A photo of myself as a young child with my grandparents, Watson and Bertha Mabey.
The Beloved Patriarch
By Richard James Mabey Jr.
All throughout today, I thought of my paternal grandfather, Watson Mabey. In the hustle and bustle of my job in the Security Division of a gated community in Florida, I felt the call of my heart. I felt the call to a simpler time. I felt the call before the days of 12 hidden cameras feeding into 12 monitors. I felt the call of the days when people didn’t have to show identification cards, pass by gatehouses, to get from one place to another. I felt this strange homesick feeling. I felt this dull ache of missing Grandpa Mabey, the proud patriarch.
Grandpa Mabey was a proud man. He stood tall and handsome.
My grandfather was a tall man. He stood proud and handsome. He was an incredibly hard working man. I remember he had this great wisdom of how to move very heavy objects with ease and grace. He had a great knowledge of pulley systems and rigging. Grandpa was very strong. Even in his elderly years, I remember he could move big timbers with little effort.
A photo, taken in 1996, of the remains of the foundation of the old Mabey Icehouse.
In his youth, Grandpa worked with his father, William and brother, Earl, on the old Morris Canal. The family owned an icehouse, which was located along the towpath of the canal. In the spring, summer and fall, canal boat captains would buy ice to keep their food cold that they had stored in their canal boats. In the winter time Watson, with the help of his father and brother, would cut blocks of ice from the frozen canal. They would be stored in in the icehouse, packed between thick layers of sawdust.
A photo of Incline Plane Ten East of the old Morris Canal.
In the years of his young manhood, Grandpa worked as the Chief Engineer of Incline Plane Ten East of the Morris Canal. This particular incline plane was located in Beavertown, near the Towaco border. Here, my grandfather learned a lot about the practical application of the principles of physics. It was here that Grandpa learned how to move very heavy objects, with very little effort.
A photo of my Grandpa Mabey with some of his completed taxidermy projects.
Grandpa was a skilled craftsman in the art of taxidermy. He took great pride in his taxidermy projects. He had the patience, the intelligence and the artistic drive to create taxidermy projects worthy of being exhibited in a museum. Grandpa was a very special man.
Grandma and Grandpa aboard their trusty Indian motorcycle.
In his younger years, Grandpa loved to ride his Indian motorcycle. He often told me the stories of how he would take Grandma for a ride on his motorcycle, all about the paved and unpaved roads of old Beavertown.
My grandfather was a good man. He was a fair man. He was kind at times. He was tough at times. You couldn’t pull anything off on Grandpa. He could just look you in the eye and immediately know if you were telling him the truth or not. Not just the truth, but the whole truth.
I loved him very much. I miss him very much. When I was 12 years old and spent a year of my life fighting rheumatic fever, Grandpa would visit me in my bedroom. He would tell me stories of working on the old Morris Canal. I had the same bedroom that Grandpa shared with his brother Earl, when they were boys. So, it must have seemed kind of odd for Grandpa to visit with me in that particular bedroom of the old Mabey Homestead.
As the clock clicked today, as I checked people’s identification cards, as I completed paperwork; I thought of my grandfather a lot today. I don’t know what it was. I just missed him very much. I just have this yearning to be out of Florida, to be devoting more of my time to writing. I guess, deep down, I was wishing that Grandpa was here with me. Just to tell him what I was feeling.
I think that a writer is constantly fighting self doubts. It is not easy to be a writer. You get a ton of rejection slips before you end up getting the one letter of acceptance for even just one short story. Not to be sounding too Twilight Zone, but I felt the presence of Grandpa, while I was working in my Gatehouse today. I felt his hand on my shoulder. I could hear his whisper to me, “Dicky Jim, this is done. You need to be spending more time on your writing.”
Peace and harmony,