The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Grandfather Was Wealthy in Values, Friends, Family and Land

By Sandi B. Keaton © 1989

Issue: September, 1989

Almost everything ever written about grandfathers mention pick-up trucks and overalls.

Grandpa didn't wear the second as he favored gray work pants instead. But he drove an old pick-up that used to drive this gal as a youngster to the floorboard in embarrassment.

While everyone else had a shiny four-door sedan or even an aging Chevrolet with personality, we'd rattle into town in our true-blue (really) '54 Ford and I'd be scared to death some of my classmates would see me in it. I'd "kill" to have that old truck now. Restored, it would be a thing of value... but then what isn't, in association with grandparents?

In my childhood days my grandpa was the closest thing to God I thought I'd ever see this side of heaven.

He was tall and straight and walked with the pride of a man who owes his neighbor nothing, except love. The only times I ever saw his shoulders stooped was when he humbly bowed his head to pray. For a man of few words he could say a "mighty pretty prayer."

Grandpa was a man's man, a pipe smoking, P.A. rolling (Prince Albert tobacco) farmer who worked and lived hard.

If he had faults, they weren't big ones. I prefer to think of them only as characteristics. He hated to wait or to be late. He despised false pride, hypocrisy, beef and democrat presidents (and "their wars" as he lost a son in WW II).

He liked to read for entertainment, the Bible being his first choice and Zane Grey western books the second. He loved the song "Amazing Grace" without music, his family and the little short Cokes with a bag of peanuts poured inside.

I can remember this special grandpa who also became "father" to a small orphan, carrying a chubby young'un on his shoulders the 1/2 mile from the mailbox to the house so I could be up high and see the world. He called me "captain" and "sprout" and that was about as close to endearments as he got.

He had the Denney's stubbornness and big feet. He told me once when I inquired about his toes that when the second toes are longer than the big toes, it meant that you were the boss. We were in trouble. Mine were that way, too.

When I became a teenager, I thought he was so "set in his ways" that I wished I could tie him up and gag him to make him listen to my side, or anyone else's for that matter.

Once he followed me to the school bus in an attempt to wash off my make-up (no kin of his was going off looking like a painted "floozy") but I wore it and kept wearing it and listening to that rock and roll (that he thought was an "abomination") on the record player he bought for me. I lost him near the beginning of my courting ("sparkin'" as he called it) days. And I lost more than I ever dreamed when I learned that all men weren't like him.

Elvis Denney was rich the way one is rich by owning (not owing) what you have. He was wealthy in values and friends. He found life's treasures in Christian living, his family and the acres of land he worked and saved for.

He was only one grandpa in a world full of grandpas, but he was mine, and I'm glad. For Grandpa, who didn't care much for "store bought" flowers, here's a rose, as real as the man he was.