I never met my paternal great-grandfather. I only know him through stories. His name was Daniel Webster Wells.
I think it took him a long time to settle from the way Pop remembers it. Pop used to point out the places he had lived as a boy whenever we passed them while delivering a load of hay. Most of the time the houses were long gone and there was only an overgrown empty plot of land.
Granddaddy was a fisherman. Not in the modern professional catch and release way, but a genuine pre-catfish-farm commercial fisherman. He had an old row boat on the Coosa River where he would run trot lines. He would fry the fish in an old cast-iron wash tub. I think Pop still has the tub in a barn somewhere. You can see the notches that Pop, Dad, and Zach ceremoniously filed into the edge, each representing a generation of Wells men.
Granddaddy used to cup his hand and skim the boiling water out of the tub they used to scald the hogs. If you could stand to do it three times but not four it was ready. The water would take the hair clean off the skin of the hog. Any hotter and the hair would draw up, causing you to have to skin the hog and waste a lot of lard.
Granddaddy was also a sharecropper. Pop had to quit school in order to help make the crop one year. He never went back.
“He used to sprinkle flour on honey bees and follow them to the hive to harvest honey.” Dad told me.
He had worked in a foundry and he could solder the old way, with a big soldering iron that you put directly into the fire. He could fix skillets and make knives. He might have even made a moonshine still. Or was that Granddaddy Brasher? Either way, they both drank it. I think that’s how Nonna & Pop met.
“He would set in front of the fireplace in a rocking chair and whittle hammer handles and such with a pocket knife during the winter time. He’d let us throw the shavings into the fire. They would crackle and burst into bright flames.” Dad once told me.
Granddaddy developed lung cancer toward the end of his life. Possibly from smoking, I don’t know. No matter how, cancer is such a cruel disease.
My Uncle Jason was just a little fellow when Granddaddy got sick. He was too sick to even pick the child up.
“Jason would stand between his legs with his elbows propped up on granddaddy’s knees for an hour at a time.” Nonna told me.
I asked Pop when Granddaddy died.
“I try not to remember the days people died.” He said.
I like the idea of only recalling the good times we had with people, but that is not how life really is. Life is often more about struggles and hard times than it is the barbecues and good times. A big part of life is preparing to die.
Granddaddy died the day before Uncle Jason’s third birthday. Nonna prayed that it wouldn’t be on his birthday.
I missed meeting Granddaddy by almost a generation. I used to love to listen to my Dad tell stories about him. It seems like he had a good sense of humor. I always thought my Dad was going to live to be a lot older than he did. I didn’t realize until he was gone that I still had a whole lot of questions for him. About Granddaddy. About gardening. About life.
I have a feeling that in the distant future one of my posterity will want to know about Daniel Webster Wells. And somehow they will arrive at this article, which is all-together too short. I’m sorry, this is about all I know about Granddaddy Wells. But maybe, hopefully, you can find out more in the comments.