The Day My Grandfather Told a Joke
and Unlocked a Gate to His Ancestors.

Ancestor hunting can often take a strange turn. My grandfather Larry Winebrenner never talked much. Our family went to live with my grandparents at a time when my granddaddy was losing his ability to speak. I had to lean close and try to interpret his mumbling. Mumbling. Fine source for family information.

Not only did he not talk much, but he rarely spoke of his forebears. I had a thirst to know more about my ancestors even at the tender age of 13. Like any young teenager I was quite impatient. I told my grandmother, “I just can’t understand anything Granddaddy says!”

Wise woman that she was, she said, “Ask him about the watch.”

What a surprise this turned out to be.

“Granddaddy,” I said next day. “Tell me about the watch.”

Now he had worked on the railroad for 50 years and I expected some wild tale about how he had prevented a terrible wreck because his watch kept perfect time and the switchman was off in his timing, or some such adventure. That’s the way young boys’ minds work. Imagine my surprise when what he told me was a joke–a joke on a grandfather he hated.

“My mother’s name was Suzanne Logsdon before she got married,” he said more clearly than I ever remembered him speaking. This obviously was a much told story he loved reciting. This is the story he told.

Her father was Lawrence Logsdon. I was named for him. My other grandfather was Isaac Winebrenner. His name sounded like he was a Jew, but he wasn’t. He was a Methodist and belonged to the Eckert [MD] Methodist Church.

My Jewish sounding grandfather had three sons. The youngest was my daddy, James Hiram. He was so cockeyed he could see both his own ears. But he was a crack shot with the rifle. He could knock the eye out of a squirrel in a tree 300 yards away. And he could see good enough to recognize the beauty in Suzanne Logsdon. He fell in love with her and she with him in spite of his cocked eyes.

I guess that’s the way my two grandfathers, the one I loved, Lawrence Logsdon, and the other one, happened to be walking down the road together. They both saw the watch along side the road at the same time and made a dive for it. Old man Isaac got the case of he watch and Lawrence Logsdon got the chain. They each tried to pull the watch out of the other’s hand.

Now, Lawrence Logsdon was a wise and reasonable man. He said, “Wait a minute, Isaac. We’re going to break the watch and then it won’t be any good to either of us.”

My other grandfather wasn’t so dense that he couldn’t see the wisdom of that statement, so he asked, “Then how do we decide?”

Lawrence Logsdon said, “We’ll have a contest. Each of us will put the part of the watch we hold in our mouth. Surely we won’t break the watch if we pull with our mouths. Then we pull until one of us loses his end of the watch or one of us gets tired and gives up.”

Now Isaac Winebrenner had the larger piece and knew he could rip out the teeth of his opponent if he wanted. And he wanted the watch. So he agreed.

My granddaddy now was getting to the part he obviously relished. He began to mimic the speech of his grandparents. He said with an Irish lilt, “Grandfather Logsdon put the end of the watch chain in his mouth and gripped it with his teeth. Grandfather Isaac put the watch case in his mouth. Grandfather Logsdon said, “Urr ye ready?”

My own granddaddy, with much delight repeated his Grandfather Isaac’s response with a wide mouthed “Yah.”

The outcome was obvious as my grandfather chuckled and took a gold watch from his pocket.

“I don’t think Grandfather Isaac ever forgave him. But when Grandfather Lawrence told me the story, he gave me the watch. I don’t think he much liked Grandfather Isaac, either.”

Consider the information and leads rendered from this story. It was a pleasure hearing him tell it, even though he sometimes lapsed into his mumbling and I’d have to ask him to repeat something.

While I had his attention I asked him the name of Isaac’s father. He told me it was Morris, but he didn’t much care to talk about his Grandfather Isaac nor any of the family. I pushed him a little and he told me that he’d gone fishing on the Potomac River one time down near Frederick MD with Stanley Dorman, his son-in-law. He met a man named D. C. Winebrenner who was also fishing.

As they talked D. C. said, “We must be kin. You’re related to that branch that went over to Allegany County. I’ve got some things I think you’d be interested in.”

But Stanley didn’t have time and Granddaddy wasn’t that interested anyhow, so whatever D. C. had to show remained a family mystery.

I told Granddaddy that his grandfather probably gave him the watch because he was named Lawrence after him. Since my name was Lawrence and I was his grandson, maybe he should do the same for me.

He just chuckled and put the watch back into his pocket.

That’s O.K. I loved him anyhow.




Perhaps you have an Irish ancestor that you love and you'd like to know more about that ancestor's background. A very informative site that you will enjoy can be reached at the We Are Irish site. Visit it and have fun.



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