My grandfather, William Haley, was an Irishman and farmer who loved to write stories. He also loved the land, but when the depression came and the money stopped, he left the farm and moved to the city.
During the last few years of Grandpa’s life my sister, Rita, stayed with our aunt in Dayton, who took care of him. As loving grandparents often do, he wanted to leave his grandchildren something special so we would never forget him.
He left us some of his writings. He titled them, “William Haley’s Luck-of-the-Irish Thoughts.”
In one story he wrote about the famous people he had seen during his lifetime. The list included General J. W. Denver, Orville Wright, Charles W. Murphy, President Harry S. Truman, Bess Truman, Margaret Truman, President Franklin Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, President Warren G. Harding, Babe Ruth, William Jennings Bryan, Marcus Loew, Fats Waller, Governors Foraker, Campbell, Bushnell, Cox, Harmon, Frank Hanley and Frank Lausche, Charles Ebbetts, John L. Sullivan, Jo Jo the Dog Faced Boy, plus baseball and stage and radio stars galore.
Another section referred to unusual incidents, which he named, “Things That Don’t Happen Every Day!” Some of those I have included here:
In 1881, I saw Mrs. John Denehy carry a bucket of milk in each hand, and one on top of her head.
In 1907, when our family lived on the Reardon place, I was driving home in a road-wagon and my son, Joe, aged 4, was with me. The creek was high and spread over its bank, but I thought I could get through. When the wagon got to the middle of the creek, the water came high on the horse’s sides, and raised the wagon-bed up. The end of the coupling pole was split, and I fixed it with a small bolt with a small square head. If it had loosened, the back part of the wagon would have stayed in the creek and Joe and I would have floated downstream. The luck of the Irish!
One Saturday evening in 1882, my father turned our main horse out to pasture. Shortly thereafter, he put a 3-year-old mare inside the pen. As Dad opened the gate to let the other horse out to drink, the mare ran out of the barn neighing, and made for the gate about 250 feet away. She went at it as hard as she could run, and sailed over the gate without touching the top that was about five-and-a-half-feet high.
One evening in about 1908, I was planning to let our horse, Rob Roy, outside the main pen to graze on some grass. Eyeing the open gate, Rob Roy made for the road and took the other horses with him. He ran down Haley Road, across the fields, and stopped about three miles away. I went after him, brought him and the rest of the horses with me, and put them in the barn. Then in the gloaming, I walked quietly behind them and Rob Roy, knowing that discipline was nearing, let fly with both feet and nicked my coat. No harm done!
One Saturday night in 1917 or 1918, we were coming home from town, my wife Bernadette, myself, and a full load of kids. As we started to turn off Locust Street onto High Street, there was the roar of a speeding car going 60 miles per hour and running on the wrong side of the street. I stopped our car and the speeding car nicked our front fender — ting, ting — and roared on down the street. No harm done!
The year was 1926, and one evening I was in the barn milking when my daughter, Rosemary, age 4, came in. As she was walking through the barn she fell, and instantly an old sow jumped on her. Rosemary screamed, and I came running. I grabbed a single-tree that was leaning against a post. The sow was holding Rosemary down with one foot and was tearing at her chest. I brought the single-tree down on the sow’s back as hard as I could. That made her let go and run away. Rosemary’s chest was bruised, but otherwise she was all right. You said it – The luck of the Irish!
One day when we lived on Henry Speer’s place, a hen and weasel caused us concern. A hen made a big fuss on the back orchard and I grabbed the gun and ran out. A weasel had caught a baby chicken, dragged it to a pile of boards, and was tugging at it trying to get it through a crack at a distance of eight feet. I shot the weasel to pieces. Still excited, I leaned the gun against the fence and held the weasel up. My wife was beside me when, bang went the gun’s other barrel under my left arm, so close that the concussion made me feel like I’d been socked. Again, the luck of the Irish!
When Grandpa Haley was dying he told his children he wanted to come home to Clinton County. He passed away in 1958 at the age of 82. He is buried alongside Bernadette in Sugar Grove Cemetery, just up from Lytle Creek that flows beneath the bridge on Truesdell Street.
Pat Haley is a Clinton County commissioner.