Thursday, September 15, 2005


The first time I heard him called “TNT” I was about fourteen years old and bowling in a league. My name was projected up on the screen above the lanes my team was using and the elderly man who sweep the bowling alley stood behind us for quite a while.

Then, after I bowled, he called me over to him and asked, “You any kin to old TNT?”

ME: “Who is ‘old TNT’?”

HE: “Old ‘Terrible Nick Temple.’ He was the meanest policeman in Louisville.”

ME: “Well, my name is ‘Nick Temple' and I was named for my grandfather and he was a policeman, so I guess I am.”

The old guy then proceeded to tell me how, during Prohibition, my grandfather not only busted into his house where he and a friend had just completed creating a bathtub full of ‘gin,” but, after arresting them, pulled the plug on the bathtub and made them watch all of their creation flow down the drain. "Yep," the old guy said as he ended the story, "old TNT was the meanest damned cop in Louisville."

That was the first story I heard about my grandfather, but far from the last. For many years—until I suppose those who remembered him died out—it seemed that I would hear a new story at least a couple of times a year. And even though he may have earned the nickname, “Terrible Nick Temple,” he was far from terrible. Almost all of the stories I heard reflected an element of compassion and justice about him.

For example, at the funeral of one of Kentucky’s former state officials, I was introduced to the then Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky. Later, another politician—let’s called him “Bob”—who had heard my name during the introduction, came up to me and asked me that, by then, familiar question: “Are you related to old TNT?”

I admitted my kinship and awaited the story that I knew would be told to me.

Bob said that, when he was a teenager during the Great Depression of the 1930s, he had a job at a local grocery chain unloading trucks at their Louisville warehouses. His family was financially in a bad way and they seldom could afford meat at their meals. It was a real temptation one night when he and another teenager were instructed to unload a truck filled with hams. Their supervisor wasn’t present, so they decided that a couple of hams wouldn’t be missed and, after they finished the unloading, each slipped a ham out of the warehouse.

Bob said that he had been afraid to bring the ham into his parent’s home because they would want to know where and how he had gotten it. So, when he arrived home, he hid it in the coal bin in the house’s cellar.

All went OK until the next evening, just before he was to leave for work. There was a knock on the door and his father answered the knock. Standing on the front porch was my grandfather—old TNT—in civilian clothes. Bob's father invited him into the livingroom and my grandfather asked some polite questions about the health of the family and how they were getting on.

Meanwhile, Bob was listening to the conversation in the hallway near the livingroom. He said that he almost lost his nerve and ran away when he heard my grandfather ask his father, “Is Bob around? I’d like to speak to him for a moment.”

Granddaddy asked Bob to accompany him outside and guided him to the side of the house directly beside where the door to the coal bin was located. He put his arm around Bob’s shoulder, looked directly into his eyes, and said, “Now, son, I know what’s down there that shouldn’t be down there. And, if tonight, it gets back to that warehouse where it belongs, we’ll pretend that nothing ever happened, including this conversation. OK?”

Bob told me he had that ham back into the warehouse where it belonged before his night shift began. He also said that he has never even thought about stealing anything since then.

That’s two stories I have heard about my grandfather. The second seems to be more of the norm than the first. I’ll tell another one tomorrow.


  1. i think i would like your granddaddy

  2. Wonderful stories, sir. I appreciate your memories of your grandfather.

  3. I think your grandfather was like my uncle...also a policeman. Hard on the wrongdoers but with a sense of compassion and empathy for those less fortunate than himself. As a boy, Bob got the fright of his life and it was a major lesson to him but learnt without a harsh word being spoken. That is a gift and your grandfather had it in spades!