the little marks of laughter at the corners of his eyes were the prodnct of a kindly and humorous nature. the years of work which had bent his shoulders had never dulled his humour nor his love of a joke.
everywhere he went, "gramp" made friends easily. at the end of half an hour you felt you had known him all your life. i soon learned that he hated to give orders , but that when he had to, he tried to make his orders sound like suggestions.
one july morning, as he was leaving to go to the cornfield, he said : "edwin, you can pick up the potatoes in the field today if you want to do that. " then he drove away with his horses.
the day passed, and i did not have any desire to pick up potatoes. evening came and the potatoes were still in the field. gramp, dusty and tired, led the horses to get their drink.
"how many bags of potatoes were there?" gramp inquired. "i don't know. "
"how many potatoes did you pick up?"
"i didn't pick any. " "not any! why not?"
"you said i could pick, them up if i wanted to. you didn't say i had to. "
in the next few minutes i learned a lesson i would not forget: when gramp said i could if i wanted to, he meant that i should want to.
gram hated cruelty and injustice. the injustices of history, even those of a thousand years before, angered her as much as the injustices of her own day.
she also had a deep love of beauty. when she was almost seventy-five, and had gone to live with one of her daughters, she spent a delightful morning washing dishes because, as she said, the beautiful patterns on the dishes gave her pleasure. the bird, the flowers, the clouds-all that was beautiful around her- pleased her. she was like the father of the french painter, millet, who used to gather grass and show it to his son , saying , "see how beautif ul this is ! "
in a pioneer society it is the harder qualities of mind and character that are of value. the softer virtues are considered unnecessary. men and women struggling daily to earn a living are unable, even for a moment, to forget the business of preserving their lives. only unusual people, like my grandparents, manage to keep the softer qualities in a world of daily struggle.
such were the two people with whom i spent the months from june to september in the wonderful days of summer and youth.