Grandpa Louie, Superhero

Dear Writers,

Daniel Boone was a man, and when I was a kid, Fess Parker was my superhero. It was a joke to my classmates that I rushed home from school every day to watch the show and then recounted it to them the next day at show and tell. I don’t know if my love of character-driven stories was born with Daniel Boone books and shows, but the idea that a character could exist across multiple stories was fascinating to me.

Today at the writing practice I attend, one of the prompts—having to do with ice water—called to mind dear old Daniel Boone as well as a grandfather I made up and now oddly miss. Here’s what I wrote:

Fess Parker_Daniel BooneGrandpa Louie always said he had ice water in his veins. I was a first-year resident at Stanford Medical Hospital before it fully struck me just how hard he’d tried to shield me from the partial truth of his words. When I was five, it all seemed grand. Sitting by grandpa watching Fess Parker pretend to be Daniel Boone on TV while a big machine pumped Grandpa’s blood out of his body and then back in.

I thought Grandpa was a superhero, and now I know that he was. He held on until I was eight, and then he had to go. He left everything to me, the old trailer house in Hot Springs, his ’65 Chevy that I still have, and his “superhero ice water machine.”

I remember wanting to try it once, crying because Grandpa wouldn’t share his ice water powers with me. He said it only worked on the person it was meant for, and I didn’t believe him. I kicked him, kicked my grandpa, and then we both cried. He held me on his skinny lap and said I didn’t need ice water to grow up and become a superhero.

There’s nothing super heroic about staring down at a little girl with sunken eyes and almost no skin on her bones. She’s not afraid of the hospital or doctors, because she practically lives here and has been poked and stitched and emptied and filled so many times she could probably do the surgery herself if she had the strength.

“This is going to hurt a little, so let’s count to three together and then say ouch,” I tell her. She nods solemnly, counts with me in her soft little voice. She starts to cry when the needle goes in and then apologizes.

“You are a superhero,” I tell her. “I’m so proud of you.”

I turn on the television I had brought to her room and stick in the old VHS tape.

“Ready?” I ask her.

She nods, very serious.

The tape has been replayed so many times the images are grainy and shaky on the screen. Fess Parker jumps on a horse and chases after the bad guys. No matter how many times I’ve watched it, I can’t figure out how he always catches them and makes everything all right in the town.


If you loved a certain book or TV character as a kid I’d love to know about it.

XO Laurel Leigh

Images credit:

14 thoughts on “Grandpa Louie, Superhero

  1. Mine was Little Joe on Bonanza. Yep, Little Joe and one of the guys (whose name I can’t recall) on Daktari, a show that featured Clarence, the cross-eyed lion. Now that I think about it, I must have been more in love with the lion. 😀

    It’s funny to hear you talk about missing a fictional character. I, too, miss the grandfather (who resembled only a few bits of my grandfather) in the piece you just read a portion of. Maybe he was the grandfather I never had? The one I really wanted?

    I love this image of dialysis you’ve created from a kid’s POV. Sweet!

    • Little Joe was awesome, and I followed him to Little House on the Prairie. I remember being a little confused about how he could suddenly be a dad. But I do have to agree with Jennifer that Adam was the true hottie of the Bonanza trio.

      Your grandfather story is awesome. Does it have a title yet? I certainly appreciated the chance to share an excerpt with my class and will look forward to reading the full story.

      Okay, cross-eyed lions? That explains a lot . . .

  2. I really enjoyed this story, Laurel. Very sweet, very touching. I remember liking Dan’l Boone a lot. I also liked the character named Hitchcock from Rat Patrol, the character Peter Duel played in Alias Smith and Jones (I believe he was Jones), and I always preferred Ilya Kuryakin to Napoleon Solo. My favorite show was Time Tunnel, not because the acting or even the writing was very good, but I LOVED the idea of these two guys bouncing from one historical era to another. As you can tell, I probably watched too much television when I was a kid!

    • Wow, you have a couple shows here I never saw. Time Tunnel was totally cool, but I have to admit I’ve never seen Rat Patrol or Alias Smith and Jones–and I thought I did my fair share of series surfing! Thanks for answering. These old shows are so much fun to check out.

        • Yep! Loved High Chaparral, especially Leif Erickson. Every time he showed up in another Western, I thought Big John was visiting and couldn’t always figure out why he’d get called by another name.

          I don’t remember ever seeing Garrison’s Gorillas, although I did see The Dirty Dozen movie and was fascinated. Our family had a black and white TV, and I didn’t get a color set until I was out of college, so to this day, if I see a color or colorized version of these old shows it looks odd to me.

          I am thinking about how an appetite for Westerns, rowdy soldiers, and Star Trek yields a photo-writer who produces this!:

          • Ha ha! I liked Uncle Buck, that rascal.
            You wouldn’t know that I’ve never touched a gun, wouldn’t have a gun in the house, and never even let my kids visit homes where they had guns. One thing these shows all have in common is history, and the writers have succeeded in creating other worlds to escape to, both in time and place. My interest in WWII might be due to the era I was born into. My father served in WW II, and I lost my uncle in that war, and I sensed even then how different my life would have been had he lived.
            For balance, I also watched The Forsyte Saga and The Wives of Henry VIII with my mom, but that was when I was a little older–early teens, and we loved the Marx Brothers, but even though we watched them on TV, technically they were in the movies.
            LOVED chatting with you! Not only did you make me smile, you really gave me pause to think about this.

          • I loved chatting as well!

            My dad served in WWII as well, and I have this amazing scrapbook of photos he sent to family recording his experiences. He definitely influences my work in many ways.

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