Thursday, December 1, 2016

GRANDFATHERS: "POP"

In response to a request sent out for grandfather stories, I received this one from Jules Lemelle--along with the painting that depicts his memory. It evokes a part of the country and a culture I know only by hearsay, and I'm pleased with the texture it adds to this growing collection of "Boyhood Memories."


POP
by Jules Lemelle
November 17, 2016

Pop was his name. That’s what my father and mother called him, along with all the aunts, cousins and uncles of the family.  It was nearly six years after my birth before we finally met alongside the road at his front gate in St. Laundry parish along Bayou Tesch. We arrived at dusk, and Woodson killed the engine of the fifty-five Chevy. It was easy enough to see him, all properly dressed in a starched white shirt and moustache to match a thinning head of white flax. The old man was a gentle soul; his only vice was Red Mule chewing tobacco and you could find discarded plugs of it dotting the damp ground amid the litter of cypress balls and curled-up leaves. There was a sternness about him that I didn't want to fully know, fearing that I might get sprayed with tobacco juice. Pop didn't have but a few teeth left and I suppose that’s part of the reason he always kept a fresh plug of tobacco in his mouth.

He made freshly ground French roast every morning before the roosters even crowed. That and a crust of pain fran├žais, au lait on the back porch, and I was off to school in a town called Big Knife or Grand Couteau. Pop would wave goodbye as the giant yellow bus pulled away from the farm, taking my older brother and me into town. School was just chaotic with bells between periods and lunch that I never ate. It was comforting to know that after a few more bells we'd be back on the farm dodging tobacco plugs and chicken poop on the way back into the house. Pop would have a fire going in the great room where we watched the flames dance and leap up the chimney. A gas pocket or two in the logs would give us a thrill, filling the room with surprise. And Pop would utter a few lines of French, but their meaning was lost on us two since our parents had long ago stopped speaking it. Nonetheless, we enjoyed listening to the old man speak in those songlike tones, reminding us of who we were and where we'd been.


Jules Lemelle, "Pop," 2015, oil on canvas, 16" x 20"







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