Today my Dad would have been 101 years old. I’m not as old as you think! I was born when he was about 50.
He was born in Eastern Idaho among the oldest of 13 children. His mother raised those children in a tiny farmhouse and the boys sleeping in the barn. It couldn’t have been easy but somehow my grandmother tied those 13 independent thinkers together with a string of love and respect that they didn’t break. They might not have agreed with each other’s point of view but they always defended and helped each other when in need. I’ve always wanted to ask her how she did that but she passed away long before I was born, shortly after my father and mother were married and before her 3 youngest children were teenagers.
My father grew up a farm boy with an education through the 8th grade. He knew horses, he knew cows, he knew sheep and he loved and served God. He and my mom were both born under the astrological sign of Leo and according to my friend who studies people, astrology, and I’m pretty sure was a spy earlier in her life, a Leo must be king. That made for some pretty loud arguments throughout their 60-some years of marriage but they both loved as fiercely as they growled and we all benefited from their intense love for each other and for their family.
As much as I didn’t like being around Dad when he was angry , I loved being around him when he was not. He really had a sense of humor and he really thought he was funny. He could wiggle his ears, yodel, and bray just like a donkey. He loved to show off those talents in public, which was a source of pride when I was young and a source of embarrassment as a teenager. He had a wonderful singing voice and used to sing us silly songs as he took us for a drive and like many cowboys, he sang to the cows to keep them quiet. One evening, the husband of our church choir director came to see Dad. Mom directed Bob to the barn as it was milking time. He heard Dad singing while Dad thought he was alone and the very next Sunday, Bob’s wife grabbed Dad and made him join the choir. It was fun to sing in the choir with him and he did enjoy singing. He just thought that if you didn’t have a “trained” voice you couldn’t sing in the choir.
When I was 5, I decided to teach myself not to be afraid of heights. Every day all summer long, I climbed the Weeping Willow outside our back door but I waited until about 5:00 in the evening when I knew Dad would be on his way home from work in case I couldn’t get back down. I never could get back down. Every night I yelled for him to come help me and every night he would climb the tree and get me down. Years later I found out he was more afraid of heights than I was and that the haystack was 13 bails high because he couldn’t climb any higher.
Dad was a very stubborn man and never saw a doctor unless it was an emergency room visit. When H.H. was stationed in Virginia, Mom and Dad took the train 5 days and came out to visit us. Dad got motion sick on the way out and laid on the floor and moaned and wailed the entire way. The conductor kept trying to get him to go to the sick car but he refused. Mom was mortified and made sure we got him some motion-sickness pills before the return trip. And yet, he fell down out in a ditch in the field one day and hurt himself so badly he had to wait for help to get up. He, of course, refused medical attention and laid on the couch for 3 days moaning and wailing the same as on the train. Then he got up and went back to work! Years later, when he was in the hospital for an emergency visit, an x-ray of his back was taken and they found evidence of broken and healed bones in his back. We all knew when that had happened. What an enigma he was!
Dad was not mechanically inclined at all. Everything that we did was with horses. He had Clydesdale/Shires that he was very proud of. There was a tractor that sat in our pasture for years that we all played on and pretended to drive and just assumed was old and worn out. When someone finally offered to buy it, the tires all needed to be replaced but mechanically it was one easy part that Dad couldn’t figure out how to replace. Luckily for Dad, he had Mom. She did all the repairs around our house and if she couldn’t handle it she called on her son-in-laws for help. I think I inherited Dad’s lack of mechanical or technilogical ablility. Luckily for me, I have H.H. If he can’t fix it, it probaly wasn’t broken in the first place.
Dad passed away in 2005. I have learned a lot from my Dad. I can’t yodel or wiggle my ears or bray like a donkey but I love my Savior and I know that if I keep God’s commandments and pray to Him always, He will be mindful of me. I know the difference between a square knot and a granny knot and how to tie a bowline. I know how to plant corn and hill potatoes. I know how to tell a joke and laugh out loud until tears run down my face when all looks bleak. I know how to love and respect my family even though I don’t agree with them. I know these things at least in part because of my First Favorite Cowboy.
Happy Birthday Daddy!