My Grandpa

roof1Pulling into the barnyard on a recent visit, my parents found my Grandpa up on his roof. He was up there with a bucket of tar, fixing a leak. Never one to ask for help when he could do it himself, he had leaned out a second story window and affixed a hook to the roof, tied a rope onto it, and then tied a ladder to the rope. Somehow he also worked a small stool into the engineering and when all was said and done everything was tied down so he couldn’t fall very far even if he lost his balance and slipped. That’s my Grandpa!

I think I could start an entire blog dedicated to my Grandpa Omanson and his farm and probably never run out of stories to post.

At 91, he’s not the feeble old man you might expect of someone his age. He lives in Osceola, IL–a wide spot on the road about 50 miles north of Peoria. I don’t know if the road has a name or not. I suppose it does, though I wasn’t able to find his house on my GPS when I visited last. Grandpa, like the others in Osceola, just calls it “the hard road.” “Hard,” of course, because it is paved, unlike many of the roads around there. He doesn’t have an address, either. If you want to send him a letter, you send it to Roland Omanson, Rural Route #1, and it just gets to him. I guess there, the postal carriers know where everyone lives.

Though 6 more digits have been prefixed since he was a boy, the last 4 digits of his phone number are still the original numbers of the party-line his family shared with their neighbors. Party lines, as you may recall, were shared by several households who picked up only when they heard their distinctive ring (or when they wanted to be nosy!)

Osceola, home to perhaps 10 or 12 houses and maybe two dozen people, has a cemetery and a fire truck and that’s about it. There’s a stone marker where the Baptist church used to be, but the church has been gone for several decades. A couple of guys have wood shops, but the main economic activity of the greater Osceola area is farming.

My grandpa farmed all of his life until he retired; he now rents out the land to another farmer but still gets out in a combine once in a while during the busy harvest season or whenever somebody needs help.

Potatoes Here...

Potatoes Here...

He grows things, but never in moderation. The last time my parents visited him, just a few days ago, they found his house mostly overrun with sweet potatoes in jars.

He starts them in winter, half-submerging potatoes in jars of water, using toothpicks to keep them from drowning.

As roots develop, each potato yields sprouts which can start multiple hills per potato. I think last year he planted about 150 hills, and probably harvested around a thousand potatoes.

This year, he has enough for about 200 hills!

Potatoes There...

Potatoes There...

Potatoes Everywhere!

Potatoes Everywhere!

“Grandpa, what do you do with so many potatoes?!” “Oh, I give them away to people, and I eat a lot of them, and I freeze some of them. And I have to have a few extra to sprout for next year!”

And how many grandpas his age still mow their own yard (which is of considerable size!) and take out their window air conditioners in the fall–without help? Grandpa built a table and roller system that he puts in his lawn and garden cart. He backs up under the window and gets it all set up, then goes inside and pushes his a/c unit out onto the rollers and table. Then he drives the whole contraption to the shed where it is stored until spring time. He puts it in for his guests, I think–but I don’t think he ever uses it when it’s just him.

He always wears overalls–usually with one strap or the other falling off his shoulder. He fixes it, but soon it’s slid off again. Sometimes when he gets animated telling a story, both hands come up through the overalls and peek over the top motioning this way and that.

Though he gets a lot of income from his land and other investments, he lives in an old farmhouse where he grew up, dresses simply, and drives regular cars. I don’t think there’s anything about him that could be called flashy. But, he loves to give his time, things, and money. He’s always helping people build a new addition or putting in new lights at church or making picture frames or tables or shelves for people. His garden, which yields plenteously, supplies people far and wide with fresh fruits and vegetables: raspberries, strawberries, cucumbers, carrots, onions, and so forth. And sweet potatoes. Lots of sweet potatoes. Which, I should add, are the best-tasting sweet potatoes you’ve ever had. And this comes from a person who passionately dislikes them as a general rule, but his are almost tolerable!

He likes giving his grandkids rides in the tractor. Never one to put a gloss on reality, he still calls it the manure loader! I’m not sure who enjoys visits to the farm more–grandpa or his grandkids. Maybe it’s a tie.

Well, that’s my Grandpa. I wish you could meet him.


Grandpa likes giving rides in the "manure loader"

My nieces and I get a ride in the bucket

My nieces and I get a ride in the bucket

Megan gets a drink from the hydrant

Megan gets a drink from the hydrant

Grandpa with Grandma before she went home to be with her Lord.

Grandpa with Grandma before she went home to be with her Lord.

Written by in: Family & Friends,Personal |


  • Uncle Roger says:

    Very nice article, Tim. If Dad continues as he is now, you can write another one on his 100th birthday.

    Uncle Roger

  • KER says:

    Great post Tim! I really would be interested to meet your grandfather. He sounds like a remarkable man.

  • Mark T-less says:

    I have met your Grandpa and wish I had the opportunity to spend more time with him. He is a remarkable man to say the least. He is one of Illinois’ finest men if not one of America’s finest. No doubt he has shaped a great deal of who you (Tim) are and who you will become. I look forward to reading more stories about this Great American Iconic hero of yours. =)

  • Ton Milatz says:

    Hi Tim & Ashley,
    that’s very interesting what you wrote about your grandpa. I like these stories. I hope everythying is OK. What Kirchberg did you visit? Next week we’ll visit Kirchberg as well. Did you visit Holland too? Now I’m in Kempen, Germany. We’ll have holiday for two weeks and visit Mosel as well. Regards, Ton Milatz (Dronten. NL)

  • Tim says:

    Hi Ton, Thanks for writing. We didn’t make it to Holland, unfortunately. Maybe next time! We were in Kirchberg near the Eastern border with Czech Republic, just south of Zwickau. Enjoy your holiday!

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