Friday, February 24, 2006

Random memories of Grandpa Nick Herak:

All my grandparents are still alive except my mom's dad, who died when I was 16. Today would have been Grandpa H.'s 94th birthday. He was a wheat farmer, then cattle rancher in western Montana. His brand was H Lazy H. I grew up four miles from his and Grandma Vi's farm, and thus got to be part of football Sundays, brandings, and regular Catholic church services. He was an avid sports fan, and he loved to gamble, too. He'd practice his golfing in a cow pasture, then pay me a nickel a piece to retrieve them. He was generous to a fault with me; maybe because I was his first grandkid. I'd always overdose on the candy that he'd fill my pockets with. He loved to look for four-leaf clovers in the back yard, and he usually found one. He flood irrigated his pastures--never used sprinklers as far as I knew--which meant he'd always have a shovel with him. Sometimes I'd join him while he irrigated. He was very religious and made rosaries in his spare time. He devoutly loved the Virgin Mary. I've never seen someone pray so passionately at church, head bowed, eyes tightly closed. He was a passionate Democrat, too, and he railed against "greedy Republican politicians" every chance he got. His skin was dark brown, especially on his lower arms. There are two reasons for this: a) he was Croation/Slovenian, and b) he was always working outside, usually with sleeves rolled up. Some said Grandpa was a good enough baseball player to have gone professional in his younger days. He and my grandma raised nine children: five boys, four girls. He smoked a lot of cigarettes until his mid-sixties, when he quit cold turkey after my mom asked him to please smoke outdoors when at our house. He was one of the nicest people I've ever known. He died of a rare cancer at age 75. Happy 94th birthday, Grandpa!


Anonymous said...

thas a nice remembering. thank you. how old was grampa herak when he died? do you have a rosary that he made? what did he make them outta? did you ever go four leaf clover hunting with him?

Chris Sand said...

I do have a rosary he made--my mom saved a few of them, in fact. Most he made out of plastic beads, but some he made out of glass, Irish beads. He loved Irish culture and married a 100% Irish woman (Grandma Vi). I'd often join him on his four-leaf clover hunts.

Anonymous said...

You sure can paint beautiful portraits with that keyboard! I'm glad you were called to the "blog"

Anonymous said...

Hi, Son,

I've never sent a comment to your website before, but your loving tribute to Dad inspires me to write more about him.

I wrote this poem when you were 10. The picture in my mind was of him in a pasture, irrigation boots up to his hips, shirtsleeves rolled up to his elbows. He made the exhausting work of flood irrigation look easy. He wielded a shovel the way a painter wields a brush, a fencer a sword. He moved quickly and lightly over a wide area, guiding the water to where it was needed by the soil. He was proud of how he could bring green to a pasture.

The other images in the poem are a collage of your granddad as farmer and rancher and father and husband; as card-playing gambler and country philosopher. He softly whistled to himself as he worked in the garage or walked around the barnyard. He habitually drew cartoon figures on the plastic tablecloth and paper napkins on the kitchen table. He was crazy about Mom. He liked to joke that he was part Irish, thanks to her, because he once got a blood transfusion from her.

When Dad read the poem, it brought tears to his eyes. He said he felt like I understood him.



Watching Dad Irrigate

My daddy is a dancer, a mover, a scrambler,
He's light on his feet,
he's a basketball boy.
He's a fencer, a farmer, a friend to his children,
He's a tablecloth artist, a giver of joy.

He's (Irish)-Croatian from Montana's Rockies.
He's a grower of grain,
he's a clown for the Lord.
He's a life-giving, life-loving whistling gypsy,
He's a riverboat gambler with cattle on board.

He's a dreamer, a seeker, a wit, and a worker.
He's a friend to my mama,
his sweetheart and wife.
He's a deep thinker, a teacher, a learner.
He's human as human, and lovely as life.

Anonymous said...

ah ha! now we know where sandman gets his rhythm and rhyme!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for bringing him home for his birthday. Your Vegas Aunt