Hello all, Keith Long here with Thunderheart Flooring, based out of Greeley, Colorado.
This is an atypical post for me—in other words, not a subject I would normally write about, nor is it in a format I would normally use. The purpose in me opening up in this way is to create a dialogue about where we have come from and where we are, and the fact that we have a choice as to where we are going.
I would like to acknowledge that there are readers of these blog posts from literally all over the world. I live in the United States, at the confluence of the Cache La Poudre and South Platte rivers, on the high plains of Northern Colorado. I have had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of hardwood flooring contractors from all over—the West, the Pacific Northwest, California, the Midwest, the upper Midwest, the Northeast, the South, the Deep South, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, Germany, Canada, Mexico, Panama, Trinidad y Tobago, Brazil, England, Scotland, France, Spain, Italy, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Armenia, China, Japan, Russia and many other places across this world.
I believe human potential is incredible. I see life as a medium to be able to have vast amounts of experiences. This can lead to us (if we are paying attention) learning more about others, and ourselves. I feel fortunate to have come from a diverse ancestry. It has given me many opportunities to learn and grow. To that end, I wanted to share this story about my grandparents:
Cowboy and Indian
One of my grandfathers grew up in an extremely small home on the plains of North Dakota. He was a cowboy who left home at 15 years old to become the right-hand man at a large ranch up that way. He had the reputation of being a man who could be relied upon.
For years he tended cattle. Through thick and thin, he cared for livestock. He was called up during World War II and served as an aviation mechanic in California. He met and married my grandmother, and when the war was over, he got back to cattle ranching in North Dakota. They raised a family of five children. They finally saved enough to purchase a ranch of their own, about 800 acres.
Although I was young when he passed at 59 years old, I have many warm memories of him. Visiting them around the Winter Solstice one year, there was a great snowstorm that was blowing in out of the north. A buck deer staggered into the lawn with a massive sheet of ice caked to the side of his body that had been facing north. It was so heavy and making him so lopsided that it was a certainty soon the deer would topple over under the weight and never get up again.
My grandfather went out there and pulled the ice off the side of that buck. When done, he stood there for a moment with his hand on the middle of the deer’s back, then walked back in the house.
He was a tall, barrel-chested man. For as big and strong as he was, he was kind when he spoke. When I was a little tot, and poured different kinds of breakfast cereal in the same bowl to eat, he chuckled, and said, “You know, I like to do that, too.”
Another fond memory I have is sitting with him as he rocked one of my infant baby cousins in the cradle. Although at that stage he knew he wasn’t long for this world, his eyes were at peace as he said softly, “Would you just look at her … children are amazing …”
He passed his father’s harmonica down to me.
His experiences are his own—no one can take them from him. I feel fortunate that I knew him.
One of my grandmothers is native to North America. Our ancestry was involved in what is referred to as the Trail of Tears, where nomadic tribes of Native Americans were rounded up and moved from the areas they knew (modern-day Florida, Georgia, etc.), and were placed on reservations elsewhere, in an attempt to assimilate them to a different way of life.
My grandmother was born on a reservation near Muscogee, Okla. She recalled it being swampy land, not that conducive to growing good crops. Once oil was discovered there, the government moved her tribe to a new reservation outside of Selma, Calif. She had 12 siblings, a few of which did not live to see 18 years old—some due to industrial accidents, others due to common diseases her tribe had no immunity to.
She was afraid she was going to be next, so at 15 years old, she walked off that reservation and hitchhiked up to San Francisco.
I have many fond memories of my grandmother—as of the time of this writing, she lives, and is currently 91 years old.
As a small boy, I recall her saying, “I always tell the truth. If I do that, I never have to keep track of what lie has been told. So, I always tell the truth.”
There seem to be exceptions to every rule. As children, one of my cousins pointed at our grandmother’s legs, and asked why she had all these dime- and quarter-sized white spots on her dark skin.
She told us the story of her arrival in San Francisco and how she was having difficulty finding work. She heard many people were being put to work in the Navy shipyards, so she went down there. Someone had tipped her off that you had to be 18 for them to hire. She said it’s always best to tell the truth, but she was bound to starve to death. So, she chalked it up to being a white lie, and when the recruiter asked her how old she was, she looked him square in the eyes, and said, “I’m 18.”
She went on to tell us how they put her to work welding on ships that were coming in off the Pacific Ocean. Much of the work was overhead, and the white spots on her legs were scars from when welds dripped and burned her legs while she was learning how to become proficient at it.
She met my grandfather out there in California during the World War II era. They married, moved to North Dakota and raised five children.
Her laugh is contagious. When she sees me and exclaims, “Well, hello, grandson!” there is nothing to do but smile and be happy. She’s sharp as a tack, the biggest American football fan I know, and a crafty card player who loves all her family.
Although her life has presented her with many trials, she has taught me through her actions that to remain light-hearted is to be able to overcome anything the world can throw at a person.
Her experiences are her own—no one can take them from her. I feel fortunate that I know her.
I Believe in Possibility
Having mixed blood makes some things in this world more challenging, but I posit that it makes most things interesting and full of zest. I feel fortunate to have the perspective of both Cowboy and Indian.
I love to hear others tell stories. One of my favorite parts of getting together with others is hearing what is on their minds. What motivates them, what frustrates them, what makes them tick.
I suspect each one of you has stories of your own. I respect and appreciate that we come from different parts of the world, and have been raised by people with varied life experiences.
Allow me to make a suggestion:
The world is full of possibility.
I believe each and every one of us has the ability to tap into possibility. Every day is a new day, including this one. At the beginning of this post, I talked about where we have come from, where we are and that we have a choice as to where we are going. What we do with our thoughts, our time and our efforts is our choice.