Tales of an old cattle wrangler...

William Francis Robie was certainly a storyteller.  I remember one time when I was just a very little girl, and we were walking around his family farm in Charles County, Maryland.  He pointed toward an old tree stump we could see in the distance up on a knoll.  "That," he said solemnly, "was where I was born."  We walked a bit further.  "Yep," he continued, "it was a dark and stormy night, and the wind was howling something fierce.  Then, all of a sudden there was a giant clap of thunder, and a huge bolt of lightening struck that old oak -- snapped it off at the roots -- and next thing you know, I stepped out of the stump, fully grown and wiping the the rain off my matching six-shooters."

All that a young girl could do in the face of such magnificence was to nod her head, awestruck.

Pop had a way of making you feel happy and excited, and sure that some adventure was imminent.  When I was five, my family moved from Boston to California.  Pop came along on the trip to help my parents with the driving, but I think it was secretly because he wanted to go through Texas -- he was an archetypal Texan in a Marylander's body.  Anyway, once we reached California, we stopped at Knott's Berry Farm for a little bit of fun towards the end of our long drive across country.

Now, Knott's Berry Farm in the mid-1960s was a much more low-key place than it is today -- back then, it was more about panning for gold, or "talking" to plaster images of old prospectors than it was about thrill rides.  My sister and I were waiting in a line to talk to one of these plaster old-timers languishing in a jail house, and could overhear all the conversations taking place with the kids in line before us.  The old guy would say something like, "well, howdy, little girl!" or "hello there, young feller!"  Then, it was our turn, and he exclaimed:  "WELL, IF IT ISN'T KATHY AND NANCY!"  We could only gape at him, dumbstruck.  "Your grandfather and I were cattle wranglers together, back in Texas!  You know, to this day I don't know how he managed to get out of that jail back in Amarillo.  Well, that old fox could outsmart them all...."  He went on in that vein for quite some time, and we were spellbound.  You see, we had heard these stories our entire lives, and the thought that this old timer knew them too (even if he was made of plaster) was just amazing.  I think I can truly say it was one of those magical moments in life, when you are just filled with wonder.

Here I am with Pop, at one of those ubiquitous gas stations with a pony ride, somewhere in the middle of the country.

Pop, as one of those plaster old-timers at Calico
branching out--boots

My grandfather was an expert at making all his children and grandchildren feel that they were the most precious thing in the world to him.  At Thanksgiving, Pop would always take me aside, fingers on his lips:  "Shhh, don't tell anyone..... I've saved the best part of the turkey for you," and pop some morsel into my mouth.  Of course, he did the same thing for everyone else, but somehow managed to make each one of us feel special.  We love you, Pop!