My name is Max A. Myers Farrell, and I am the grandson of Brig. Gen. Oliver William Myers who is, was, and always will be my Granddaddy.
Many knew my grandfather as Gen. Myers, Dub, Dubber, Mr. Dub and so on, but I’ve always known him as Granddaddy.
From the days of having “Yes sir” and “Yes Ma’am” ingrained in my vocabulary to being told to look after my mama after every visit I had with him, Granddaddy planted all the right seeds to make me aware of the world around me and gave me the tools to appreciate the blessings around me.
One of the many blessings Granddaddy gave me was the Duck Woods, the refuge so many of us had the privilege to seek out for male camaraderie, fellowship and solitude.
From the time he was a boy hunting to put food on the table until this past season at the age of 82, he only missed one duck season, when he was fighting in the Korean War. Granddaddy loved the duck woods and nurtured that same passion in me. We have hunted together every season since I was 5 years old.
He was there when I killed my first duck (as well as my first deer); and it was in the duck woods when I was old enough to drive that he put me behind the wheel of the truck so that he could drink a beer. And then he gave me my first beer.
Throughout my life he provided me with rites of passage in showing me how to first be a man and then how to be a better man.
There were times when Granddaddy and I would sit next to one another in his duck blind, pondering the world. I’d have my cup of hot chocolate and he’d have his peppermint-flavored coffee, both steaming in the below-freezing temperatures.
We’d sit in silence for a good 30-45 minutes, scanning the sky for ducks, listening to the wind and watching the last leaves of fall melt into the flooded timber around us. Just thinking.
Sometimes he would break the silence with a simple question like “What time does Arkansas play,” to get the chatter going. But other times he’d simply tell me, “Son, we are really lucky.”
I would reply back “Yes, sir,” and nod in agreeing fashion.
But I’d ask myself, “Just how are we so lucky?” We hadn’t killed any ducks that day, let alone seen many. It was below freezing and I had slept less than four hours. It didn’t help that my coveralls were too small.
But the silence picked up again, and it finally made sense to me.
We had a heater in our blind. We had an escape to call our own that became a symbol of camaraderie and friendship for myself and so many other men. We had a great family to go back to. We had great friends around us. We had home-cooked food waiting on us back at the cabin. And if we were really lucky, the Razorbacks might actually win that Saturday.
That’s not too bad for a man who was born in Forrest City, Ark., with nothing and left this world with everything. We were lucky.
Those periods of solitude with my grandfather provided some of the healthiest thinking of my life, and I am a better man from spending those times in the woods with Granddaddy. It was just one of the many seeds my Granddaddy left with me.
In June, I spoke with him on the deck behind his house overlooking the lake he had grown to love over the past few years. He was getting around in a wheelchair but still had high spirits.
I asked him if he was happy. I was sure that he would tell me he was tired and complain about the handicapped state he was in. But that wasn’t my Granddaddy. Without missing a beat, he nodded affirmatively to my question. He was happy.
“But how?” I asked. Even though he was in a wheelchair and even though he was at his weakest, how could he say that?
“I’ve got God and family.”
I smiled at him and he flashed that Granddaddy grin of his right back at me. He was happy. And we are lucky. Even though he was in a wheelchair, I realized he was the strongest man I would ever meet in my life.
He set the example for how to live a model life. He loved his country, he loved his community, he loved his friends, he loved his family and he loved my Meemaws so much.
He was a leader of people, but he taught us all how to lead our own lives. The basis of many of my life philosophies started in a duck blind with my Granddaddy, and it’s those special moments in the silence of good company that have made me embrace the world around me.
The seeds my Granddaddy has left behind have been planted in many of us. Our gardener has gone home. Now it’s up to us to put those seeds to good use and grow.
Just like Granddaddy planned it.