My grandfather, Clarence Fisher, was a wry old Ozarks subsistence-farmer who grew up cutting cedar saplings to sell as fenceposts to other poor farmers.
He built just about every house he ever lived in, and since he had to live in it, he did it right, dad burn it. He learned by doing, and became quite a good engineer, taking major roles in building a good portion of the College of the Ozarks, aka "Hard Work U".
I remember, when I visited for weeks over the summers, how much time he spent repairing his own cars. Over the years he'd fight and puzzle over how they made the spark plugs harder and harder to get to, to the point where he'd have to buy $200 in special equipment just to do the points or replace the plugs. He was trying to teach me how to repair the engine, as he'd trained his own son, but was getting curve balls as the cars got newer.
Later, when I began travelling the globe, I learned how Africans have preference for certain older cars, because they could maintain them. I read about the same thing in Cuba.
When Grandpa Fisher passed away, at 91 years old, he left no debt, and most probably a bigger inheritance than I will leave, with my fancy MBA. He made things last, and he taught me that people without a college degree are smarter than we might think they are. When I came back from Peace Corps in Cameroon, he and I had more in common than we had before I left. Only then had I killed my own chicken before I ate it.
An infamous Taney County politician, a known rascal, running for a judgeship saw my Grandpa on the street, and knowing Grandpa was an influential and regular churchgoer (who helped build the Church as a volunteer architect, by the way) came up to him in front of some other people, and figured if he could show he was in good with Clarence Fisher, he might pick up a few more votes.
He put his arm around the shoulder of my Grandpa, and said in a voice loud enough for all to hear, that he and Clarence Fisher had something important in common:
"Clarence, you and I both want the same thing. At the end of our lives, we want a place to rejoice with the Lord our Father in heaven."
Without skipping a beat, my Grandpa replied,
"Pete, you and I both know, if you was to die today, you'd split hell wide open. And I reckon I'd be there too. For killing you."
Well, Judge Pete lived, and if I'm sure of anything, nothing is more certain to me than that Grandpa didn't wind up there. Nor Huck Finn, neither.