I've been doing some research for my class on "Don't Color Your Roots, Embrace Them" (this Thursday March 27th at 6pm at Rock Point Books in Chattanooga). One thing I'll be discussing is how to examine your own personality traits and then search for them in your ancestors and relatives. In doing so, I believe we can gain greater insights into who we are.
This afternoon I ran across this wonderful story about my paternal
grandfather, Sherman J. Morton. It's from a book called The Lookout Mountain Mortons and Their Descendants by Donna Morton
As I read this account, I couldn't help but think of my son
Caleb, who refuses to quit when he sets his mind to something. I also see quite a bit of myself here - in
particular my tenacious refusal to let a troublesome piece of programming code,
water pipe, or lack of professional training get the better of me.
Donna Morton Morgan wrote, "One day, my sister Myrtle (Barton) Crisp, my mother and I visited Sherman in Soddy Daisy, Tennessee. He was showing us some of his properties and, in particular, a new subdivision he and his son had under construction. It had been raining for days. But as, usual for a Morton, Sherman was not daunted by the slick, sticky, deep red clay of the freshly graded, unfinished road. He drove right into the mess. What a ride. We slid, slipped and slung mud which almost blotted out the sky. At one point, we were stuck, and it appeared that the only way out was to walk ankle-deep in this beautiful red clay, one hears so much about. However, Sherman was not to be outdone. He refused to give up and demanded of the car that it unstick itself from the hub-cap deep mud and climb the hill. It did! All my sister and I could do was sit in the back, squeal, giggle, and laugh like children until the tears ran down our cheeks. It was so reminiscent of the hair-raising rides we had taken in the past with our father and his determination to beat all the odds. It was exhilarating! The bad part of it was, Sherman had to explain to his sons, Jack and Donald, how and who had torn up the road. It was either that or wash the tale-tell evidence from the car." (p 18)
Knowing my father, Jack, as I do, I'm sure he fairly
rejoiced that my Papaw had torn up the road so he could get back on his
bulldozer and play some more.
Another story I remember about my Papaw was how into his
90's he'd go out and move rocks. He'd move a pile of rocks to one place one day
and then get out the next and decide he'd rather have them elsewhere. He'd
spend hours moving the pile to a new location. If one word could sum up Sherman
Morton it was "worker." Like my grandfather, I find myself working
most of the time - just working for the sheer love of working - even when what
I'm toiling over may serve no grand or noble end. It's incredibly easy to get
lost in the task, and I have to actively remind myself to work with focus and
not only for the sheer joy of working.
Also like my grandfather I tend to be enterprising, but whereas I'll leave a stack of books and Web sites as my legacy, Sherman Morton left real estate, subdivisions, trailer parks, and office complexes. The man was a railroad engineer with a 2nd grade education who went to restaurant management school in his 90's. He proved that anyone, who had determination and a willingness to learn could accomplish his goals.
He may not have done the job the way the experts would, but he got it done. For example, he built his house in Daisy with a well partially dug beneath it. He didn't realize until the house was completed (and he went to finish the well) that he'd hit rock. The only way to finish the well was to get out the dynamite. They evacuated the house and Sherman blasted the well anyway. The rock house, like the undaunted man, withstood the stress.
I think we really don't know ourselves until we know our ancestors. Sometimes, we can't grasp what we can accomplish until we see how they survived their challenges. As I think of my grandfather, I'm honored to know his blood runs through my veins. I'm grateful to have inherited some of his traits - for with his traits I feel a renewed determination and capacity to fight the good fight, finish my course, and keep the faith.