Makings of a Man
By: Al Harden
I wrote a book for my sons called SONSCAPE “available here on amazon.” Within the book there’s a (Legacy) page in which I wrote “I love you and I'm sure my father loves me and his father loved him. I left a particular Legacy for you I'm not proud of. It wasn't intentional but it was something I could not stop. The role I played in this endeavor was part of the harassed, denounced and deprived. Unfortunately you may continue to encounter these issues. I wish I could stop this maltreatment but I do not know how. So I attempt to teach you how to survive in this climate exactly how I have been able to survive, and my father, and his father.”
Reflecting on that passage there are many people who have given me wisdom and advice and people that I look up to like my father Joe Harden where I learned discipline and unconditional love. My step father Charles Hooper where I learned patience and the value of trying new things in order to challenge myself. However in order to truly understand where I am today I’ll have to tell you about my grandfather Charles Woods whom I affectionately called (Papap). He set the foundation for me to build my life and to raise my family.
Papap taught by example. He worked in a foundry every weekday and would work on the farm when he got off of work as well as on weekends. He taught me the importance of having a strong work ethic as well as making time to do things that I enjoyed. We would work around the house together and also pick grapes and doing other jobs around the orchard. Papap and I would get into just about everything!
My grandfather and I would drive around in his old truck going here and there. We would often stop and do things for people he knew as well as for strangers. Papap would also take me around to go visit with his friends. We would do “drive-bys.” Papap would drive by poking his head out of the truck’s window to say ”hey, how are you doing?” That was his way of checking in on people.
When I started working at the age of 14 Papap would drive me to work “ensuring that I got there in plenty enough time.” Papap was my second business partner, my first was my brother Charles Harden. We walked around peddling little nuts that fell off the trees. My brothers and I had no takers and never sold anything, however we were able to make a jar full of pennies worth about $19 when we found a missing cat.
I had a hobby of raising rabbits, “at one point I had probably close to 60 of them.” Papap and I would always stop and get rabbit food and other supplies during our adventures. One day he asked me to bring him five rabbits, “he didn't tell me why but it didn't matter - as a dutiful grandson I carried out his wishes.” Then he told me to get him a short 2x4. Once I complied he proceeded to butcher the rabbits/pets and I was shocked - my eyes filled with tears. There was one rabbit left alive which was one of my favorites so I asked if I could take that one back and go get another one. Papap agreed so I took a stroll down death row to see who was next. It felt as though I took forever but I returned with another rabbit. He then instructed me to get a pot with water, then a little later to get some salt. My next order was to go get some plastic bags and get in the truck.
There was complete silence while I was riding in the truck with these five butchered and dressed pets. We pulled up to his friends house and they exchanged pleasantries while I sat on the passenger side in complete silence. Papap handed his friend the rabbits and his friend gave him $20 which my grandfather passed along to me. My eyes opened wide and a smile even invaded my face. That was the official start of my new rabbit farming business!
Papap loved his wife “my grandmother” who unfortunately passed before I was born. My grandmother did however have the opportunity to give me my name before she passed. Papap was no nonsense. He fiercely defended his family, John Wick II comes to mind but Papap’s dogs would bite! “thats another story.”
When I joined the Marine Corps Papap was the first person to tell me how proud he was of me. When I came back home he was definitely proud and happy to see me. We hopped right back in his truck and started making our rounds visiting family and friends.
As a man you learn to take little bits and pieces from everyone in your life and use them to help weave your way through life. Even to this day I’m comprehending lessons that Papap and others taught me years ago that I wasn’t able to grasp when I was younger.