Sunday, November 28, 2010

Letters to Papa and Granny

Everyone who knows me knows I say there were a few men who were important to me growing up: Jesus, Popeye, and Indiana Jones. Then, there are my heroes: Charles Schulz, Jim Henson and Hank Ketcham (and even Dan Aykroyd). That caused me to create a painting called "My Heroes" which was painted by hand and looks like stamps or silk-screen.

Let's digress to important people: After Jesus, most dear to my heart was a man who you all know as Papa Roy. He made a great grand-father (and father) figure and was always there to talk to me and (in those times I felt it was hard to deal with) when I would call and ask him, "Will I be all right?" He would reassure me, "Why, sure!" (MAN! I miss that phone call. Nobody else says it as asuredly as he did, so I quit asking and just hope now).

With Papa Roy, my heart's angel was Granny Ethel. Quiet, soft-spoken, unassuming, deep-thinking--she was the grandmother that a lot of us have (but, of course, I'm biased and have to say I like mine better than your's!). I didn't need a mother-figure in my world because my Mama was always there, even now. She's very involved in the whole "broken arm" thing. But, Granny was there as a guide for my religious thoughts, she was someone who (when she spoke) spoke the truth and spoke of important thoughts.

For example, one time as I sat with my Papa and Granny, I asked Granny, "What's the meaning of life?"

"Well," she said, "When all is said and done, I think the meaning of life is to love everybody as much as you can, do as much good as you can, love the Lord, and try to make yourself and others happy."

That made total sense to me. It's a good definition of the meaning of life! So, I turn and asked Papa Roy, "What's the meaning of life to you, Papa Roy?"

"Don't dip snuff!" He exclaimed, without even a pause for thought. "It almost killed me! I got so addicted to it I would use that junk instead of eat, and I wasted down to nothing! I was weak and sick and couldn't hardly do my work! Yep, don't do snuff!"

Umm, ok! Ha ha. In the whole scheme of things, I suppose I can see where not doing snuff is important to defining life: if you use it and die because you didn't eat anymore, then that doesn't sustain life and you can't love everyone and so forth.

Papa Roy was never without his overalls, olive green work shirt, t-shirt under that, and work shoes. And, you could always find him in a cap of some sort, chewing away on some Juicy Fruit chewing gun. Granny Ethel was always dressed in a light shirt with either a t-shirt or tank-top under that, a skirt or pants, and an apron. More often than not she wore open-toed house shoes with socks, or a pair of slippers. Now, this is at home. Papa Roy was wearing whatever he might work in that day; Granny was dressed down at home--but, if you were taking them out, or it was a holiday, or it was a special occasion, they were dressed UP! Yes, Papa Roy would dress UP in his finest overalls, olive green work shirt, t-shirt under that, and work shoes--all new, all clean. Granny Ethel would put in her teeth, fix her hair, and my Mama and aunts had her some nice clothes purchased that they would fix her up in. Both were a handsome couple for grandparents!

Anyway, in 1988 my mother re-married and we moved to Munford, TN. My heart ached because everything I knew was in Holly Springs, MS, and Cornersville, MS. My grandparents would now be nearly 2-and-a-half hours away. But, if I didn't call them I would send them a letter.

Here is a letter from circa 1988 that I sent to Papa Roy and Granny Ethel, and an un-dated Father's Day Card I drew for Papa Roy probably in 1988 or 1989.

I'm sure they either understood that the heart symbolized "Eye love U", or they may have wondered, "Why'd Kevin draw a heart eating a cookie with the letter U on it?" Papa and Granny in their usual "costumes." The logo back then was a "W" up top and an "M" on bottom connected by lines and framed by brackets (W for Williams and M for Mule, back then I called everything under Williams/Mule Productions).

Here's where you can see my love of the Joel Chandler Harris books about Uncle Remus. At the time I drew this (from 1980 up until the early 90's maybe) I used to let the characters all speak in a really southern dialect like from that book or from Snuffy Smith:

Here, you see the ultra rare autographs of Buford the Dog and Roy Duck. Apparently, the drawings were colored in crayon and were rubber-cemented into the card, as was some money (that's what the "For Gum" is pointing to, I'm sure).

One thing I miss is how Papa and Granny would serve as an audience to my "live art" display at their house. I would spread all my art stuff out on the floor and draw, paint, anything...and they would watch. I loved the remarks like, "It's funny how you can take a bunch of lines and make something like that!"

Just a look into my past and history and more about my wonderful grandparents. Wish you could have all met them--they were fantastic!


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