Saturday, December 1, 2012

One Hog House Story

I have no memory of my Grandpa Neill. Dying of cancer at the time I was born in 1968, Grandma Neill would only say that when I was born he was too weak to even hold me. I heard the story many times, like it had somehow it had made an impact on Grandma as well. I had heard it so many times, that when I was grown and Grandma had eagerly insisted on holding my own infant daughter I nearly cried.

The only other things I heard about Grandpa was that he was tight and had a temper. Those two traits, and the occasional "Dad would roll over in his grave" were all that I heard.

Grandpa had a younger sister, Nellie, whom I had seen many times while growing up. One time while visiting with her as an adult, I asked her if she remembered anything about Grandpa as a boy or when he was young. Nothing. She was nearly ninety at the time and did not remember much and seemed to think that there really wasn't anything she could tell me that would be interesting.

Except for one thing. The hog houses.

The Neills were poor. Dirt poor, but most families in West Point, Illinois, were. Great-grandpa never had much of a farm and scraping by in the Depression wasn't easy. The incident Aunt Nellie was able to relate to me had to have taken place in the early 1930s as Grandpa was still single and Aunt Nellie had graduated from high school. She had been accepted to teacher college, but there wasn't really any money for her to actually go. In fact, she had worked in a hotel in a nearby town to help pay her board while she attended her last year of high school a slight distance from their home. In his late twenties at the time, was living at home. To make money, he had purchased some lumber and had built some hog houses with the proceeds likely earmarked to purchase something else that he could turn around for some additional profit.

Aunt Nellie told me that when Grandpa found out she needed the money, he sold the hog houses she used the proceeds to pay on her first year's tuition.

Aunt Nellie graduated and eventually taught school for forty years.

Sometimes one hog house story is all you really need.