Saturday, July 20, 2013

Happy trails to a well-rounded guy who never lost his love of Montana

Remembering 'Uncle Cog' for his wry wit,
Harry A. Cosgriffe,
above right, poses with his
 siblings, circa 1930.
From left, Richard (the
writer's father), twins Nancy
 and Mary, Harry. "Uncle Cog"
 was the oldest
  child, but outlived
his three siblings.
In left photo,
Cog with his daughters,
"my girls," he called them,
Susie, Colleen and Kathleen.

 attention to detail and devotion to family

HE'D HAVE loved the weekend.  Fun, frolic, feasting, reminiscing, dancing, laughter.  And moisture -- both in tears shed as we said "so-long", and in welcome rain on the ranch land.
Rick Cosgriffe amused and touched gatherers
with his eloquent remembrance of his uncle.
Harry Arthur Cosgriffe, "Uncle Cog" to his doting nieces and nephews, was born in 1920 and died in March of this year.  His three daughters, my cousins, decided to honor his memory in July, giving friends and family time to reflect on the loss and make travel plans.
So the weekend after the Fourth of July unfolded with joy, a gentle wind, music and memories. Relatives and friends   from in a dozen states and many Montana towns gathered to pay respect as Uncle's ashes rested in a beautiful urn crafted by a nephew.
The Crazy Mountain Inn was a regular dining out option
for Uncle Cog and Aunt Peg and some of us stayed here.
NIECES PLAYED, sang and my cousin Nancy Ellen delivered a loving eulogy while her sister Diane led a rousing "You Are My Sunshine."   My brother Rick compared  his Uncle's orderly and well planned life to the white fence surrounding the Two Dot ranch where he spent decades of happy summers. He imagined that Uncle's heart "soared like a hawk" each time he approached the Crazy Mountains from his other home in Pullman, Washington. For his heart was always here in the shadow of the Rockies with the comforting sight of horses, cattle and wheat fields.
Uncle Cog and my dad, Richard Edward Cosgriffe, were bookend brothers, with twin girls born between, Mary and Nancy.
 They shared a love of land and family, engendered during their ranch rearing and Harlowton roots.  They both loved to reminisce and each told a good story. They adored the familiar landscape of their youth.
THE WEEKEND, for the Richard Cosgriffes, offered an opportunity for our own five-sibling reunion and we gathered for two days at Martinsdale's Crazy Mountain Inn (that's an upcoming post -- great fun).
 From left, the three offspring of Harry Cosgriffe
and Peg Moore: Kathleen, Colleen and Susie, who
planned a delightful four-part day of honoring their dad.
Uncle's day was a four-part opus on Saturday, July 6.  My three cousins -- Kathleen, Susie and Colleen -- greeted mourners and celebrants at Harlowton Cemetery, where Uncle's parents, in-laws, uncle, sisters, brother and a nephew are interred.  I offered piano music on a keyboard.  Children romped, with respectful restraint, and dogs were welcome, including my twin Yorkies, Nick and Nora.
WHEN A GUY reaches his 90s, with many accomplishments and legions of admirers, it's hard to be too sad.  We'll miss him, of course, but we had him a long time and for that we are grateful. The Cosgriffes walk to their own
Cookie plays keyboard in the wind as mourners
arrive.  Among her tunes, a favorite of Uncle
Cog's, Cole Porter's "Don't Fence Me In."
drummer when it comes to staging memorials. We're not big on dour funerals. Our good-byes are emotional occasions with music and poetry. That's our Irish showing, I suppose.
MY OWN memories of Uncle Cog shine:
There's the time our large family plus a couple friends stopped on a camping trip, at the Big Timber drive-in in the early 1960s.  My parents had fashioned the back of a cattle truck into a camper and we looked like own own version of "The Beverly Hillbillies" with blankets and books, lanterns and coolers, fishing gear, guitars, dogs and sleeping bags.
Cog and my Aunt Peg happened to be at the drive-in having a late lunch when we made our larger-than-life ice cream stop.
 Since Cog loved to dance, it was fitting that his memorial ended
at his beloved Two Dot Bar with music and action on the dance floor.
Uncle walked slowly to our truck, then hoisted himself up to peer over his bi-focals into the back. He smiled broadly, and deadpanned, "I don't suppose there's there room for one more?"
HE ONCE told me he did his best thinking on the back of a horse.  I replied that my best thoughts came at 30,000 feet in the first class section of an airplane.
"Just different modes of transportation," he opined. "I'll bet that's where you come up with your good stories!"
ONE WINTRY day a few years ago, my sister Olivia and I were invited by Uncle to the Cosgriffe-Moore ranch, where the dessert part of his memorial day was held. Peg was detained in Washington state and Uncle invited us to sleep at the ranch and sup at the Two-Dot Bar. "It's not a salad kind of place," he offered. "Good burgers. That's what to order."
The Fire Hall was the place for the feast following
the cemetery rituals, with more tributes here by a
 brother-in-law and grandson, and music:
a group sing of "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling."
UNCLE  WAS unruffled when we arrived with my ancient sheepdog, Smedley, and a rescue mutt, Max. But, he said, sadly, "I'm afraid they will have to stay in the garage.  House rules."
As dusk came, snow fell and the temperature dropped, Uncle disappeared into the basement with an old horse blanket under his arm.
"I made a bed for Smedley and Max," he said, returning. "But you must swear never to tell Peg that a large wet dog and his equally moist little friend spent the night in this house!"
With both Cog and Peg gone now -- and Smedley and Maxwell long in their own doggie urns -- I can tell this sweet story.
ANOTHER TIME, Uncle wrote me asking how much truth poetry should have.  He had been pondering a poem I wrote, inspired by my memory of a
Guests were encouraged to write a memory and sign in.
1954 visit to my great Aunt Maud's home in White Sulphur Springs. He wondered how much was "fact" and how much was imagination. This interesting question launched a continuing discussion about poetry versus reporting, the liberties poetry can and should take, that its "truth" comes from its evocative nature, from its expression of feelings. That details and ideas can craft a larger "truth" through compelling style, language and rhythm.
The Cosgriffe-Moore home welcomed family and friends at the memorial.
GOOD REPORTING, I wrote Uncle, comes from factual ordering of events and circumstances. They're different literary beasts.
He wrote me back: "A Plus on your explanation, dear niece. You have written a fine poem. Let the record show you are also a good reporter. I enjoyed your explanation on the differences between the two forms."
An Angus at home on the range.
HOW I WISH we'd been able to visit our ancestral homes in Ireland together. I've felt the family influence in my trips there and know Uncle reveled in touring
A scenic view of Jordan, where both the writer
and her Uncle Cog spent time, but never together.
the linen mill in northern Ireland where his grandfather Arthur worked.  I'd have loved for us to experience the wonders of the Middle East together. Uncle lived for several years in Jordan, where he was praised for his inventive agricultural contributions. I've visited a half-dozen times, recently looking down upon Jordan from a lovely vantage point with Israeli friends.
 Cousins help cut and serve the "Uncle Cog" memorial cakes.
I know Uncle was proud that so many of us have become teachers, writers, counselors, communicators, curious global citizens.  He earned his doctorate in adult education at University of Chicago and like many others in the family, had a passionate commitment to education and travel.
The Cosgriffe brothers, Harry and Richard;
the twins, Mary, seated  left, and Nancy, right
and their dad Harry Cosgriffe, center, in the 1950s.
HE MADE many friends in Jordan and I remember one story of a days-long wedding at which he was an honored guest.
A niece, Misha, places
a white rose with the urn.
My last note from Uncle came after I wrote daddy's obituary for several newspapers. I erroneously listed his only brother's residences as Pullman, Wash., (correct) and Ryegate (wrong -- it's Two Dot and I know better.)
Correcting me with his characteristic diplomacy, Uncle Cog pointed out the mistake then said, "It was a wonderful obituary. I've always been proud of you.  And I did date lots of Ryegate girls, so I'll bet that's what you were thinking about."
AS HIS memorial day wound down, with tributes and toasts, dining, beer, wine, dancing, rain and elaborate
Cowboy hats were in vogue at the Two Dot Bar dance.
cakes and storytelling, I thought of the roses loved ones had placed on the urn, each one saying, perhaps, some last word of thanks, maybe even deadpanning a one-liner.
My kindly, smart Uncle -- who made a bed for two cold, wet dogs -- had a good heart and sharp mind. I thanked him for that. Dear Uncle, I kept the dog secret for years.  But it's such a good story, it just had to be told.

COMING UP:  Ever think about how much of our language comes from sailing?
It's true:  from ship shape to lowering the boom.  A look at the many phrases we use whose roots are in sailing and boats.
So many words from our language derive from our love of boats
and the sea, here a rainbow framed harbor in Lisbon, Portugal.
And our family stages a third birthday party for our delightful Christena, born with Down Syndrome. We examine the joys and challenges of raising a handicapped child, with my brother, a single dad, and a large and loving family and friends support system.
And traveling light at Martinsdale's Crazy Mountain Inn. Remember to explore, learn and live.
Tune us in Wednesdays  and           Saturdays at:

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