The Light Behind the World
Chapter 2: Touchstone
Copyright© 2010 by Sea-Life
My Father is Gerald Alan McKesson the Fourth, and I owe my not being Gerald Alan McKesson the fifth to a general tendency to disapprove of anything which 'Grandfather McKesson' proposed. Whenever my parents spoke of my grandfather they referred to him in that manner, and I could indeed hear the quote marks around the words as they spoke them.
Great-Grandfather McKesson was 'Bull' McKesson, and he, as was his father, were local legends and forces of nature in the region that included coastal North Carolina, having achieved the status of 'Captains of Industry' to hear Grandfather McKesson speak of it. And yes, once again there were unspoken but well understood quotes associated with that phrase as well.
The matter-antimatter nature of their relationship, Dad's and Grandfather McKesson's, reached its pinnacle when Dad announced after receiving his Master's Degree from UNC in Civil Engineering, that he intended to pursue his Doctorate in far off and presumably liberal and radical California. Never mind that the scholarship was to Cal Tech, nor that it would be in the "safe and conservative" community of Pasadena, California. It was far away from the comforts of the family estate on the banks of Chocowinity Bay. Away from Grandfather McKesson's manipulations and interference. Away from the pain of Grandma McKesson's passing, and as I heard from mom later, away from the attentions and expectations of Evangeline Shorritch and her kin, whose almost-as-wealthy family had agreed during Dad's youth that they would be a good match.
I remember Dad telling me that the only good things which came of being raised on Chocowinity Bay, was a love for sailing, which he had learned from an Uncle, and the memories of being able to tell his Dad with a straight face, on his tenth birthday that when he grew up he was going to be an important person and go live in Washington. The joy in that memory apparently was the fact that the town just a few miles northeast of Chocowinity on US Highway 17 was Washington, North Carolina, and to the best of my Dad's knowledge, Grandfather McKesson never got the joke.
When Dad got home that evening, he showed me where his 'stash of fool's gold' was, on a high shelf in his study, and led me down to the cellar and dug out an old canvas bag which contained the tools he'd bought. The brief but deep obsession with gold prospecting my father experienced ten years ago had left me in good shape. His book collection was extensive, covering the gamut of prospector how-to's and local maps clear on up to geologic and mineralogy texts. But equally as important, was a seemingly complete and mint condition set of rock hammers, picks, shovels, and sample containers of various sizes. I was set indeed, and only a little study, and a little toil remained, and I would manage the transformation into the rock hound I had represented myself as to the lovely Ginny.