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Indians and Insulators

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.

And thus, another space is cleared

in the proverbial digital forest. Or perhaps, more appropriately, a claim is staked.

My great grandfather, Sam, was part of an Oklahoma land grab as a young man. I remember him talking about it: leaving Ohio with his father, taking the train to Oklahoma and then riding on a flat car until suitable land was found. There are still many Grunewalds – his family name – in Oklahoma. Sam liked it, but preferred Ohio.

I wonder what he would have made of all this. Probably not much unless he could see the use of it.

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