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  • This is a side of my grandfather I never knew.

    Daniel Keller, WWI veteran. In a photo taken in 1918. It was only recently that I realized that wasn't a real pillar in the background, but a painted backdrop used by the photographer, in front of which he likely posed many young men that day.

    The Daniel Keller I remember owned a dairy, and then sold insurance after he (sort of) retired. I love having the "Keller Dairy" milk bottle that survived the estate sale after my grandparents died. But it was the little giveaways from the insurance company that I remember best. There was a drawer in the kitchen table in my grandparents' old rural-Ohio house. It held treasures. Plastic coin holders that you pinch to open. Key chains with miniature Ohio license plates attached. (Did everyone get a license plate that actually matched their license? I can't remember, but I love the thought of that.) Pens, little springs, old postcards and an occasional coin or two.

    Cool stuff.

    It was the kind of junk drawer that was perfect for keeping my brother and me occupied when we tired of sitting quietly in the living room while the grownups visited or watched Lawrence Welk. (I still don't feel the love for accordion music. Or embroidered doilies on sofa arms.)

    But better than the junk drawer was my grandpa's love for the horse racing over at the Stark County Fairgrounds. I doubt that he ever gambled a day in his life, so it wasn't really the racing that attracted him. It was hanging out with the guys who worked the horses and tended the barn. He knew them all by name.

    He took me there once, when I was in grade school and horse-mad. Introduced me to everyone. Took me to the barn to see the horses up close. Then we watched a few races, and Grandpa bought a little bag of BBQ potato chips for me. I'd never tasted them before, and I can't eat them now without smelling the horses just a little bit and thinking about a summer day when I had Daniel Keller all to myself.
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