My grandfather was a one-of-a-kind type of guy, a mixture of sailor, rascal, gentleman, rapscallion, yarn-spinner, fisherman, dreamer, and patriarch. He was bigger than life. He ran away from home, joined the Merchant Marines, sailed the seven seas, and had the tattoos to prove it. During his colorful life, one of his jobs was to paint circus wagons for Ringling Brothers Circus. He had a steady hand and use these special sable brushes, imported from Russia, to paint stripes and curlycues. My uncle gave each of us one, and I touch it every now and then, just to rest my hand where I know Grandaddy's had been. In my mind I can hear his laugh, smell his outdoorsy smell, feel the press of his big arm holding me close.


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