Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Elmer and Orville

My grandfather, Orville Pierpont, grew up in central Ohio long before every family owned an automobile. Once a week or so the family would hitch-up a wagon and drive it to town for supplies. During the winter on one of those trips to town the ground was covered with snow and so they loaded the whole family in the sleigh.

As usual, they followed the river for about a mile and crossed at the bridge. On the way back home the river was frozen-over and so they took the short route over the ice.

It was a serious mistake. Crossing the river the ice caved in. My great grandmother Lilley was thrown from the sleigh. She was holding my grandfather, baby Orville, and he fell from her arms into the fast-running water.

My grandfather’s two older brothers were able to make their way safely to the river bank. Their parents stayed in the icy water trying desperately to save baby Orville. He was in the water along with all the contents of the sleigh.

What happened next will live in the family annals for a long time to come. Orville, the baby of the family, was rescued alive from the water.

The part of the story that my grandfather loved to tell was what happened there on the bank of the river while he was bobbing around in the icy water. His older brother Elmer’s concern was that the groceries were thrown into the water and they were being carried downstream.

Elmer, seeing the magnitude of the situation began calling out instructions from the river bank. His family remembered his exact words. He shouted, “Save the Post Toasties! Hey, somebody save the Post Toasties!

Elmer Darvin Pierpont died in December of 1964 when I was 3 years old and this was all I was ever told of him.

As for my grandfather, he lived to marry Audrey Ables and raise four kids, including my father. He started out life as an ice delivery man until he fell and hurt his back. He went on to become an automobile mechanic. If you needed a man to fix your car you took it to Orville Pierpont’s garage in Utica, Ohio. He died in 1989.

Because of some unfortunate family strife I went 14 years without seeing my grandfather. In 1986 I walked into his living room after having not seen him since I was eleven and he embraced me like no time had passed at all.

Orville was a good man whose life was exceeedingly more valuable than a box of cereal. No matter what his brother Elmer might have thought at the time!

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