Posted by: Terry | August 10, 2015

Grandpa, hard-work and contentment

The Nelson Oil Company truck was Prussian blue with the large circular, orange and white Union 76 logo on the sides and doors, a Chevy I think but it very well could have been a Ford. Grandpa, Henry Meyer, delivered heating oil in and around Independence, Oregon for Marc Nelson. One day each week he did the “South Run”, delivering heating oil and diesel fuel to the farms south of town.

Each summer I would spend a week or so with Grandma and Grandpa, my mother’s parents, he would take me with him on that weekly run. To a boy of eight it was a grand adventure, made all the better by a stop at a tiny country store (this was long before 7-11 made them tacky and obsolete) for an orange soda. Grandpa had a “cigareeette”, as he pronounced it. (Back in the days when smoking was a harmless indulgence.)

My mother came from a family of what we would call migrant farm workers. They left Nebraska during the dust bowl when she was 10; Henry, Esther (Grandma), Uncle Rusty, Aunt Carol, and my Mom, Ruth. In Nebraska they worked as farm hands, they never had much money, sometimes they lived in a tent, Mom and Rusty played with toy trucks in dust a foot deep. The move to Oregon was to work in the bean and hop fields, and the whole family worked every day just to survive.

It was a good move; Rusty married Lucky and had a career as a truck driver, Carol married Johnny who worked for Carnation Dairy, they ended up in Southern California. Mom, I am sure I am a bit biased, did the best. She became a registered x-ray technician, and then went on to be the project manager for the 2nd ever research project studying the effectiveness of mammograms at Good Samaritan Hospital in Portland, Oregon.

I remember Grandpa delivering oil and Grandma working at the Santiam cannery in Salem, Oregon. Mom says that Grandpa never earned more than $300 a month his whole life. What I remember more is that they seemed content.

The first house they ever owned is now a historical building in Independence, then they moved to a newer house at 444 “F” Street. Grandpa would take a nap on the couch with an afghan crocheted by Grandma. Grandma could cook. Oh! How she could cook. I remember warm bread with butter and jam, and her egg-noodles with turkey make me hungry just thinking about them. Christmas candy and cookies, a tradition my mother keeps alive even now, was ubiquitous.

Vacations for them were rare and modest; the highlight was a trip to Yellowstone. Agate Beach in Oregon was a favorite when they could afford such a trip; life for them was mostly around work.

Grandpa and Grandma never had much by today’s standards, but they did have something rare in this world – they found contentment in what they had. I realize that I was young but I never heard them complain.

Grandpa was a craftsman; I still have and use some of his tools. He was a musician, he played country fiddle accompanied by Grandma on the Banjo. Together they played barn dances in Nebraska. When I think of the times, the hardship, the poverty of them and their neighbors, and yet they all got together to dance and sing, I am humbled by how often I complain.

They are an inspiration to me, a motivation to do what it takes to make it, and to find a way to enjoy what you have. Grandma and Grandpa lived what Paul wrote, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”



  1. This is amazing. Rusty and lucky were my grandparents. Their daughter Jackie was my mother. Thank you very much for writing this. This made me evening. And even brought a little happy tear to my eye. Thank you sir.

    • Thank you, glad you found it. Where did you find it?

  2. Yes Terry, those were very special times. They could not read “music” but would listen to it and then play it. Wish I had asked Dad how he learned to play the violin.

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