When I was growing up, I always thought Gramps was eccentric and, well, a bit daft. He spoke softly in a strange, lilting tone. His actual words were a riddle to me.
One of the oddest things about Gramps was his building projects. He had turned his small farm in upstate New York into a medieval village. Not the entire village, just a few tiny thatched houses and other odds and ends. But the centerpiece was a full-sized ruined castle. There was just one wall with a pointed arch portal and a tall, narrow, crenelated tower remaining. I know it was newly built, but it looked ancient. I used to play make believe about goblins and elves and things every time we visited. I had so much fun playing around it.
Never in it, though.
I was told there was only one room that could be used, and it was Gramps’ private domain.
He passed away I was 16. I was allowed one quick look into the tower before my dad and Uncle Jim sold the property. I was quite disappointed. It was almost empty, just a couple of ruck sacks and strange gear. Nothing exciting. No dragon gold or elvish rings.
I had half forgotten Gramps and his “whimsey”, as Dad called it, when I saw a photo of the tower in a a magazine.
Only it was in France, not upstate New York.
To say I was intrigued would be to be putting it mildly.
With a bit of research, I finally found a story about of a handful of American GIs that held off a German battalion for a couple of days from within those ruined walls. By the time reinforcements arrived, only one wounded soldier was found alive. He was up in that tower, cradling a machine gun and surrounded by thousands of spent rounds. The story isn’t well known beyond the village, but it is legendary there.
Back home after the needed trip to France to see it with my own eyes, I asked around. He never said a word about the war and nobody in the family knew the story.
I think of Gramps a lot more now than I did before I made that discovery of his past. I still think he was a little eccentric, but I also think he towered over more ordinary men.
This was written for the writephoto challenge, now run by KL Caley. She provided the image at the top and the key word “Tower”.
Just a FYI, my first thought when coming up with the idea was about him “towered over more ordinary men”. After that hint, the rest wrote itself…