County Lines by Bob
Okay, I admit it's true. I'm not full-blooded Arapaho. I'm half
Swedish. My grandparents on my father's side were born in Sweden.
Sweden hasn't fought in a war since 1814, not that it hasn't been
given the opportunity many times.
"Come on, let's fight a war in the name of patriotism, whatever
"No thank you. Killing and being killed doesn't sound like
a good idea."
Sweden's stance for peace is strange, when you consider the Vikings,
the most aggressive warriors of their time, inhabited the country
for more than six centuries.
The Vikings invaded Russia, England, France, Germany, Italy, and
many other countries too numerous to mention. The Vikings whacked
open trade routes to Constantinople, Asia, and Arabia.
Five centuries before Columbus was born, Vikings were sailing to
what is now North America, down past Canada along the Eastern seaboard
to Florida, out to Nassau, the Bahamas, Cuba, and Puerto Rico, through
the Caribbean Sea to Jamaica and Honduras, into the Gulf of Mexico
and on toward Louisiana.
Unlike Columbus, the Vikings knew India was on the other side of
the world and how to get there.
When I was born, Grandpa had lived in the United States almost
40 years. My grandmother, his wife, had moved back to Sweden many
My grandfather loved the United States. You couldn't have dragged
him back to Sweden. He was an American citizen and had his naturalization
papers to prove it. I have those papers now, for memories sake.
After my grandfather moved from Philadelphia to live with us in
the deep South, the true promised land, I would wind him up regularly
by announcing what was being taught in my school: "Columbus
discovered the New World."
Grandpa would pretend to spit, then he would say, "Columbus,
he was no sailor. He couldn't find his face with both hands and
Grandpa spoke English fairly well, except for certain words. Instead
of "apple," he would say "awpul."
"It's apple," I would say.
"It doesn't have a W or a U."
"Awpul," he would say.
"Apple," I would say.
Sometimes, when I couldn't stand it any longer, I'd say, "Okay,
you're an old man. Have it your way."
"Old!" Grandpa would say. "I'll show you old."
Then he would try to catch me. I'd run just fast enough to keep
out of his reach.
Our game usually ended with Mom yelling, "Take it outside,
you're driving me crazy!"
Grandpa enjoyed smoking, drinking, gambling, and chasing women,
which could explain why Grandma moved back to Sweden. He cussed
a lot too, mostly in Swedish.
I learned those words quickly. Grandpa also taught me many Swedish
folk songs, which all began: "I drink. You drink. We all drink."
While in Mexico, I learned many folk songs also. They began the
same way, except in Spanish.
Was that a coincidence? Or had the Vikings landed on the eastern
coast of what is now Mexico and taught the Aztecs folk songs?
Had the Aztecs taught the same songs to the Spanish six centuries
later before the invaders converted the heathen natives to Christianity
by cutting, jabbing, and burning them to death while stealing their
gold and ravaging the women and livestock?
One night, while driving Grandpa home from a bingo game, I whipped
the steering wheel left and followed a shortcut across a golf course
my Uncle Jimmy had shown me.
As my Ford Falcon jumped a sand trap near the sixteenth hole, Grandpa
yelled, "Yumpin yiminee!Ó
When all four tires touched down, I smiled and said, "Far
Grandpa didn't tell Dad about our side trip. I was glad. I don't
When my grandfathers were together, opposites were combined.
My mother's father was a Southern gentleman and a Southern Baptist.
He didn't drink. He didn't cuss. He didn't gamble. He didn't chase
women. I never heard him say an unkind word about anyone.
He yelled at me only once. I was about to jump off a two-story
house. I was certain the kite I had made of newspapers, glue, and
chicken feathers would hold me aloft as I flew around the family
farm. My grandfather was certain it wouldn't and stopped my flight.
He didn't lecture me when I climbed down. He let me shoot his 12
gauge twice. That's when I decided to stick with my .410 until I
If goodness is a ticket to heaven, my mother's father is there.
My grandfathers got along well with each other. I never understood
exactly why. Perhaps as grandparents they had more in common than
words can express.
My father's father died at 92 of drinking, smoking, and chasing
women, exactly like he'd been told he would by a doctor who died
of natural causes at the age of 58.
The undertaker didn't have to put a smile on my grandfather's face.
It was already there.
After he died, I pictured my grandfather's spirit being carried
to Valhalla by a band of warrior-maidens, known as Valkyries in
Located in a larger heaven, called Asgard, Valhalla is home to
warriors who'll fight and feast until Ragnorak, the day of the final
world battle, after which a new reign of peace and love will begin.
Perhaps when I die, I'll sail on invisible wings to Valhalla to
be with my ancestors of Viking descent.
I'll be happy to see Dad and Grandpa. I know they'll be happy to
Overton County News
415 West Main Street
P.O. Box 479
Livingston, Tennessee 38570