My earliest memories of Grandpa and Grandma revolve around their visits to our house in Kirkland and our visits to their house in Coulee City. I remember going to stay with Grandpa and Grandma when Anita was born, and I remember Grandpa winning a race across the church parking lot to the red Beauville we used to have.
Grandpa didn't go to school past the eighth grade. He never had a very complicated view of the world, and he refused to let me complicate it. On one occasion I was wondering out loud how a granite boulder got to its current location when all the surrounding rocks were basalt.
“I think God put it there,” he said.
“Well, yes, Grandpa, but how did He do it?”
He also managed to stay clear of our cousinly rivalries…most of the time. On one occasion, Kerry and I were wrestling, and Grandpa said something like “Come on, pin him. There you go.”
“Who are you cheering for, Grandpa?”
Pregnant pause… “Oh, I’m for the winner,” he said, but from the look on his face, I’m pretty sure he was rooting for Kerry.
Grandpa was always doing something, and when he wasn’t doing something, he was thinking about doing stuff. I remember wondering what was wrong with me because I never went to bed thinking about fixing fences or installing irrigation systems or which way to run the rows in the garden.
But Grandpa’s greatest gift was the freedom he gave us, and the patience he had, letting us learn to use it well. He let us drive his John Deere 318 around the yard, even after we bumped into the burn barrels. He’d smile knowingly at my plans and then he’d be there to help out when those plans ran into reality.
He hauled my first cow home in the back of Old Blue. He was there on a predawn October morning when a steer ran up the chute into the pickup, jumped over the racks, and continued across the yard…without slowing down.
When I got my driver’s permit—several days before Kerry got his—Grandpa sat quietly on the passenger side of the vehicle. The only observable sign of anxiety was to slide his hand out of his lap onto the seat to brace himself. When I talked about how fast I was going to drive… “Whatever you feel is safe,” he said.
I remember asking Grandpa questions not because he had the answers but because his answers were somehow reassuring. When the world was too much, I went next door and tell Grandpa and Grandma my troubles, and they would still believe in me. On those occasions when we got to “read the Word” with Grandma and Grandpa, we had the privilege of hearing them pray specifically for each of their children and grandchildren.
For grandpa there were some things you do, some things you don’t do, and some things that just are.
In Memory of Wayne L. Knopp, 1920-2010.