Indian turnip, Queen Ann's Lace, and Elder berry. I am sure there are countless more.
Ginseng

The first time  Granddad made elder berry juice he wanted me to taste it. Of, course I did. I knew he would never do anything that would hurt me. It tasted like a mix of blueberry juice and Vick's 44 D. Nasty. He just sort of laughed and said "tough isn't it".

He taught me about edible plants. Hickory nuts (taste just like walnuts), persimmons (don't eat them till they are completely ripe), cattails, and even something we call sour grass (also known as wood sorrel).
Sour Grass (Wood Sorrel)
When I was 12 he hired me one summer to help tear down a house that a man had given him. We took all the materials that were usable and built another house that he rented out for years till he sold it. I helped him work on tractors and countless other projects. Many of the skills I have today were either learned or improved by helping this man.

My grandfather was one of the best shots with a firearm I have ever seen. I don't think I ever saw him miss. Between him and my dad ,they helped me become a pretty good shot myself. One year we were dove hunting and it was near the end of the day. We had all grouped back together and were talking and taking turns with the birds that would come by before we headed home to clean them. When it was my turn, I took careful aim and said "Bye- bye birdie ",before I pulled the trigger. The bird fell. My grandfather smiled and said "The boy is becoming a good shot".

He would tell stories about his life during the Depression. His father, my great grandfather, made his living hand hewing railroad cross ties, cutting dye wood, cutting hair, and of course farming. One year was not very good to the Carter family and my great grandfather told all the kids that Santa wouldn't be coming that year. They just did not have the money for anything extra. A man who owned a general store several miles away that my Pa Pa Carter traded with came by Christmas Eve after dark and left all of the kids an orange and  a nickel's worth of rock candy they were able to split. Nearly every time after telling that story he would say "Hard times will come again and you had better be ready to do everything you can yourself". He did not tell that story to prove how hard he had had it. He told it to warn us how hard things could get again. 
Rock Candy
 If my grandfather had not been the way he was and taught us all the things he did, I probably would have never started The Rural Economist. My dad and aunt have started a farm that sells produce, honey, eggs, jellies, and jams. They are looking to expand. There is no way to know how many people he has taught about being self reliant. So you see, simply by your reading this, one man's life continues to touch others and lead others to a simpler more sustainable way of life. That is the best tribute I could ever offer.

In the end he told me he was proud of me and that I had become a real man. I, my dad, my cousin Dusty, and nearly every member of the family was able to tell him goodbye. Only my dad was in the room when he passed.We were trying to get some rest in the waiting room. Even though it is hard to have him gone, I am blessed indeed to have had the time that I did have with him. 

Granddad, you helped teach me about homesteading, about preparedness, and about life. I will do everything I can to keep your lessons alive. I love you Granddad.

To my dad. Hopefully, between the two of us, we have most of the knowledge that granddad had. I know you will help me spread this wisdom.

Now for the challenge. This is not just a memorial. I want each and everyone of you to learn everything you can and teach anyone you can. In this way, we can take the lessons my granddad taught me and make them exponential. I told him once I was going to make him famous. Let us make him one of the catalysts to make the world a better place.

For another article featuring my granddad. A Family Tradition of Sustainability
You can also read the tribute written by my wife God Gave Me a Carter

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I hope you all enjoy Rural Dreams and Homestead Wishes.

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