Sam Grunewald, my great-grandfather, spent much of his life as a farmer in Van Wert, Ohio. I spent some time with him when I was a child and my memories are very much of his age and his direct connection with a different time. Indians, to Sam, were not from Westerns, but from life. He deplored their drinking and talked of their poverty: “poor folk.” He told me, one night looking at the moon, that an Indian in Oklahoma had explained to him that the shape of the moon was a good indicator of whether or not it was worth hunting. “If you can hang your bag on the moon,” he said, then one shouldn’t go out. He was a child of the 1800s.
When he kissed me good bye, his whiskers, even when shaved, bristled.
I asked him once if he was a good kid or whether or not he got into trouble. This was shortly after I was punished for a small infraction and Sam told me about a bad competition between him his brother: breaking glass insulators. I had no idea what he was talking about until he showed me on, a glass dome about three inches tall. These were the insulators on electricity and telegraph lines and a boy with a rock and a good arm could shatter one with a pitch. Sam told me he got pretty good at it but that he stopped after he was caught. He felt pretty bad about it, he said.
The insulators are now collected. I see them, every now and then at an antiques fair, and I think of grizzled Sam as a young boy, whipping rocks at them. He hoped that they hit and he hoped that they missed.