Storytellers run in my family. My paternal grandfather was the best at amusing any audience he could find with his tales of hunting moose and caribou in the wilds of Alaska. Grandpa Dufour was a large man. We weren’t quite sure how large because the only scale available stopped at 350 pounds and he pegged it out. He would have had to go to a butcher shop or truck stop to get an accurate weight. To go along with the Santa size he had a head of white hair and a belly laugh that was jolly and contagious.
I remember one story of his that was a family favorite. Grandpa, due to his large size, was always the cook on the hunting trips because it was difficult for him to keep up with everyone else. He was camp bound and always had a scrumptious meal waiting when the weary hunters came back to camp. On one hunt he was cooking up a batch of fried chicken, green beans and mashed potatoes with gravy. Not being too familiar with making gravy he had asked grandma how to make it. No problem, or so he thought. He hadn’t paid close enough attention to grandma’s instructions. He got the chicken and potatoes cooking and when the chicken was done he drained some of the fat from the skillet and added the flour…three cups of flour. For those of you who don’t know, you normally start with three tablespoons of flour as a thickener. As he stirred his rue he kept having to add more milk and the pan was overflowing so he had to pour some into another container, he ran out of milk and had to add water because his gravy kept getting thicker and thicker. Three or four pans later he still had chicken gravy overflowing from the skillet. I’m not sure how many pans of chicken gravy he wound up with but there was plenty on hand for the rest of the hunters when they returned, empty handed, to camp. By the way, there wasn’t an empty pot or pan left in the cabin and the guys had gravy on everything. There was even enough for breakfast the next morning.
Grandpa was well known in the small town where our family lived. The teenage young men loved to hang out at his shop he had in town and took his advice when it came to cars. Grandpa came upon a car with some of the local high school boys in town looking under the hood, hands in pockets and questioning looks on their faces. Grandpa pulled up behind them and they came up to his car door. He found out their car had stalled and offered to help them get it started. He told them that if it were a standard transmission it would take just a little push to get it to turn over but since it was an automatic it would take a little more power to get it started. They’d have to get up to a little higher speed. He instructed them to get in the car and he’d give them a push until it started. They took him at his word and the four of them got in the car. Grandpa then put his truck into reverse and backed up quite a distance, shifted into first and with the brake on revved the engine and then let his foot off the brake. Tires screeching and smoking with a glimmer in his eyes it was like a rocket speeding at the rear end of the car. All four doors opened at the same time and the boys were jumping out of the car not wanting to be in it when grandpa hit it at that speed. Grandpa slammed on the brakes just missing hitting the car laughing his jolly laugh all the time. Needless to say he was just pulling a prank on them and he did help them get their car started. He just couldn’t help himself taking a run at their car and watching them peel out with looks of pure terror on their faces. After they calmed down they got a laugh out of it and it was another Dufour prank repeated about town.
My grandpa passed away about 28 years ago but there are times I can hear his laughter when I think of him telling his tales to any willing audience. I miss him terribly, especially that contagious laugh of his and his sweet nature. His ring name of Sweet William, when he was a pro wrestler during the 1920’s fit him to a T.