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Grandaddy hated webworms

By Walter Geiger The webworms are out in force. They must like rainfall because they are easily spotted now but have not been prevalent for the past few years of drought. These nasty critters build web-like nests in pecan trees, eat the foliage and generally make a nuisance of themselves. James H. Lanier was known as ‘˜Muscles’. He was slight but strong and surefooted. He toiled for years as a high rigger with the Boilermakers Union, working the high iron as power plants, dams and bridges were erected. Muscles was my Grandaddy. When he wasn’t on the road, he lived in a modest house on East 34th Street in Savannah. Through my childhood and teen years, the road was dirt. His wife, Jewell Cook Lanier, made that house a home. Her maiden name fit. She could cook like no one else. Grandaddy liked to fish. He had a boat named after his wife that he kept in a garage in the back. The garage was a place of wonder – full of tools, fishing tackles, shotgun shells, bullets and all sorts of things to strike the fancy of a young boy. Fishing trips meant getting up early – hours before dawn. Didn’t matter to Grandma. We didn’t leave without eating a breakfast feast of grits, sausage, toast, bacon and fried eggs. She achieved what we call ‘˜over light’ eggs by spooning hot bacon grease up onto the the yoke of the egg. No doubt Dr. Oz would stroke out but they were delicious. Grandaddy had a back yard dominated by a giant pecan tree which shaded the entire stead. There was a picnic table which alternated as a place to clean fish and home to the ice cream churn. The grandchildren took turns at the crank until our arms gave out – the labor making the ice cream all the better. Granddaddy’s pecan tree was a magnet for webworms due to its expansive foliage. He hated them with a passion but I liked seeing the webs appear because I knew Grandaddy would go to war. He had a long, long bamboo pole. To one end he affixed an array of newspapers rolled up in old rags and towels. He doused it with a mix of kerosene and gasoline, creating a giant torch. I could not even hold the pole aloft but Muscles could. He’d strike a match to his creation, hoist that pole and burn out the worms. From the ground you could hear the sizzle and watch as flaming worms fell to the ground. It was, to a 10-year-old boy, the coolest thing in the world. Burning out worms was hard work. When it was done, Grandaddy would open a Miller High Life with his ‘˜church key’, cuss the worms and explain to me that they had to die if we wanted pecan pie with our ice cream. I learned a lot. Grandma and Grandaddy lived at 1513 East 34th Street. Their phone number was AD 32605. Yes, millennials, phone numbers had letter prefixes. AD stood for Adams. I don’t remember the phone number at my childhood home but I remember that one. It was drilled into my psyche. If there was an emergency, that’s where I was to call. I wish Grandma and Grandaddy were still there to answer. Walter Geiger is editor and publisher of the Herald Gazette.

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