Congressman Ted Poe (TX-02)
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 mom’s father was a 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 1800’s 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 dad’s father was of Scot-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. That job took him to Pearland, Texas, where he ran another local bank and sold real estate on the side.
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 never let the fact of his abandonment as a child be an excuse for anything.
Grandpa Poe lived to be 88-years-old and he and both my grandmothers were a large part of my life and my children’s lives. Papa was tragically killed by a drunk driver in the 1950s while laying asphalt for the Texas Highway Department. Because people married so young back then and their kids married young, I got to spend far more time with my grandparents than most kids do today.
Neither of my grandfathers made it past 7th grade, but were far wiser than most men I know. While both very different, they both embodied the very traits that define men of their generation. They believed in hard work and providing for their families, even in the depression – no excuses. They taught their children and their children’s children the value of an earned dollar, pride in hard work, respect for their elders and a love of God and country.
I am so thankful to have known these two men and wish there were more like them today. They were good men, good examples, good fathers and inspiring grandfathers. Happy Father’s Day.
And that’s just the way it is