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" 'Of course I missed, because there's no rabbit there.'
" 'Shoot again.'
" 'Can't. No more shells.' I started into the thicket to show him he was just looking at a lump of sod, but he held me and took a quarter out of his pocket.
" 'Run down to McKees Rocks and get some more.' So he sat down and chewed tobacco and watched while I ran the two miles to McKees Rocks and got the cartridges and ran the two miles back. And when I shot again, a rabbit came kicking out of there and died at our feet.
" 'Don't tell me about rabbits,' he said."
Lest such a story leave an impression of coldness, my father always added that Grandad was a gentle man. I, in turn, wondered at his choice of words. "He loved flowers and growing things," my father said. "He kept our vases filled with roses. He always wore a boutonniere."
"But he destroyed the plants in picking the tomatoes," I said. "The rose in his lapel was torn from the neighbor's bush."
"But the thought, the gentleness," said my father, a good son, "was in his mind, anyway."
At one time I believed that my grandfather had stolen my grandmother from her adopted family in Tennessee. The misapprehension arose from complaints I heard my grandmother, Delia Clark Moore, voice when I was small. In fact, though it was clearly a crazy match, she had come North with him of her own will. "But she was the essence of a Southern girl," says her first daughter, my aunt, Vivian Bristow. "The tragedy of my mother was that she was totally naive and protected, without formal education. When she was swept off her feet by this handsome, traveled, hugely energetic man—my father—she simply couldn't know what she was getting into." They were married in Pittsburgh on Dec. 23, 1904. "She was horrified at the life in the mills, the fighting, the drunkenness," says Aunt Vivian. "She would have left in a week if she'd had a place to go."
Instead, she produced a family of three girls and two boys, the youngest of whom was my father. Grandad is revered by his children, who remember him as a powerful presence in times of crisis. "During the great flu epidemic of 1918-19, my mother and four of the kids were deathly ill," said my father. "He spent his days nursing us, taking us back and forth to the hospital. He had his own aids for our recovery—a mixture of onion juice and coal oil was one—and his instructions were not quite orders. 'Drink this! Hold this on your chest! Now go to sleep!' If he wasn't gentle, he was deeply concerned."