My grandfather Cyril Brown grew up in Vinita, Oklahoma, a place I'm longing to see more and more every day that goes by. There's something romantic to me about small towns. The small, dusty towns with cowboys and outlaw legends; little white houses (as the song goes), faux store fronts, subtle accents, harsh-eyed ancestors of pioneers that are, that once were, that always will be. It's like a dream to me. I'm close to it here in mid-eastern Kansas, but somehow it feels faded.
I think of my grandfather, and I feel like I can be part of it somehow. That it exists in my blood. Red earth and train whistles. Indians and arrowheads buried deep in every backyard.
But he wanted nothing to do with it. He left to fight in WWI. He went from leading horses around unpaved streets, to riding horses in the cavalry in France. Then, years later, he came back to America only to hop a few trains and settle in Kansas City. What I know of his youth is that his father was a tough-talking drinker who ran around with the Younger Brothers. Mom says she tried to listen to the stories, mumbled out of a whiskey mouth reeking like a bottle of Old Crow, but being a young woman, missed too much to recall. Sometimes I can feel that wild outlaw in me, the rebel, the mustang rider whooping and hollering through town.
But here, here is a young man who came directly from that, but with much grace. You can see a simmering dignity in his eyes, a determination perhaps. There's that pioneer spirit, and there's the judge, yet to be. I knew him as my wrinkly old grandfather who came around with a fedora and pressed slacks, cigarette in hand. Cussed, talked loud—but importantly. Every afternoon he'd succumb to sleep, and I claimed his lap to do the same. I remember his long frame laid out in the glass coffin at his wake, and the grape bubble gum given to help ease my young grief.
I thought this advert was interesting as it shows the kind of selection available at a bookstore, turn of the century. Wallpaper indeed.