Dani's Niche

Family history. A novel idea.

Every Photo Has a Story:Grandpa Plays Checkers

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1899 checkersNot every story from long ago has a photo

but every photo has a story.

1898 was a difficult year for my grandpa. In January, his 38 year old wife died after a long battle with TB. He was left to care for their two girls, ages five and three. A month later he buried his mother.

It was a dry year and there was no grain for the family, no hay for the livestock. Grandpa  and his brother-in-law decided to combine their stock and drive the herd to the valley of the San Joaquin River, a long and difficult trek to find salt grass pasture where the animals could forage. When the following year brought good rainfall they resumed their grain farming.

This photo, taken in Grandpa’s handsome two-story home during that year of hardship and sorrow, shows him cheering the neighborhood children. It reveals the interior, clothes, and hair styles of the Victorian era. Grandpa’s sister stands by while his oldest girl clings to him. His littlest kneels close to the checkerboard. What is special to me about this scene is Grandpa’s expression. Every eye is on the game. All except Grandpa’s. Is he challenging his opponent to consider her next move? Is he about to move his piece to end the game? What do you think?

During his wife’s illness, her sister took care of her and the children. She was like a mother to the two little girls, so it was no surprise when the aunt they loved became Mother, Grandpa’s second wife. They had two children, one of which was my dad. And that is another story!

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