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?

8 thoughts on “A Rogue in the Family

  1. MiaMarlowe says:

    Love you too, sis. I wish you#39;d met them.

  2. JenJewell says:

    Thank you for sharing that about our Great Grandparents. :) I enjoyed reading it. Love ya

  3. MiaMarlowe says:

    Thanks, Tai.

  4. MiaMarlowe says:

    Anna–Your dad sounds like quite a lady#39;s man. So was one of my other great-grandfathers, but he was the marrying kind. Grandpa Jim wed four times, buried three of them and loved them all.

  5. MiaMarlowe says:

    LJ–I feel very lucky to have known them. Mina was the one who showed me how to set a proper table, everything in its place, when she had a small luncheon for me and some of my older 2 second cousins. And I adored Clyde. What a lovable bear of a man he was.

  6. tai says:

    That is one marvelous story!!! Thank you for sharing it!

  7. Anna Carrasco Bowling says:

    I will never forget the time a dear family friend clued me in to my own father#39;s rakish past, including climbing out of a female friend#39;s dormitory window while the dorm proctor began bedcheck. He#39;d been married and divorced once before he married my mother, and after she passed, he was engaged two times, possibly three and had no lack of female friends, with a significant age difference between himself and fiancee #2. (Her age was closer to mine than his.)br /br / Even in his later days, in the Alzheimer#39;s unit of a rehab facility, Dad had a following, though I also remember him grumbling quot;I#39;m too old for that stuff.quot; He liked to flirt with waitresses, including proposing marriage when they#39;d ask if there was anything else they could get him. Always with a completely straight face.

  8. LJCohen says:

    What a wonderful story! Thank you for sharing your great grandparents with us. :)

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