Monday, October 22, 2007

The father I never knew

My father enjoying his favorite sport, fly-fishing on a stream in western Colorado. Mother took this picture on their honeymoon trip.

A little background on my father is in order. Edward Vestal Graybeal was born in Jefferson, Ashe County, NC in the spring of 1892 to Cicero and Jennie Belle Graybeal. Cicero was a Methodist preacher and principal of the Graybeal Academy, as it was known. The school was an adjunct to the Methodist church in Lansing, near to Jefferson. Cicero died later the same year of causes I have not been successful in learning and Jennie Belle who by this time had two small kids, Elizabeth and Eddie, was left a young widow.

Lizzy and Eddie

Prospects were not bright in that part of NC for her and she elected to move to Colorado to live with her brother John Wilcoxson, who had a ranch in the western part of the state. Another Ashe county expatriate had settled in Pueblo named Granville Graybeal, a cousin to Cicero. Jennie and Granville married and had a daughter, Helen, but a few years later Jennie died in childbirth. Eddie and Lizzy went on to higher education, he at the Colorado School of Mines and she at Colorado College. Eddie pursued a career as a mining engineer and was well positioned to achieve management level at Miami Copper when he was killed.

Mount Ord north of Miami, AZ

Jack, my older brother wrote a few pages when he was nearing 80 about the event. My father was employed as chief engineer at the Miami Copper Co. and loved hunting and fishing. Jack and my brother Jim.14 and 13 respectively, were out with our dad, his partner from the engineering office, a Mr. A. J. McDermid and some hunters from Phoenix during deer season. Game had been scarce and Daddy had decided to look for some quail with his new Browning automatic shotgun and was high on a ridge. Several shots could be heard, then several more shots, and again. At first it was thought that he had run into a flock of quail, but his friend said that it may have been a signal for help. My brothers and the friend scurried up through the brush and catsclaw, calling out for him. From the brush up ahead they heard him say, “Get help! I’ve shot myself!”

The new automatic had proved to be his undoing. Apparently, while chasing a quail into the brush, the gun got tangled up and went off hitting him in the lower leg. He had pulled off his belt to use as a tourniquet but felt the need for another. Jim pulled off his belt and stayed behind while Jack and the friend went to organize a rescue party and retrieve our first aid kit. The others went to the mine safety shack and retrieved a stretcher. It was late in the day when they finally got him off the hill and into our car. The other hunters took my brothers and followed behind in their car. After driving several miles toward the rendezvous point with an ambulance, the car carrying our dad stopped and the dome light went on. Then it went off and the car continued. Jack assumes that was when Daddy died. Ironically, all during the rescue attempt, Daddy remained conscious, managing his care and coordinating the effort.

By the time Jack and Jim got home, several concerned neighbors were looking after Mother, who was greatly pregnant with me. To make matters worse, “Daddy had been in the middle of converting the kitchen stove from wood-burning to a two-burner oil stove.” and had it in boxes all over the kitchen. The neighbors got together and completed his work during the following days. Although Mother could drive, in her “delicate condition” it didn’t seem like the best thing to do, so Jack elected himself chauffeur of our ’28 Chevrolet, the car Daddy bought to replace the one Mother totaled while attempting to rescue a dish for a potluck dinner she was headed for.

I should explain something about our mother. When my brother Jim was born, she got a blood clot and became partially paralyzed on her left side. After years of repair work and stints in hospitals with specialists, she was able to regain much of the use of her left side, although she still walked with a limp and her left hand didn’t have much going for it. Jim was the third boy. The first born, Ned, lived long enough to enjoy his first bicycle. In January1930, while coasting down the hill in front of our company house, he had a collision with a neighbor’s car, which landed him in the hospital. He died from his injuries the next day. You could say that life had been building Mother’s strength of character, but not to her face. Then, two and a half years later, she lost our dad, only to bring another life, me, onto the planet two months later.

The Graybeal Clan around 1927

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