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He was the best man I ever knew.

My first memory of Grandpaw Lacy is riding with him on his tractor. I was about three-and-a-half. Grandpaw held me close and let me pretend I was steering. His laughter boomed over the engine noise. The East Texas sun burned hot, and the smell of sweat, oil, and cut hay tickled my nose. It was 1951.

Raymond Lacy’s raw-boned and lanky frame stood six feet tall. Something about his manner reminded you of Gary Cooper. Some folks said Grandpaw was born too late. He should have roamed the frontier in buckskins exploring the wilderness. Grandpaw certainly had the hunting skills. He shot a pistol well, could knock a leaping squirrel out of the top of a tree with a rifle, and was the best wing shot I ever saw with a shotgun.

Grandpaw Lacy hunted, but he loved fishing with a passion. When Grandpaw Lacy wasn’t working, he fished. Great Aunt Velma said, “Raymond could catch fish in a pan of dishwater.”

Like his daddy before him, Grandpaw played the fiddle. He built the first violin he ever played using a wooden cigar box as the body. He spent many boyhood hours lying in the pasture teaching himself to play harmonica tunes until his mouth ached. He also played the “tater bug,” or mandolin, as city slickers call it. Grandpaw played with “The Old Spanish Trail Boys” in Texas in the early fifties. Radio listeners knew him as “The Smooth Fiddler” because the announcer said he played “like there was honey on his strings.”

Grandpaw never met a stranger. I don’t guess he ever disliked anyone except republicans, in the abstract, and braggarts, in the concrete. He remained a proud “Yeller Dog” Democrat all his life.

When I listen to my conscience, it’s Grandpaw's voice I hear: “Don’t lie. Never desert a friend. Life’s more than “The Almighty Dollar.” “Puttin’ on the dog” is for phonies. Don’t steal—even a penny. Never brag, and don’t trust someone who does. Respect nature and the animals you hunt. Work hard, but on your own terms. Don’t try to run anyone else, and don’t let anyone else run you. A little fun never hurt anybody. Always leave somethin’ on the table for the other man.”

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