My Grandpa, The Pied Piper of Round Rock

The Texas Story Project.

My grandfather, Otto Winzel Sauls, was someone who thought that I would actually be "somebody." Daddy, as I called him, would always say I had in me the power to do and be anything. He believed in me.

He was the kindest, most caring, and giving person I have ever known. He always had a kind word and a story to tell. I used to call him "The Pied Piper of Round Rock" because every time he went to Johnson's Grocery store he'd return with a trail of kids following him. He walked three blocks up, four blocks to the right, and a slight turn left, tap-tap-tapping with his cane the whole way. He was diabetic, but would return with a bag full of Fritos, Honey Buns, Bottle Caps, Sugar Daddies, Sugar Babies, and Mary Janes. Anything with sugar had a place in his bag! Children in the line trailing behind him would say, "Mr. Winzel whatja get today?" and, "Hey, Mr. Winzel, you got any peppermints in that bag?" He might have eaten the occasional Honey Bun himself but the rest was always shared with the kids.

Even though he was caring and kind, he wasn't afraid to set straight a little nine-year-old girl who thought she was the smartest person in the world. He'd accuse me of acting "squirrely" and say, "Don’t get too big for your britches and stop talking so proper. I can't understand a dadgum thing you’re saying!"

Daddy was blind and made me read to him. In turn he taught me to read Braille and instilled a love of reading in me. He loved his DAV (Disabled American Veteran) magazines and so I was blessed with the task of having to read them. I use the word "blessed" because although it began as a cumbersome chore for a nine-year-old girl, it became my passion later in life.

Daddy couldn't see but he still walked the four blocks to church every Sunday. And I can just see him walking over to the workers at the construction sight across the street, tap-tap-tapping on someone’s tractor or dump truck wanting to know "what in tarnation" was going on. Then he would tell me to use some of that "squirrely" energy of mine for something good, to advocate for those that can not speak for themselves. Be somebody! I still live in the house I grew up in as a child, the house he built. And now I advocate intensely for my neighborhood which is going through so many changes right now.

Everyone loved my grandpa. He was my hero. Still is. Everything that I do is in his honor, from my work with civic organizations to the political advocacies I so fiercely attend to. From my teaching to my continued self-education. And especially my work with and love for children. My grandpa was kindness and joy personified. He was my world. I miss my Daddy.

I participated in the Texas State Central Texas Writing Project last year. We were given the quote below and told to write about what it meant to us. It was from Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird and it reminded me of my grandpa always telling me to not just be ordinary. I was always considered "special" as a child because I would go against the grain, so to speak. That quote reminded me that I want to be the kind of teacher that shares this positive message, to be the kind of teacher I wished I'd had in school. So the quote is actually a combination of two powerful memories rolled into one.

Put your head on your heart," the old man said. "Inside you, there is a power, there are ideas, thoughts that no one has ever thought of, there is the strength to love, purely and intensely, and to have someone love you back—there is the power to make people happy, and to make people laugh—it's full compliments, and the power to change lives and futures. Don't forget that power, and don't ever give up on it." Atticus Finch in Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird"

Tina Steiner, granddaughter of Winzel Sauls, is a middle school English language arts and reading teacher with the Round Rock Independent School District. She lives in and cares for the house built by her grandfather.

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