Grandparents galoreJanuary 14, 2011

Well. My grandmother on my mother’s side was the personification of gray, and I’m not kidding. And I don’t mean just her hair. My whole perception of that woman is gray. She wore a gray Kimono-looking thing all the time. It had no sleeves that might have hidden the gray hair on her arms, or a sash around the middle that would have given a more curvy shape to her form, which was just straight down – and full bodied. Her name was Arie Beatrice Simpson. I don’t remember what I called her but it sure wasn’t “grammaw.” There’s a photo of her in my memoir (The Thrill of the Chase – page 44). Her hair looked like a cross between Albert Einstein’s and I don’t know what else. Each hair on her head looked like it had its own press agent.

With me Arie was mostly one way or the other. Either she was tolerant and aloof, or she totally ignored me. So when she was tolerant that meant she was being considerate of my mother, not wanting to say anything that would offend her. That kind of treatment would’ve bothered other kids but it didn’t matter much to me. She was just kind of there and I had my own stuff to worry about.

But Arie loved pansies, and so did my mother. It was as though pansies brought focus to the whole family social stratum. Each evening in West Yellowstone, Montana, where we spent our summers, they would sit out in front of my grandfather’s cabin camp and pamper the pansies with water and words. If adjectives had been fertilizer those pansies would’ve been the prettiest things in the whole world. I didn’t last long around those conversations though because they embarrassed me, even way back then. That would have been about the summer of 1934, and I still remember.

At least that’s how I saw Arie then and remember her now. There were times though, when that wonderful old lady would warm up to me, and I wanted that all over. Sometimes she’d tell me things. “When I was your age the Kiowas and Comanches would run through our barnyard in Ft. Worth, trying to catch chickens. They’d sometimes trip over each other as the panicked hens flustered and flitted around making all kinds of noise. The Indians would just jump up laughing and keep grabbing. I remember pressing my nose against the window and seeing feathers flying all around the place. My father said for me to just stay in the house and if they could catch the chickens they could have them.”

Of course I didn’t know her father, but I sure knew her husband pretty good. His name was Charles Karl Simpson but everyone called him CK. There are six things I remember about that man. He was tough, he smoked cigars, he hated anyone who didn’t drive a Ford, he was a dead-head Democrat, he shaved with his hat on, and he didn’t know I was there. I felt like a shadow around his place and when he came home I hid behind a tree if I could find one close-by. It’s not funny but he had a heart attack and died one morning while he was shaving with his hat on. I always wondered if the hat had something to do with it.




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