Today, Dec 10, is my maternal grandfather’s birthday. William Clifford Miller, Papa, was born Dec 10, 1904 and would have been 114 years old today. He died Jan 3, 1990 and as most of my family has done, left behind a legacy that will be with us until we die and will be difficult for us to live up to. Papa and Mama Jessie were early members of the church we attended almost all of my life. I can’t recall if they were charter members or not, but if they weren’t they were some of the earliest ones to join the new church. He was a deacon and respected Sunday School teacher but I don’t recall EVER hearing him attempt to sing a single note.
Papa worked hard all of his life and had several different jobs that I knew about. And I’m sure he had some that I didn’t know about. The ones I recall were: a barber, a school maintenance man, a painter, and he hauled shavings. Hauling shavings is the one I want to reflect on a bit. The purpose of the job was to drive a fairly big truck to Steele, Alabama (probably 90 minutes or so from home) to a sawmill where he would fill the truck with shavings using only a pitchfork. Then he drove back to somewhere around home and unloaded the truck in a chicken house for the person who had bought the shavings. It was HARD work and Papa always carried a change of clothes; he would get soaked with sweat and be slinging shavings up into the truck. The shavings would be flying everywhere and once they found his sweat-soaked body that’s where they stuck. It was a bit like being “tarred and feathered”. He would sometimes take my brother or me on his trips and our job was to get up in the truck bed and walk around to pack down the shavings. Almost always, after we would get hot and sweaty, a pitchfork load of shavings would “accidentally” land on our head; Papa would never look up from what he was doing. He was quite a practical joker and a lot of people were victims of his antics often his four grandchildren who he called Goatie, Sis, Dummie and Bullie. I don’t think we ever found out where the names originated, but I suppose I earned my name, Bullie, from being so bull-headed and stubborn.
I remember making him mad once; mad enough that he got his razor strap from his barber days and came after me to whip me. I crawled under their bed just out of his reach but he was on his knees by the bed swinging at me with the strap. I kept that strap for a long time as a souvenir and a reminder that it was not wise to make Papa mad. Growing up my grandparents were next-door neighbors which is rather odd when you think about it. It wasn’t anything new to my brother and me; we just kind of roamed from one house to the other to find something else to eat. But we got into a fight one day in “Big Daddy’s” garden. Mind you “Big Daddy” wasn’t much bigger than a bar of soap after a hard days’ washing and Gary and I could get away with just about anything at Big Daddy’s. But after the fight broke out, Big Daddy walked next door to get Papa to come intervene. Papa came down and watched us fight and laughed a bit but he let us fight it out on our own.
I could write a long time about memories of Papa. But basically, Papa was a respected, knife-swapping, kind, hard-working, practical joking, man whose example will be difficult to match.
I love you, Papa. I know you are having a really happy birthday!