Madam Speaker, this year the Poe folks welcomed two new Texans to our brood, making me a proud grandfather of seven. With each new addition, I think back to my grandfathers and the influences they had on me growing up. While they came from very different backgrounds, their impressions on me as a child set an example of what a father, grandfather and man should be.
My moms father was a lanky, fiery red-headed German who was as hard-headed as he was strong. Theodore Otto Herman Hill, or Thunderhead'' as he was more appropriately known, was born in 1899. His Prussian grandparents immigrated to the United States through Galveston in the early 1800s and settled in the growing German community in Texas to begin a new life.
I remember him as being very set in his ways, very militaristic in his daily routines. He was meticulous in everything he did and as a result, he did most everything well. Like the Army, he did more before 6am than most anyone I knew. He
arose early, worked hard with his hands all day and reared three girls, he called the boys to work the cotton fields with him.
Papa was a hunter, a taxidermist and a Teddy Roosevelt conservationist. He found hundreds of Apache and Comanche arrowheads on his land that he organized and that were later donated to the Texas Ranger Museum.
He was the frontiersman type. He could tell the type of tree by looking at the bark or observing the leaves and predicted the weather by just looking at the sky and watching the habits of the animals. And as most men of his generation, he was tough. The only thing I think he was ever scared of was my grandmother an equally fiery German. Theodore is a long time family name that has been passed on to my son and grandson.
My dads father was of Scots-Irish decent and a man of many hats. He was adopted by a neighboring family at the age of six after his single father decided to move on without him. As a young teenager, he ran away from the only real family he knew and set out to start a life for himself. I loved hearing his stories, some sounded like tall tales. Grandpa, a snake-oil salesman of sorts, rode the rails all over the country, selling anything and everything to earn a buck.
After meeting my grandmother in his late teens, the two married and he settled down to raise a family. He became the local Assistant Postmaster, worked on the railroad and was a barber. He opened his own barber shop next door to the local bank and became so involved in the banking business that he ended up running the place. During the Depression he loaned farmers money on a hand shake. That job took him to Pearland, TX where he started another local bank and sold real estate on the side. Interesting enough, although he was a banker he always paid cash and though credit cards were a bad idea for average Americans. The concept of rest and relaxation was not one he could appreciate. He was tinkering with something every day of his life. He was an electrician, plumber, made furniture and had a huge garden. He was a leader in the local Church of Christ and never missed a service until his death.
He never let the fact of his abandonment as a child be an excuse for anything.
Grandpa lived to be 88-years-old and he and my grandmothers were a large part of my life and my kids lives.