Grandpa was a farmer. In the 1800’s he grew wheat where sheep grazed and it was not long before others started to plant grain. He bought land on the other side of the river and planted almond trees. In a few years, the hills came alive with pink blossoms in spring and the town became the “almond capital of the world.”
Grandpa came from northern California to the central coast when he was 25 years old. By the time my dad was born Grandpa had moved the family from the farm into a two story Victorian in town. He ventured into business selling farm implements, and when Ford started to mass produce cars he opened one of the first dealerships.
I only knew Grandpa as an old man with a full head of dark hair who sat me on his knee to tease and give me pony rides and who made sure I was quiet in church. I don’t remember any of it because Grandpa was buried when he was 91 and I was only three. Photographs and stories my Dad told were my only connection to Grandpa. Until I found his diaries.
I can’t sit on Grandpa’s knee and listen to his deep voice or hear his hearty laugh. But he speaks through his faded penciled words.
The first entry is dated Oct 25, 1886 and the last July 4, 1906.
Trim trees. Kill little pig.
Plow in pasture 1 team sold heifer to Dick N.
Sunday at church.
Mr. Smallman, wife and baby came out, staid all night
Rain at night
Plow 2, 10 horse teams
He wrote of deaths including this poignant one:
Went to ranch after milk in afternoon… Had supper, put Lizzie (his wife) to bed at about eight o’clock …Went to bed about nine thirty. Lizzie awakened me at fifteen minutes past eleven with a hemorage which “drowned” her in about five minutes.
A month later he wrote Ma unconscious all day. Died at six o’clock.
Sometimes I’ve learned about him by what he did not include in the diaries. In 1905 he wrote:
Oct 18 Joe tore old paper out of two rooms
Oct 19 John is burning trees on summer fallow.
Oct 20 Joe is papering. Baby boy was born half past four.
Grandpa recorded the time of birth but not the name of his only son, my dad. There don’t seem to be any more entries about him. Farming was what Grandpa did. He left the babies to Grandma.
For now Grandpa’s diaries sit on my bookshelf. Someday I will learn more about farm life in the 1800’s and more about Grandpa.