A Rogue in the Family
Part of what I love about writing historicals is being able to delve into the details of history, looking for how people lived and thought about their lives in a world gone by. What I love about writing romance is examining the delicate dance between two souls as they find each other and learn to become one.
But not all courtship is smooth. Thank goodness, or I’d have nothing to write about. Sometimes the characters have such rough edges, a blissful, placid life would never ring true. And sometimes that happens in real life too.
I’d like to tell you about my great-grandfather, Clyde. I remember him well as a rough-talking old man. He was the only adult in my life whose speech was peppered with profanity and I used to sit on his lap in horrified fascination waiting for the lightning bolt to fall from heaven. It never did. And even though he was tough as a boiled owl, I was never the least afraid of him. Under the gruff exterior, he had a tender heart.
When he was 12, his stepmother locked him in the smokehouse for some misdeed (the family history is hazy on that point). His dog dug a hole under the door big enough for him to wiggle out of and at that tender age, he struck out on his own in the wide world. He supported himself by working in a coal mine, leading little donkeys up and down a narrow gage track.
When he grew older, a young woman from a good family caught his eye. He saved his money, bought a new suit of clothes and proceeded to court Mina. Dark-haired and lovely, with an 18 inch waist he could span with his out-sized hands, she was everything proper and elegant. I often wondered how two such opposites could attract. When my great-grandmother told me with a twinkle in her eye about how he’d driven a sleigh with such recklessness that he’d upset it, I realized she was drawn to the bad boy and couldn’t resist the urge to try to improve him.
And try she did after they married. Each time he took down the bottle of whiskey he kept for “medicinal purposes,” she’d tsk im. But she was less successful in dealing with his gambling.
Clyde loved poker, but it didn’t love him. However, losing didn’t discourage him until he bet, and LOST, his house. And nearly lost his wife too. Even though she was pregnant with my grandmother, she left him. An unheard of thing for a wife to do for that time, but she was a woman of strong conviction. I don’t know what he promised, or how badly she made him grovel, but she did return to him and together they raised 7 children.
When I knew her, she had 3 houses–one each in Florida, Missouri and Minnesota. I’d like to report that he never gambled again, but I can’t. He did however confine his losses to small amounts. Clyde and Mina fussed and wrangled with each other for over 60 years and I suspect in the end, neither of them would have changed a thing.
Do you have any rogues in your family tree? Any matches you would have labled unlikely?