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Butterscotch Courage

As a child I was fascinated by my maternal grandpa. Jeptha Delos Douglas was born in 1893. Everyone called him Delos. My grandma was named Deane. Names like that are out of fashion now as are people like them and the world they inhabited. That’s understandable. It was a tough world.

Delos, Deane, and my mom’s sisters Betty & Doris

Tested and Tried

My grandfather shipped overseas to fight in the trenches of Europe during WWI while my grandmother helped with the war effort. Thankfully he made it home in one piece. 40 million others died and were wounded. When he arrived in Arkansas at the end of the war the 1918 pandemic was just beginning. The H1N1 virus (we now know this virus and its variants as “seasonal flu”) infected one-third of the world’s population and killed more than 50 million people. These twin catastrophes were followed by the Great Depression of 1929 that crippled the world economy for a decade, then the 1930’s Dust Bowl.

If you haven’t heard of the Dust Bowl it would be easy to mistake it for a mid-western football game. Would that it was. The Dust Bowl years were plagued with a series of severe droughts in the primary American farming region, including Arkansas. They were years of devastating dust storms, famine, diseases, and deaths related to breathing dust. Combined, these conditions led to the largest population migration in American history as famers were forced off their land, moving to urban areas in search of work and better living conditions. Did I mention there was also the worst economic downturn in the history of the industrialized world happening at the same time?

Grandpa at the end of WWI

The Great Depression set the stage for WWII. By that time my grandpa was too old to go back to war. Now Delos and Deane had three grown daughters. They watched, waited, and prayed as their sons-in-law were shipped overseas and my mom and her sisters left home to work in factories making munitions for the war effort. Everyone mercifully came back alive, but no one was left without scars.

The Butterscotch Connection

This was the world that shaped my grandparents and parents, but I knew little of it. As often as my parents would allow, I walked the short distance to my grandparent’s house where I would spend hours. They kept colorful parakeets and listened to their Zenith upright tube radio. After the first war my grandfather found a job as a millwright at a sawmill. When I was very young the sawmill closed and he went to work as an independent carpenter, carefully crafting fine wooden pieces into his old age. I’d watch him work, amazed at his skill and ability. Unfortunately, I had no natural gift or talent in that area. I can barely put two pieces of wood together. Grandpa tried his best to teach me, but I was a poor pupil. He graciously and patiently tolerated my presence as he worked.

After watching him for a while I’d go back in the house to play with the birds and listen to the radio. But my favorite thing about my grandpa and my most vivid memory of him had to do with one thing – hard butterscotch candy. He kept a covered crystal dish filled with these amazing treats in the room with the parakeets and the radio. I’m not a big sweet eater. OK, I’m big but not from eating sweets. There’s not much that has sugar in it that I like, but I loved those little wrapped candies.

Ooh butterscotch!

I had to ask Grandpa's permission and he’d allow me to get one, just one, every time I visited. I’d unwrap that crinkly yellow cellophane, pop one into my mouth, and nurse it as long as I could. I may have sneaked another on occasion but I’m still not telling. Such was the weight of his presence.

My grandfather was taller than most men of his time, but he was not a big man physically by today’s standards. However, his quiet demeanor and the strength of his character; his patience, courage, and endurance still loom large in my mind and my heart. And those butterscotch candies meant more to me than just a treat. They were precious little gifts of grace, love, and joy freely but judiciously dispensed by this kind, strong, yet gentle man in the midst of a world filled with all of the trials that test men’s souls. To this day these candies remind and inspire me to be strong, courageous, and generous like my grandpa.

frying fish
Delos Frying Fish For The Family


Times and names have changed but the world is not looking so very different today than it was 100+ years ago. When you come to my home, you’ll find a covered crystal dish filled with wrapped, hard candy. Sometimes they are butterscotch but those are hard to find now. So is courage but we still need it. When you visit feel free to take one, enjoy this simple pleasure, and remember the lessons of those that have preceded us. It’s a legacy I’d like to pass on.

I think God must have known we’d need little gifts like that in our lives to help us through tough days. There are 365 verses in the Bible that remind us that with God we can overcome fear, even in our worst trials. That’s one verse for each day of the year. The Bible contains a hidden treasure of little reminders that we can read and take with us anytime we want. Go ahead. Take one. You have the Father’s permission. You might even be so bold as to sneak another if you just can’t resist. God’s house is always open to you. His grace, His love, and His courage are always available. That was my grandfather’s secret to a good life. Now it is yours too.

As always, thanks for reading.

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