After IBM, he scraped together enough money to buy a cattle ranch in Powell Butte, Oregon. It was a life of hard, grueling days and relentless work. Every season was a struggle -- physically, mentally, and financially. Growing hay and cattle in the high altitude desert of Eastern Oregon is not easy.
In the mid-seventies after the cattle market crash, Grandpa knelt in the middle of his fields, crying out to God for a way to save the ranch and feed his family. They made it through by sheer force of will -- the will of a man who lived through the Depression and two wars. A man who believed in sweat, guts, and gumption. A man who refused to give way to entropy.
On the ranch, the new encroaches on the old. Grandpa's ranch is right next to Prineville, and the power lines leading to Facebook's new data center run over his land. My mother recalls playing hide and seek beneath the giant transmission towers that would someday power the future -- a world of code and silicon, not of things.
The Internet came a little too late for him. By that time, he was set in his ways -- unimpressed by highfalutin technological ideals. My brother's construction engineering courses always interested him more than my computer science education. I understood. Grandfather was a fan of the tangible: the feel of wood grain, the heft of a wrench, the smell of hay baking under the summer sun.
I was always in awe of what my grandfather could do. As I was growing up, when a faucet needed fixing or we needed a lighting fixture installed, it was my grandfather who did it. He brought his toolbox with him every time he came over. I remember being enthralled by his workshop, with his oddly large bandsaw and drawers of strange woodworking tools.
Like the tools and the wood that he worked, Grandfather was rough-hewn. He could be hard and gruff. As a child, his demeanor drove me to tears more than once. When I would accidentally interfere with his work, he would grunt, "Get out of my road." He wasn't offended by my presence, he just needed to get past me to get things done. Finishing the job was primary. All his intellectual effort went into finding the most efficient way to accomplish the task. Slight emotional casualties along the way were acceptable. It took me years to understand that.
But he was quietly affectionate in his own way. He never spoke praise, but you could see it in his eyes. I remember seeing that look on his face when I became an Eagle Scout, just as he had been so many years before. It was the first time I knew that Grandfather was proud of me.
We were of a different ilk -- me the gangly boy with his nose always buried deep in the Internet, him the silent stalwart with his hands always working the land he loved. But shades of my grandfather color every part of my existence.
I recently found some letters that my brother and I wrote in our early teens, thanking him for giving us some money for college. In his letter, my brother thanked Grandfather for taking us to Goodwill to buy broken electronics. The sole purpose of these expeditions? Disassembly and exploration. Teardowns are in my blood.