My Pa’s name was William Henry Lewis and everyone, far and wide, called him Will.
Pa was six feet, two inches tall and was the shortest of his parents’ eight sons. He had dark blue eyes and they were so expressive, those blue eyes. He lived on the same farm all his life except for a year spent at another farm. He returned to his old home to take care of his unmarried sisters and his beloved mother and he and Ma lived there for all of their married life until they had to move to town to be near my mother and doctors.
Pa’s father was a Civil War veteran who was in the cavalry and rode his horse the entire war and came home with a kidney ailment, which shortened his life but during his lifetime, he taught his sons that a man’s word is his bond. Pa often told the story of how his father would say to an errant son, “Now, I’m gwine to whip you next Sunday” or Saturday week and during that time, that son hoped he would forget but when that day came, he gave him the whipping he said he would, though Pa said that the whippings were not severe; it was the dreading that hurt. To Pa that meant his word was his bond. That was often said about Pa. He neither embellished a story nor exaggerated it.
Where Ma was slow to anger and slow to forgive, Pa had a quick temper and got over it quickly. He was very gentle and loving to his granddaughters so we only saw that side of Pa. I will always remember his twinkling eyes and his happy laugh. I only saw Pa angry once and it was terrible to see. It was certainly justified and involved a near relative who was raped. I will never forget his anger.
The Army doctors turned him down when, as a young man, he went to Louisville to be examined for the Spanish American War. He came home all dejected and told his mother that they said he had consumption; she told him that he was just skinny like all the Lewis men and that he would probably live to be 100 years old. As a matter of fact, he lived to 88. The only time he was ever sick was when he had the flu in 1919.
Pa wanted his granddaughters to be proud of being tall. If he saw one of us seeming to slump, he would tap her on the shoulders with his cane and tell her to stand tall and proud. He found no fault with us. He thought short shorts were fine if you had pretty legs and when he discovered that I smoked, he said not a word.
Pa was a joyful man and he found joy in everything. He loved to fish and fished nearly every Sunday. He loved long walks in the woods. He loved nature in all forms. I still remember his laugh and his twinkling blue eyes. He loved to bird hunt and he loved his dogs. Pa worked very hard and he played hard. He loved a game of “sell pitch”, his favorite card game. He liked an occasional whiskey toddy, but most of all, he loved my grandmother and his three children and his grandchildren.
He, his son, my uncle Orbie, his cousin Omer and Omer’s wife all played a musical instrument, They often had a spontaneous little concert with a couple of guitars, a bass fiddle and a violin. Pa would often do a little dance. He was as supple as a young man and the dance he called a “jig”. It was similar to the Irish dances. He often danced on the front porch for his granddaughters. As a young man, he went to square dances and loved them.
I knew that my Pa worked very hard at farming. He was out by daylight to feed and get ready to go to the field. He never had a tractor and did his farming as his father did. He sat up at night reading until very late and he once said to me that people who slept eight hours, slept a third of their life away. When I find myself thinking that I ought to quit reading and go to bed, I remember Pa sitting by the Aladdin lamp reading his Western and detective books until very late.
Pa left me many wonderful, happy memories and I am grateful that I had such a grandfather as Will Lewis.
Please feel free to call me at 270-522-3632 with questions or comments.