Muskrat Love and Lessons from New Hampshire
Even with a slight hunch to his back, at almost 91 years old, he is still about the most dapper guy I know.
I’ve often told myself when I slow down and maybe someday retire, I will get on Ancestry.com and learn about the history of my family.
But my great-uncle Vin is here from up east this week and he shared with me a few things last night at dinner that I never knew.
I did not know he worked for the railroad for over 60 years. I didn’t know we were fur traders or that he was a poet with a collection of about 150 pieces including a lengthy one about the death of John F. Kennedy. I’d really like to read that.
I didn’t know there was someone else in my family who prayed to Jesus to find their favorite pencil.
On special occasions, I’m allowed 12-22 seconds to utter a prayer before meals. After one sentence to Dear Lord Jesus, my brother chimes in to zip-it before the food gets cold.
But last night, just as the first spoon of potatoes was about to hit my mouth, my aunt Maureen nudged me on the right. And grabbed my hand.
I looked up to a table of people with bowed heads, holding hands.
Dear father, we thank you…
My heart soared. Uncle Vin offered the kindest, sweetest, most sincere prayer I have ever heard in that breakfast nook.
I come from prayer.
I was rooted in a love for God.
I remembered this as soon as he began to give thanks, sounding so much like my grandfather it made me nearly cry for how I’ve forgotten.
In-between the occasional cursing and small sips of red wine from the Waterford crystal, he told stories.
He told a story about watching his father haggle with a muskrat dealer over a nickel. They went to the next trader and the man stood there with his two children hiding behind his legs. He looked past them to see their broken-down shack and the lack of beds or even mattresses, but just rags thrown down on the floor for sleeping.
“I messed up this cut right here,” the man apologized.
“Oh, no. These are fine pelts. The fur is black and shiny.”
Before this, the only time I think I’ve ever heard about muskrats was from the Captain and Tennille song.
He paid that man more than he offered the first.
When they got back in the pick-up truck, my great-grandfather spoke kindly, “Tell me what you saw.”
Uncle Vin retold what happened, asking why he paid the second man more money.
“The first trader will always be here and I can go back and get more next week. But that man, the one with the children in front of the run-down shack, he needed that money now. He needed it to feed his family and survive.”
Every story came back to a lesson and back to the bible.
He brought up the rich man from the Bible who couldn’t part with his stuff. Right there, in that moment, I was over-filled with joy.
And a love for God.
My family was rooted in faith.