Have you ever had someone tell you a tale that is so incredible that you find yourself immersed in it? I was reminded of one such tale told to me by a ninety-three old gentleman a few years back. I guess that would make him about ninety-five or ninety-six today, but that’s not what makes his tale so incredible.
He, himself, was as sharp as a tack, still getting around under his own steam, and proudly showed me that he still had a driver’s license. I marvelled at how well he was able to fend for himself, as the few folks I’ve had the privilege of knowing that were his age were not near as spry as he was.
I asked him if longevity ran in his family. “Oh yes… my mother lived to be one hundred-two and my father ninety-nine,” he tells me with a grin.
“Do you have siblings?” I ask.
“I have seven brothers, of which two are still alive and three sisters of which one still walks among us,” he replies with an even bigger grin.
As I listen to him describe his upbringing and his family, my mind is still trying to wrap itself around the fact that one family could be blessed with such longevity. So I begin to ask questions.
“Were you born in Canada?” I ask.
“Yes, as were my parents. But my grandparents emigrated from Scotland,” he answers.
“What about your wife’s parents?” I ask. “Her parents were born here but her grandparents were American. They didn’t age as well as my family. I lost my wife fifteen years ago and, if memory serves me well, I believe her parents both passed away in their mid-seventies,” he tells me.
As my mind continued to analyze this, I found myself digging deeper into his family’s history. “What about your grandparents?” I ask.
“I couldn’t tell you anything about my grandparents on my mother’s side. I never knew them. But I can tell you about my grandparents on my father’s side,” he offers.
“Your Grandmother… how long did she live?” I ask.
“Actually, she passed away in her fifty’s,” he tells me.
“And your Grandfather?” I ask.
“Oh, gosh… I think he lived longer than anyone. I believe he was one hundred-eleven when he passed,” he says.
“Aha,” I think to myself. “It must be genetics from his father’s side.”
Feeling quite proud of myself for narrowing down where longevity comes from in his family, I begin to ask about lifestyle, what his grandfather did for a living and anything else that might help me understand the secrets of extended life. There really wasn’t anything that stood out until we began discussing diet.
“What type of food and drink did your grandfather consume?” I ask.
“Nothing anyone of us wouldn’t eat,” he tells me. “Of course, being farmers, we rarely saw processed food. So, you could say that our diet was very organic, long before organic food was actually called organic. We just called it food,” he chuckles.
“There was nothing in your grandfather’s diet that would be considered different?” I ask.
“Not really. There was this one thing he used to do every day with his breakfast though that might seem a little out of the ordinary,” he mused.
“Yes, Yes,” I eagerly urged.
“He used to put a teaspoon of gunpowder on his eggs every morning,” he said hesitantly.
I was shocked. That was probably something I would never have guessed in a million years. “Are you sure it was actually gun powder?” I asked.
“Yup… he always scooped a teaspoon of it out of the same canister he packed his shotgun shells with,” he tells me.
“And there were no repercussions with his health?” I asked.
“Nope… he never missed a day of work and always had lots of energy from what I recall,” he replied.
“What would possess a man to even think about actually consuming gun powder?” I asked.
“Well, back in those days, there wasn’t anything like a Viagra drug you could take. It was said that if a man consumed a teaspoon of gunpowder every day, it would keep him virile,” he tells me with a wink and a nudge.
I sat there thinking to myself, if his grandfather lived to be one hundred-eleven, his father lived until ninety-nine, and this guy is ninety-three with no signs of slowing down, maybe the gunpowder had an effect on his offspring as well. “Can I just ask one more question? Including your father, what all did your grandfather leave behind?”
He looks at me with a big grin and replies, “Eleven children, thirty-seven grandchildren, eighty-four great grandchildren, and a fifteen-foot diameter hole in the wall of the crematorium.”
Yup… I got reeled in hook, line, and sinker, folks. But sometimes, if the story is real good, you don’t mind. I can still hear his laughter in my head.