and Frank Jackson. There were anecdotes, photographs of men in swimsuits, newspaper articles, and the geneology research of my Cousin Eva.
My mother's parents, not so much. Grandpa Prater left only a few photos of Kentucky relatives, no letters, no books. He's not mentioned in old newspapers.
How can I tell if he experienced same-sex romance, or had gay friends, or even knew what "gay" meant?
All I have are the bare biographical facts and a few of my mother's memories:
2. His 7th-great grandfather was the famous Tudor poet Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (1517-1547), who wrote an unabashedly homoerotic elegy on the death of his friend, the Duke of Richmond (son of Henry VIII). But Tony didn't know that. The Family Bible went back only three generations.
3. As a boy, Tony used to go fishing and hunting with his older brothers, Elias, Repse, Silas, and Graydon. Not for sport -- for food.
5. On October 6, 1922, he married 17-year old Grace, from the village of Pyramid. It's possible that her father had some down-low experiences, but certainly Tony didn't know about them.
All of Gracie's brothers and sisters eventually got married, except her baby brother Henry (1912-1985), who became her favorite, and the only one to visit when they moved to Indiana later.
6. From 1922 to 1942, Tony and Grace lived in a cabin near his parents in Gunlock, Kentucky. They had eleven children. Three died in infancy, one as a teenager
7. In 1942, Cousin Crit, Tony, and their families moved north to a farm near Garrett Indiana, where there were factory jobs. Tony went to work for Electric Motors, and stayed there until he retired in 1967.
8. When my mother was growing up, the house had no electricity or running water. It never had a bathroom.
9. In 1965, Tony suffered two great losses. Grace died, and Cousin Crit moved to North Manchester, Indiana to live with his daughter, leaving the Old House abandoned.
10. When I was a kid, Tony scared me. He was always carrying a gun, he smelled of whiskey, and his Eastern Kentucky accent was very, very thick:
"Ah heer y'lakk sahns," (I hear you like science)
"D'y wans'm ahzkreem?" (Do you want some ice cream?)
12. He died in December 1978, about six months after I figured it out. I hadn't told anyone but my brother. There was no way he could have known. But would he have understood? Would he think of Uncle Henry, or Cousin Crit, or the men who sat around all day, back in the hills, gambling and drinking and shooting their guns?
See also: My Kentucky Kinfolk; Erotic Story about My Grandpa #1