Conserving Through Generations: A letter to my grandfather

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By: Rachel Sicheneder

Dear Grandpa,

I can’t even begin to count the number of times this year I wished you were still with us. If you were here I could ask you what it was really like. I could see you smile with past memories of your own days with the C's.  And watch your hands move through the air; mimicking pulling inflatable rafts down rapids or hanging up your cotton fishing line to dry. Above your big bushy beard I imagine your eyes dancing with memories and stories, some of which I can only imagine. In return I could tell you how the Corps has changed but yet at its center remains the same.

I wish I could tell you how sorry I am that I didn’t seem more interested in your past when you were alive. History, to a teenager, means old dead people and large text books. I was too absorbed with the technology of youth to care about my past. I’m lucky though that you left me such an easy trail to follow. You must have known that someday I would care. Someday I would want to know where I came from and how my family became so adventuresome. I’ve read the papers you edited and poured over your old photo albums. I’ve walked in your footsteps and heard your stories told again by those you loved. I have learned that our family’s history, yours and mine, is more than just history. It is a story of adventure and determination and a willingness to always look forward. The Corps taught you that and in turn you taught it to your family; for that I will forever be in your debt.

I find that I often think of you when I’m working. When I’m sawing I think about you taking down trees with an axe. When I’m talking with my crew I think about you teaching your Company typing and spelling. But mostly I think about what I would say if I could talk with you now. I would tell you that following your journey through the CCC’s has made my own journey richer and more fulfilling. I would tell you that my crew is as fun and as playful as the boys you served with, and they probably make just as many crude jokes. I would tell you that next year when I start my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail I’ve chosen a trail name of ‘Spike’ in honor of your nickname in the Corps. I would tell you that someday in the future when I have kids I will tell them about their great-grandpa and how he planted trees in Northern Minnesota. I would tell you that you may be gone but you will remain with me in memory and the work you did for your country will never be forgotten.

I don’t know what happens when we die so I don’t know if I will ever get to see you again. But I do know that I’ve felt you watching over me as I’ve followed your journey through the Corps. So for now I’ll just send a thought out into the world and hope that it gets to you wherever you are. Because these past ten months what I’ve learned most of all is this.

I’m proud to call myself your granddaughter.

Love always,

Rachel