They were poor but happy enough, and one of their jobs was to chop wood for the fuel stove.
They took it in turns but generally they would all pitch in as this was a satisfying job. A large pile of wood was evidence that you had been there.
Brothers can be rough and ready even at the best of times, and although it happened more than a hundred years ago and the story suffers from being strained through a lot of people’s memories, it seems that while chopping wood a piece flew into the eye of the brother named Ansel.
If it had happened now, someone would have bundled the boy into a car, and hospital staff would have assessed the injury. With a bit of luck, his injury would have healed leaving him with only a story to tell.
But this was a time before cars and doctors were rare and often lived a long way away.
The boy lost the use of his eye.
I’m sure that his brothers were affected by what happened, and his parents were upset, but this was a time when much worse things happened on a regular basis. In some ways, it was a miracle that the boys grew up to be men as many children died in childhood. Families would often have ‘extra’ children to compensate for the expected deaths. Maybe Ansel’s injury was such that he would have lost the use of his eye in any case, but I cannot help but think that the time he lived in contributed to his disability.
He must have been devastated.
I remember when I was told at age 8 that I needed to wear glasses. My world seemed to be collapsing around me.
I thought that I would not be able to run, swim or play Footy ever again!
I thought that the kids at school would make fun of me and in this regard, I only felt a bit better when the message came back that the older boy who lived across the road promised to belt anyone who made fun of me!
Ansel probably felt the way I did, but as often happens this misfortune turned out to be a blessing.
In fact, it saved his life.
When World War One broke out, Ansel’s two brothers signed up as most young men did at that time. One brother fought at Gallipoli and survived, only to die in France. The other brother saw action but died of disease as many of our soldiers did. Ansel was not accepted into the army due to his disability and went on to father five daughters and a son.
His troubled son signed up to fight in World War Two, received the second highest bravery award, survived the War, came home, fathered two sons and a daughter.
One of those sons is writing this now.
A simple childhood accident allows several generations to live their lives and tell their stories.
I met Ansel a few times.
We didn’t like each other very much.
Probably because we were a bit too much alike.
Neither of us ‘suffered fools gladly.’
As I do with all my ancestors, I owe my existence to Ansel, my grandfather.
He came to me in a dream and warned me not to let my arrogance get out of control.