The war was over in August, so he settled for riding a pony and delivering messages between railroad bosses as the Louisville & Nashville laid track into Knoxville. "It was rough in them camps. I saw a colored man killed by a working boss and not a word said. I got out of there." He stamped the "Ivory" on bars of Ivory soap in Ivorydale, Ohio for 19� an hour. "I got the bars stacked up way ahead of the packers. The foreman said, 'We're taking your helper away and giving you a raise to 23�.' " That seemed a speed-up tactic to Grandad, or so he said as a pretext for leaving. He slung hash on the packet up the Ohio from Cincinnati. In Pittsburgh he worked at what would be his life's real labor, the heating of iron and steel, but the wanderlust still surged in him. In 1900, when he was 23, the largest ship in the world, the
, put into Hoboken, N.J., and much of her crew deserted. Grandad signed on.
"That ship was 662 feet long and had four stacks and 56 boilers. I was a fireman, a stoker. The boilers were so big they had a fire on each side. I had to splice fire, keep a high fire on one side of the boilers, a low fire on the other." He worked four hours on, eight off. "A boy with a bucket came around and gave us a drink of whiskey an hour after we went down, and again an hour before we came up." There were a number of fights between the German and American factions, Grandad having to flatten a few heads with his shovel, but enough steam was kept up to drive the ship to England in five days and seven hours, a record crossing. "We carried 50 first-class, 2,250 second-class and 800 steerage passengers," said Grandad. "The rich ones passed a hat and collected $5,000 as a prize for the crew. None of that reached the boiler room, you understand."
There were compensations, such as a week in Hamburg. It is his recollection that he was there when Kaiser Wilhelm displayed his troops before Theodore Roosevelt in Berlin.
" 'Ted,' said William, 'What do you think?'
" 'William,' said Teddy, 'If I had an army like that, I could stand off the world.' Of course Teddy was just being polite. How was he to know the fool Kaiser would go and believe him?"
Grandad, quizzed by tender grandsons, was vague about exactly how he spent his time in Germany. He tended to roll his eyes and say only, "There were six blocks of concert-hall saloons in Hamburg. And could those German girls drink! Hoi yoi yoi!"
The Hamburg-American line hired a full German crew for the return voyage, so Grandad did kitchen duty. He stepped ashore freed of foreign cravings, ready to go to work and raise a family.
When I was 13, I hunted with my grandfather. I walked through the Oregon uplands ahead of him, carrying a 16-gauge shotgun loaded with No. 6 shot, for pheasants and squirrels. My instructions on seeing a deer were to lie down flat in a hurry because Grandad brandished a double-barreled 12-gauge loaded with solid lead slugs. We never saw a deer, which saved me, as I surely would have stood transfixed before the muzzle of that elephant gun, and Grandad, inflamed with buck fever at 80, surely would have let loose.
Because my father had told me of his hunting with Grandad, these times seemed to have a certain resonance, the echo of generations. "Dad hunted rabbits around Pittsburgh," my father had said, "and we ate rabbit often. We took walks, hunting mushrooms, collecting May apples and poke and dandelion greens, and one of us always carried the old single-shot .22. Once, walking, Dad took my shoulder and said, 'Look, there's a rabbit.' I peered into the thicket he was pointing at, but I couldn't see any rabbit. He carefully described the limb I was to follow, the twig, the leaf that was just above the rabbit's ear, and told me to aim just below there. I fired twice, and nothing moved.
" 'You missed,' he said.