"My Papaw Charlie" is a story I wrote for my Great Mamaw Atlas, Mamaw Sharrol, Aunts and Uncles back in 2015, in honor of my late Great Papaw Charles Hughes. This is also happens to be first short story I've ever written. I hope you all enjoy. I highly recommened that you listen to songs at the bottom of this page while reading my story, "My Papaw Charlie"
Once there lived a little boy. His name was Charlie. Charlie was born a long time ago in a little house, that was seated in a deep hollow against some high mountains in North Carolina. Charlie was like any other little boy; he loved to play and explore the woods, but Charlie grew up in a time and place where there was much work to be done. There was the garden to be tended firewood that needed to be to cut and stacked for the cookstove and animals that needed to be fed. There was always plenty of hard work to be done.
Aside from the daily chores, Charlie's childhood consisted of country roads, a small farmhouse and his Papaw's country store. Charlie also lived near the river and there he learned to swim. Even in his manhood he loved to swim. One time, when Charlie was a man, he proved just how good of swimmer he was. Charlie and some other men were going on a camping trip. It was a hot day, so Charlie decided to take a swim. He took off his shirt and he dove into the water. He swam across the river without stopping. All of the men were quite impressed. For the river was wide and there was a small current.
When Charlie became a man, WWII was raging in Europe. Charlie went into the army. He had to go through the weeks of basic training, but when his training was completed, Japan had surrendered. The war was over. I guess they heard Charlie was coming. Although the war was over, Charlie was still sent overseas. He was stationed in occupied Japan as a medic. Charlie was a good medic. First aid and medicine seemed to come naturally to him.
When Charlie was discharged, he returned home to Green Mountain North Carolina. He soon fell in love with a wonderful lady by the name of Atlas. They were married and together they started a new life and a family of their own. First, they had a daughter named Sharrol and then there was Mike, Rick, Mark, Loretta, Rhonda and later came Beth.
Charlie was a truck driver. He would drive his 18-wheeler all over the country and he would be gone for weeks at a time. He would have to drive his truck through the desert for miles and miles and back in those days' trucks didn't have air condition. So, Charlie would put a block of ice in the floorboard and he would wrap towels around it. And when the ice had melted, he would put the wet towels around his neck. Charlie was able to see so much of God's beautiful earth when traveling, but his favorite part was home. Home in the mountains. Home with his family.
When the children knew their daddy would be coming home, they would sit on the porch and listen for his big truck. Just as soon as they could hear it, they would hide behind the bushes and wait to jump out and surprise their daddy. On the evening he returned home there was never a quiet dinner. There was always much chattering. The children would tell their daddy everything that happened while he was gone. They would share everything they learned in school and then they would ask question after question about their daddy's trip.
Charlie loved his children. He was always eager to listen to what they had to say. One time he asked Sharrol and Mike were learning in school. They were very eager to share what they had been learning. But, little Ricky, who wasn't in school yet, wanted to say something too. So, he said "Daddy, I know how to spell coffee."
Charlie said "You do?"
" Yes. JFG. Coffee."
Charlie always loved that story. It was one of his favorites.
Time is a funny thing. It never stops. It keeps going and grows older. Before Charlie knew it, all of his children were soon grown up and had families of their own. Charlie was now a grandfather and nothing gave Charlie more pleasure than his own grandchildren. To hold them as babes or to have them work alongside him in the tobacco and Christmas tree fields or to help him with his work horse. Nothing lit up his face more than the sight of grandchildren.
People will say that the older Charlie got the grumpier he got. Maybe he did. Maybe he was just an old man who was stuck in his ways or maybe because of his age, he was much wiser than us younger ones. Charlie could remember the Great Depression and World War II. Maybe that's why he always got so heated when modern day politics were talked about. Maybe that's why he was so outspoken about politics, war and economics and people just called it grumpiness. He up grew when times were hard. Money little and the work hard. He had seen his Mom and Dad work hard all their lives and he had worked hard himself. They grew and canned their own food and they raised a large family. Maybe that's why he got so grumpy when people complained about little things like sports, cars and restaurants. Maybe he was the way he was because we live a much easier life than he did and he was tired of hearing us complain about it.
When Charlie was older, he ran the country store in the community. From early in the morning to late in the evening he worked, but he enjoyed it. Maybe he enjoyed it simply because it provided an income close to home or maybe he enjoyed living in a memory. A memory of being a little boy and going to his own Papaw's country store. Hearing the old men talk. Listening their stories and jokes. Being aggravated and kidded by all the men and acting like he hated it, but was truly loving it. Maybe, these memories are why he ran the store. Maybe, those are the same reasons why his oldest grandson loved being at his store and working alongside his Papaw.
Charlie also grew tobacco and Christmas trees. There were many occasions when you could look through the window of the little house and see sons, grandsons and sons in law our working in the field with Charlie. Charlie would always show how stout he was when it came to carrying tobacco to the barn. Sometimes he would even hook up his old workhorse, Si, to haul the equipment or tobacco. When the work was done the grandchildren would get to ride bareback on old Si, then Charlie and the grandchildren would come in and enjoy his favorite meal of chicken and gravy with sweet potatoes made by Mamaw Atlas.
Charlie was good at working with his hands. He loved to work with wood especially. He could build benches, stools, shelves and once he built a grandfather clock. He even built a beautiful baby crib for one of his great grandchildren, Hannah.
When Charlie's parents were old and feeble, he had to care for them. Every day, after long hours at his store, he would come home and help care for his mother. He would use his strong arms to lift his mother from her chair to the bathtub, from the bathtub to the bed every day. Often, his oldest grandson would follow his Papaw's example. He, too, would carry his great grandmother in his arms. Of course, this grandson wasn't the only one to follow Charlie's example. All of his Children and his grandchildren were eager to follow this example. Especially, when their own daddy become ill.
L to R
Front row- Dad, Me and Mom
2nd - Great Papaw Joe, Great Great Papaw Briscoe, Great Great Mamaw Kate, Great Mamaw Daisy
3rd - Papaw George, Mamaw Sharrol, Great Papaw Charlie, Great Mamaw Atlas, Grandma Robin, Great Granny Sharon
Back row- Papaw Dwight, Great Poppy Leo
In Charlie's older age he became ill with cancer. His children took good care of their daddy and so did his grandchildren and now his grandchildren's spouse's. Every day they cared for Charlie. Some helped with his meals. Some helped with his baths. Some came to hold his hand and to remember the old times. Some came and prayed with him. But all thanked him for the legacy he gave them. They thanked him for being him, Charlie, a man who stood for what he thought was right. A man who worked hard for everything he had. Maybe, not everyone actually said thank you to his face, but all expressed it when they looked at him. When they held his hand. When they lost many hours of sleep to be by his side. When they so tenderly prepared his meals. When they bragged on their child sharing the same character traits as Charlie. Even when they brought the newest grandchild for him to see. They all said it.
Then one day Charlie's family knew they didn't have much more time with him on earth. So, all of Charlie's children, grandchildren and Mamaw Atlas gathered around his death bed. They held his hand, they sat on his bed, they sat on the floor, they all filled room and together they all sang...
‘’My lastest sun is sinking fast
My race is nearly run
My longest trials now are past
My triumph has begun
Oh come angel band
Come and around me stand
Bear me away on your snow white wings
To my immortal home
Bear me away on your snow white wings
To my immortal home’’
And as his children sang Charlie closed his eyes in death.
Charlie a beloved friend, brother, father and husband was now gone. But not he's legacy. His legacy still lives. It lives through the stories his children tell and by the lives they lead. His children now follow their father's footsteps by leading lives full of hard work, determination, love and devotion.
Charlie had 7 children, 15 grandchildren, 24 (32 in 2021) great grandchildren and counting. Charlie's first child was Sharrol and Sharrol's first child was Chad and Chad's first child was Hannah. So that makes Charlie my great grandfather. Papaw Charlie made the cradle for me. The cradle that my brother and sisters and I have slept in as babes and before we all know it our children will be sleeping in a cradle their great-great-grandfather made for them.
Charlie wasn't perfect, but he embraced hard work, loved his legacy, he was proud of who he was and where he had come from and he was willing to make a stand for what he believed in. Let us be more like Charlie. My Papaw Charlie.