I was seven years old, and through the glass window of the cabin I saw a black caped figure roaming through the woods.
“Look kids, who is that?” my aunts, uncles, and parents were all asking as they pointed beyond the trees to this mysterious man. Six little cousins leaned up against the glass with wide eyes. Could it be true that the dashing, dangerous outlaw himself was hiding his treasure right before my eyes?
My younger cousins screeched in delight. “Black Bart! Black Bart!” I, astute seven-year-old that I was, frowned and stayed put. Why did Black Bart look so familiar? Angrily I said, “That’s not Black Bart! That’s Grandaddy!”
No one at the window acknowledged me. I said it louder. Was everybody blind? I knew it was Grandaddy by the way he walked. I could see his tennis shoes under the cape. Why was everybody falling for this?
“That’s not Black Bart!” I cried again in frustration, starting to cry. And then my mom pulled me aside and admonished me, saying yes, it was Grandaddy, but please don’t ruin the surprise for the other kids.
I remember being angry that my family thought they could trick me so easily, and even angrier when a bemused, poker-faced Grandaddy sat by the fire later that night with a slight smile as my cousins told him about the “Black Bart sighting.”
Today I chuckle at my indignant little-girl attitude and appreciate how sweet Grandaddy was to pretend to be the notorious outlaw we all loved.
Grandaddy didn’t often dress up and pull clever schemes like that, but I love this early memory (even though it doesn’t paint me favorably!) because it shows how much he loved his grandkids. He wanted us to be happy, and if that meant masquerading as Black Bart, then he would do it.
Often quiet, reserved, and thoughtful, I remember Grandaddy’s seriousness more than silly stunts like these. But his seriousness was a wise, peaceful kind. His presence made you feel calm – everything he said was deliberate and with purpose. Everything he did, for that matter, was with purpose.
Grandaddy didn’t waste time. He read widely, conversed deeply, and studied diligently. He was a man of words, theology, and family. It was rare for a day to go by in which he didn’t nap in a recliner with a book by his side. He knew how to work and how to rest.
He understood the value of exercise, rising early to walk with my Grandma every morning before the day grew too hot. He brewed a pot of coffee every morning.
Ashley and I loved to buy him Turtle candies and make him pecan tassies, because it always pleased him so much. Such simple joys – but Grandaddy was good at appreciating the simple things. Dinner with his children and grandchildren. A fall stroll around the lake. Watching his family laugh and play games together. A humorous story. A conversation, a prayer, a scripture, a hug.
Two years ago today he went to be with Jesus.
I wish he could be Black Bart for me one more time.


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