Where are you Ray Watrous?

I’ve been thinking of my Grandpa Ray Watrous for a few days now.  I seem to be at a point in my life that I feel I have some lessons to learn from him.  Never mind that he passed away more than 20 years ago.  I remember some lessons he taught me about hard work down on his Ranch in southern Utah.  I also remember his smile, his sagging pants and his strong hands.  The man I remember in the youthful memories that bounce around in my mind are augmented by the super-human status the family stories give him.

I remember hearing about a young Ray Watrous purportedly climbing a telephone pole and hanging upside down from the top to impress his would be future bride Mildred.  I recall hearing about snowball fights and fishing and hunting.  I remember hearing about his mid-depression (1930s) job at Safeway where he was supposedly given the task of keeping the bananas piled high and looking good for shoppers.  This he apparently did so well that others took notice and he quickly ascended the ranks within Safeway.

I recall hearing about how during those years of struggle throughout America he demonstrated unflinching courage and confidence and left a secure job to open a store on the upper east bench of Salt Lake City, Utah.  As lore would have it he bought the minimum amount necessary to keep the shelves from looking bare and as soon as he sold a bottle of aspirin or a can of soup he would send Mildred to buy another one.

The rise of that home and garden variety store is legend, and like any legend has its share of fiction I’m sure.  But his success and his way with people lives on in the minds of his children and grandchildren.

So as I sat here today thinking of him and wanting so badly to talk to him and know more about him my reflex was to go to the all knowing Google oracle and ask about him.  I loaded the homepage, typed in my grandfather’s name “Ray Watrous” and clicked search.  What happened then surprised me though I’m not sure that it should have.  Google didn’t know my Grandpa…

Google did find a link to a document my mother had written that contained my father’s name “Thomas Ray Watrous”, and one other document that mentioned the small rope tow my grandfather and Mel Henshaw had built at the summit of Emigration canyon.  Then Google filled the void of space there with thousands of runner’s up or close approximations.

The result brought a small tear to my eye, partly because in all it’s greatness, Google didn’t know anything about the great man named Ray Watrous.  Google couldn’t tell me about the living and dead that still carry Ray’s smile in their heart.  It couldn’t tell me that my father Tom sits and laughs just like his Dad.  It couldn’t tell me about his land, his businesses, his children and his heartache.

The other reason it brought a tear to my eye is that he lives on in my heart.  His courage and tenacity continue with me today and I feel his courage and confidence coursing through the blood in my viens.  I can look into the future and see greatness and opportunity that will defy the world and the times, in part due to the influence that great man Ray Watrous has had on me.

And someday, when my grandchildren ask Google about me, they may find that Google diligently collected the pertinent facts and figures; the data and events that represent my life.  They may find that Google was able to separate me from the other Daniel Watrouses in the world.  But they’ll probably find that among the mountain of data and information, Google still couldn’t give them my smile, or convey my love for my children and posterity or my sacrifice, or my joy, or my heartache.

I was grateful to think for a moment of my dear mother that does carry his smile in her heart, because she was willing to learn about his life, family and the impact he had on others.  I’m grateful for his children and grandchildren who are my aunts, father, cousins and siblings.  Their successes and triumphs are a reflection of his strength and determination.

So Google, thanks for keeping track of some facts and figures for me, but still the same, I think I’ll go drink from the deep well of family interconnections the next time I want to know more about what makes us human and what makes my Grandfather Ray Watrous a great man.