Extraordinary Stories

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Friday, March 4, 2016

The "Orange Blossoms, Guinea Pigs and the Sorrow of the Hunt" Story

It was an ordinary day.  My cousin Susan had just sent me photos she had taken of her sister's family scrapbook.  Easy to do since her sister lives close to her.  The photos in her sister's, Amy, scrapbook were of my mother's side of the family.  Photos of our Grandpap and Grandma as well as photos of Susan, Amy and their older sister Lynn's parents, Virginia and Bob.  There were even a few photos that featured me at a young age.  The memories began flooding back of happy times shared with family.  
Aunt Virginia and Uncle Bob.  Uncle
Bob is holding me on his shoulders.
This was probably take in the mid-1950s.
Their father, my Uncle Bob, was my favorite Uncle.  Two occasions stick out in my memory that feature times spent with Uncle Bob.  In one I was a young teenager and Uncle Bob had invited me to go hunting with him at his family's homestead on farmland to the east of Strasburg, PA.  My parents dropped me off on a Friday evening and Uncle Bob helped equip me with the necessary items including a 12 gauge shotgun.  Had never fired one in my life, but the excitement in my eyes must have been obvious.  Had a hard time sleeping that night in the basement, but arose early and headed with him to the farm to hunt small game.  As we walked in a recently harvested corn field, he yelled and pointed at a small rabbit that had begun to run.  I raised my gun and fired.  Shot the poor, helpless thing dead.  I felt awful, but didn't display that emotion to my Uncle Bob.  That was the one and only time I went hunting and shot a gun.  Still remember the sorrow I felt as I picked up the small, limp carcass.  Too much compassion towards animals to be a hunter, I guess.  My second and more pleasant memory was in 1960 after I had purchased my first car, a 1953 Henry J coupe.  It was an awful rusty-looking burgundy color and Uncle Bob volunteered to help me paint the car in his garage on Washington Street in Strasburg.  I prepped the car and bought what I thought would be a neat light tan color automotive paint.  Arrived that Saturday morning at his house and we taped and wrapped the chrome and glass and poured the paint into his paint gun.  I stood outside the closed garage as he painted the car.  He arrive outside in about an hour with a tan color to his clothes as well as his hair.  I stayed overnight that evening with my Uncle Bob, Aunt Virginia and my three girl cousins.  The next morning we opened the garage door and there was this newly painted car gleaming in the bright sun.  It was orange!  Not only the car, but the entire inside of his garage ….. shelves, boxes lining the shelves, tools and …. well, everything in the garage!!  He never got mad; he was that nice of an Uncle!  
My Grandpap, William (Bill) Cochran.  Notice he has a pipe
in his mouth.  Don't have many photos without one in his mouth.
 My middle name is William … named after my Grandpap.
As for memories of my Grandpap, they are numerous and mostly humorous.  He was famous for gathering his grandkids as well as his youngest daughter, my Aunt Lois who was only a year older than myself (a surprise package) in his home at 617 South Prince St. in the city of Lancaster, loading his pants pockets with coins and walking to the corner of his living room where he would stand on his head in the corner and allow all the money to fall on the floor.  We screamed as we gathered the coins before the blood in his head made him dizzy and he had to drop to the floor.  I can also remember walking through his backyard and helping him pick rose blossoms from what seemed like hundreds of rose bushes.  He used the rose petals to make rose petal wine which was bottled and stored in his dirt-floor cellar. Never had the chance to drink any, but do remember pouring many bottles in the kitchen sink while helping to clean the basement after he died.  I do remember when I brought my wife Carol to his home after we had both turned 21 and he made Orange Blossoms for us.  An alcoholic drink that I have no idea what were the ingredients, but we drank many of them ….. and they were good!  He also would make his famous chicken corn soup and have me help him husk the corn in his back yard under the cigar tree.  The tree had cigar-like stems that simulated cigars which he would break off and we would light and pretend to smoke the dried stems.  What a neat Grandpap.  Well, we would husk the corn and save the corn-silk worms to put in the soup to see who would be the lucky one to get one of them.  He would always look at me and wink an eye when one was found.  Grandpap always had a pipe in his mouth, except when we were smoking the cigar tree stems or he was asleep in his green lounge chair; just like the one I now have in my family.  Always!!  I loved the aroma of the cigar smoke and can still remember to this day the puffs of smoke that circled his head when he would blow smoke rings.  He was the neatest Grandpap.  But, my most memorable moments of Grandpap were the trips we would take to Roots Country Market and Auction on Tuesday mornings in the summer.  Boy, were they memorable.  
My Grandpap and Grandma Cochran with me and my
Aunt Lois (1 year older than me) standing in front of them.
To the right is Aunt Virginia and my mother, Dorothea.
Handsome family if I must say so, except for Grandma's hat
that looks like it has a canteen of soup on the top of it.
We would walk through the animal auction house and he would point out all the different types of animals.  After he saw which animal I liked the best, he would bid on it and ALWAYS win the bid for it.  One memorable find was a pigeon with a broken wing.  We brought that home and mom and I put a splint on the wing using a popsicle stick and bandaids.  After it recovered it flew away much to my dismay.  I ran after it with a rope lasso I had fashioned, climbed a fence gate to try and lasso it, fell off and broke arm …. on my parent's anniversary of all times.  Then there were the family of white rats that he big on and we brought home.  Mom made me keep them in the basement where I would hold them and play with them.  A week or so later, after arriving home from church, they had chewed through the wooden box and were running around the basement.  Dad and I hung peach baskets from the ceiling and while watching them from the basement stairs, allowed the baskets to drop over them as they ate the food we had placed on the floor.  After catching all of them we drove them to the local stockyards near our home and left them go.  And finally, he bid and won a box that had eight full-sized guinea pigs in it.  My mom couldn't believe it when we arrived home that Tuesday afternoon.  Eventually the one male and seven females multiplied, and multiplied, so dad and I built a big cage in the back yard.  That eventually led to three cages and enough money from selling the baby guinea pigs to buy my 1953 Henry J coupe.  So you can see the circle-of-life created by my Uncle Bob and Grandpap.  Good times I will never, ever forget as I'm sure my mom and dad never did!  And, thank you Susan and Amy for allowing me to relive my childhood all over again with your wonderful and memorable photos!!  Everyone needs to do that from time to time, you know.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

PS - You can't imagine how much fun it has been to write today's story.  Brought a few tears of joy as well as a few tears of sorrow that I can never relive these memories except in my mind.  But, I guess that's exactly what memories are all about, aren't they?  This story has to be dedicated to my mom, Dorothea, for allowing all these things to happen in my life.  How many other kids have been as lucky as I have been to have had a mom like I did.  That is except for my children whose mother and my very special wife, Carol, put up with much of the same nonsense.   Oh yeah, and my grandkids whose mom's, my daughter Brynn and my daughter-in-law Barbara, have allowed them to gain the same kinds of memories with their Tampah (that's me!) minus the animals.  Life can be so much fun at times!!

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