This Is what I remember about my grandfather, John Raymond Riggs I.
I remember the smell of his chewing tobacco.
I remember him coming to see us when we lived in Florida. He looked so out of place in his cowboy hat there. He didn’t care though. He was a cowboy.
I remember him teaching me how to ride a horse. I never could put the saddle on to his specifications though.
I remember watching him care for the little kittens at the ranch. There were always a dozen feral cats out there, and he always had a soft heart for the smallest and weakest of them.
I remember the orphaned pet goats and sheep that were always around on the ranch too. He would find them out in the pasture and feed them from a bottle until they could make it on their own. Of course after all that care they all followed him around like a dog. There was a sheep named Wrinkle-Snoot. There was even a cow they named Sally that did the same.
I remember every time we came in from outside he would tell us to wash our hands. The only soap I ever remember was that original yellow Dial hand-soap.
I remember going to see him at his day-job one time. He worked for the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission on the border between the U.S. and Mexico.
I remember him telling me to get out and open the bump-gate whenever we drove a vehicle without a grill-guard on the ranch. I let the gate slip once and dinged the side of my cousins old truck. He was not even that mad about it.
I remember sleeping in the back of my grandparent’s house in town sometimes during the summer. Everyone would watch T.V. after dinner. And my mom and I would sometimes call my dad who was back in Saudi Arabia from an old telephone in the back bedroom.
I remember him saying the prayer before every meal. It was his house, and he was always the one who prayed before we ate. It always started: “We thank the oh gracious heavenly father…”
I remember him passing the offering plate as a deacon at church, and I remember the Juicy Fruit gum he always kept in his shirt pocket.
I remember him taking us hunting. Ranch hunting, that is. We would ride around in the truck with the windows down listening to the radio, with the heater turned up.
I never remember getting in his truck that the radio wasn’t turned on.
I remember working with him and my cousin on the ranch. We would get up early before the sun, nap in the heat of the day, and sit on the front porch after a late dinner. We would train horses, fix fences, dig post holes, paint gates, brand cattle, and take cattle off to auction. As dusk came, sometimes a flock of wild turkeys would roost in the tree by the far gate.
One time in particular that my grandfather woke us up, my cousin and I complained about the alarm clock. He said he would quit using it. The next morning he woke us up standing in his underwear. He had on a white t-shirt, playing a guitar and singing at the top of his lungs. Scared us to death. I wish I could remember what song it was. We were only kids and we thought that was so funny.
And I remember him holding my daughter at his 90th birthday party.
They say smell is the most nostalgic of the senses, and most of all, I remember the smell of my grandfather’s chewing tobacco. I remember opening a pouch of it and smelling it as I sat in the front seat of his truck. I can still smell it today.
See, both my grandparents died a few weeks ago.
My grandfather had recently turned 93. And my grandmother was 88.
They were married for 71 years and they died just over two days apart.
It’s alright though, they both had a good long life, and I’ll see them soon.