This Christmas, my brother gave me a framed newspaper article from the January 20, 1916, edition of the University of Washington Daily: “World’s Champion Cross-cut Sawyer Designs His New Saw in Law Library.”
That headline, 98 years ago this week, just touches the tip of the iceberg of Gramps’ life. At 28 years old, he was a true Renaissance Man.
He’d graduated from Central Washington “Normal School,” and taught in an 8-grade schoolhouse near Tacoma for two years, earning an “extra” $5 a week by keeping the floor swept and the wood stove fueled.
Then he returned to the University of Washington and got his law degree. While studying for that, he became the Cross-cut World Champion at a festival in Seattle, and his likeness was carved and placed on the top of the downtown Frederick and Nelson building.
Meanwhile, he rowed crew for the UW Huskies, ably manning the 12-foot Oar #6 (count over six spots in the photo below—that’s really my Gramps!). Today that very oar holds a prominent place of honor on my rec room wall. (His teaching experience came in handy when he was wooed away from Washington to coach the crew team at Yale for a year.)
In what Mother called my “Grandpa Shrine,” I also have an eclectic assortment of photos of him grouped on the wall under the oar. He played football, basketball, was on the sculling crew, and log bucked. Wow. What an Olympic-quality decathlon athlete he might have been!
Yet familial duty superseded his own ambition, and he returned home to tend the dairy farm after his mother became ill and needed help. The new and improved saw blade never materialized; he never practiced law.
And while others called him foolish and delusional with all his “pie-in-the-sky plans,” I learned much more from him than he ever knew. His example, by default, inspires me to tenaciously continue to Dream Big, and never for a second stop believing in the power of a creative imagination.
And that, dear Gramps, holds the top spot on my perpetual gratitude list.