Friday, April 10, 2009

Kitchen stories: Nicknames

My Great Grandpa Votaw, on my Dad's side, was a character. They called him "Doggie". His true name was Charles D. Votaw, born in 1878. Grandpa's wife died in 1941 and he and his "housekeeper" lived in a little house in Berne, Indiana for as long as I can remember. He called this woman his housekeeper but when I was older my mom told me it was his live-in girlfriend. She was with him until the day he died in 1968. I saw him just three years before that and he had not changed a bit from when I was a kid.

His house didn't have indoor plumbing because he'd say, "No one's gonna crap in my house." Us kids though it was funny though my Grandmother Lavon, his daughter, didn't like that sort of talk at all. He also had a little red pump in the kitchen sink. I guess he washed up there but he never seemed to clean to me.

There was always a garden and when we'd visit we'd sit outside this tiny house under the shade of a huge tree. I can't remember if he chewed or smoked but he always smelled of tobacco. Grandpa would always have a story to tell and how he got his nickname was pretty funny.

Before motorized trucks hauled goods around the country the teamsters did and when Charles was young he was pretty good with a team of horses so he became a teamster for the local railroad station. He was a tall skinny kid but strong as an ox and would sometimes stand in the wagon, a whip in one hand, and the reins in the other. He never wore much of a heavy coat, no, they worked to hard to get cold but he did fancy a cap with ear flaps. You could tie up the flaps when it was warmer but he said, "It was a damn waste of time 'cuz they'd always fall down, so most of the time they'd be flappin' in the wind."

One spring day he was late with a delivery and was "urging" the team on down the road at a good clip, standing up on the wagon with his ear flaps blowing in the wind. When he got to the station he was met by his boss and a few other teamsters. "Votaw, his boss bellowed, you look like a damn fool dog in that cap." The other men laughed, so did Grandpa, and the name stuck. From then he was called Doggie Votaw.

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