Charles Sylvester Story, or "Papaw" as he was known in our family, was born in 1910. He and his siblings moved around quite a bit with their father who ran moonshine
and was generally not welcome in a single area for very long.
Papaw grew into a smart, self sufficient man because of this. He didn't believe in his father's ways and was a good hard working Christian man. He worked as hard as any man ever has. He told me that in the year of "Nineteen and Thirty", he did odd jobs for about a nickel a day because work was slim. He worked for one particular farmer all year before he collected his annual salary of thirteen dollars.
Papaw found work in a local sawmill, milling lumber. He managed to save up enough over the next few years to buy 90 acres. He built his own house from the ground up (He even built one for his father to settle down in as he grew older). Papaw farmed nearly everything the family ate and raised some livestock to put the occasional meat on the table and to provide milk. He taught all of his boys how to hunt game like deer, squirrel, and rabbit. He was just very self sufficient.
A real renaissance man, Papaw could play the harmonica like nobody's business. He used to sit in the back yard and sing, play harp, and chew Redman all at once. Papaw could tell you the how's and why's of any old wives tale. He was loaded with folk knowledge and Native American remedies. He knew everything about every kind of tree, from structural properties to medicinal value. In particular, he had an amazing ability when it came to felling trees.
When I was young I saw him fell an old pecan tree. It was too big to reach around and was dead in the top. It was about 20 feet away from the back side of his house and leaning harshly toward the house. With only a chainsaw and a thirty foot rope, he fell that tree and it fell parallel to the house without causing a single dollar in damage.
I learned a lot about nature (both flora and fauna) from my great grandfather in my younger years. One thing that stands out in my memory is the day we talked about carpenter bees. There were a ton of bumble bees flying around his hydrangea flowers. I sat watching them and he came up to me and told me to try and catch one of them. I must have seemed appalled at the idea because he laughed and walked over and snatched one out of the air. He had it cupped in one hand and brought it over and held it up next to my ear. It was buzzing like, well like a bee. He said to me, "Here, open your hand and take him from me and hold him. Don't hold him too tight or else you might squish him." I just couldn't dream of it. I was deathly terrified that I would be stung and that he knew some ancient trick that would prevent the bee from stinging him. Turns out he did.
He told me that it wasn't a bumble bee. It was a carpenter bee. "They look a lot like bumble bees but they cannot sting you," he said. He said that if you squeezed it too tight it would bite you but that they could not sting. He opened his hand enough to get hold of the little bee by the abdomen and he showed me the tip of it's nose. "See that little white dot? If you see a bumble bee with a little white dot on his nose, you can pick him up and hold him in your hand." I was enthralled and I took the bee ever so gently from his hand.
To this day, I've never been bitten by a carpenter bee. I've always abided by my Papaw's words and held them gently.