He was short in stature. Those around him for any period of time just knew; he was a man of few words. It was nothing personal. That was just the way God made him. He had a knack for keeping things in his life simple. He took care of his business and did not worry about yours. He was a happy man.
Raised by poor parents with eleven other siblings, including a twin sister, he had to work for everything he owned. Rumor has it his dad dabbled in bootlegging to feed his twelve children. They told the story of his dad hiding his earnings in mason jars and burying them in his field. However, many hours of “field work” proved this theory either incorrect or the researcher’s inability to locate the loot.
He dropped out of school in the tenth grade. He was a slow reader. But make make no mistake; he was an intelligent man.
He did not own a checking account until his son’s senior year in college. He always carried what little money he owned in his back pocket. A peek inside his wallet by his son revealed the fruits of his hard labor and was an inspiration. When the money got spent, they made no more purchases. He never had a credit card. He owed nobody.
He was the treasurer of the church. Every Sunday evening after church, he faithfully counted the tithes and offerings of the day. He made weekly bank deposits every Monday morning, usually accompanied with his son. He developed his own hand written simplified balance sheet, and reported to the church congregation monthly.
He was a coin collector. Over the years, he collected quite a stash of valuable coins. Once drug thugs robbed his house while he was in the hospital, suffering from a stroke. Targeting the church money to steal, the scumbags ransacked the house. They took several items, but the idiots overlooked those valuable coins. His son still has them to this day, unable to bring himself to sell them.
Once, sensing his son’s need, he visited the freshman at college, a six-hour journey. Not having the funds in his wallet to afford the trip, he sold several prized solid silver fifty cent pieces to finance it. While expensive in today’s dollars, that trip was priceless to his discouraged, despondent, and desperately homesick son. He encouraged and motivated his son to stay the course. Mission accomplished. His son is forever grateful for that expensive trip.
When his son got married, he had a rather large rehearsal dinner. The son worried about the payment of this bill, as he did not have the money. When the bill came, his dad proudly pulled out his wallet and paid cash. He probably cashed in more fifty cent pieces. A priceless moment.
He was a WW2 veteran, serving his country in Okinawa from 1943-1946. He played on the Army’s fast pitch softball team as a pitcher. He once hit a colonel who claimed he did it on purpose. Ironically, his wife called him colonel as his nick name. As one who saw up close the accuracy of his pitching, there could be some truth to the intentional hit of the colonel.
He smoked Camel non-filter and later Lucky Strike. He kept them in his cap; he said to keep them dry. He learned this trick while in the war. During a period of time when some kids were swiping their parents’ cigarettes, none of his sons’ friends wanted anything to do with swiped Camel non-filtered cigs.
He loved to fish. He could only afford an old beat up Johnson boat motor that was the equivalent of today’s trolling motors. He tinkered with that motor all the time. Prior to any of their fishing trips, he attached that motor to a barrel full of water. He tinkered with the motor until it purred like a kitten. Once it became attached to a boat and put into a fishing body of water, it never worked. The man of few words could sure express himself with, let’s just say very colorful adjectives every time this happened, which was often. He and his son paddled across many lakes in southeast Arkansas.
He enjoyed many types of hunting. Quail hunting was his favorite. He was excellent at training bird dogs. He was so patient with the dogs he trained. He attached bird feathers to a fishing line as part of his training. He was superb at encouraging the dogs when they did what he wanted them to do. But…if they chased a rabbit, as all dogs will do…well let’s just say the man of few words once again became very descriptive in communicating his displeasure. He and his son spent many hours hunting quail.
He worked shift work in a bag factory. He preferred working the night shift since fewer “straw bosses” were around to prevent him from doing his job, as he so craftily said. He used his job as a topic of many discussions to his son as motivation to get a college degree. In fact, one summer he got his son a job at this bag factory. The psychology worked because his son knew by the end of summer, working at a bag factory the rest of his life, while okay for some, was not for him.
He was a farmer extraordinaire. If it could be grown, he could grow it and grow it with gusto. His specialty was tomatoes, but his family never lacked for potatoes, corn, beans, peas, okra, peppers, watermelons, or cantaloupes. He planted his oversized gardens for not only enough food for his family to eat all year long, thanks to canning and freezing, but also for the entire community to enjoy.
He had a tractor but preferred to use a horse. He said, “the vegetables just taste better when I plow with a horse.”
He taught his son so many lessons while plowing. His son walked behind him while he plowed, trying to walk in his dads’ footsteps. As his son got older and taller, he came close to physically walking in those footsteps, but from a literal standpoint, this is a feat his son never mastered.
To say he and the horse were one with each other while they plowed would not be the truth. They despised each other! He spewed forth demands that included colorful adjectives before and after the traditional gee and haw. Surprisingly, the horse usually obeyed his commands, however, if that horse could have talked back, well, people would pay to see the duo spar.
He and the horse plowing were a thing of beauty. A maestro conducting the orchestra. Impeccably straight rows. The trick he said, was to get the first row straight. He did this by focusing on something in the distance and never ever looking back. Once the first row was straight, it was easy to get the rest straight by using the first one as a guide. Staying focused on the future straight ahead and forgetting the past by not looking back, is a lesson that his son is still trying to master.
He was a fixer extraordinaire. There was nothing he could not fix. His specialty was plumbing. He wisely used his son to dig his ditches. Upon completion, hearing his sons’ complaints, he said, “all the more reason to get a college education.” How does one come back on that?
He was an excellent roofer. He astutely used his son to haul the shingles up the ladder for him. Upon completion, again hearing his son complain, you guessed his response. “Get an education and you’ll never have to haul shingles up a ladder again!”
He was the unofficial, unpaid, and unappreciated maintenance man at the church. He and his son spent many hours, mostly unplugging stopped up commodes. By now, his son had learned to stop complaining, as he knew the get an education spill by heart.
He loved kids so much and they loved him back. He gave countless sticks of gum to them, which instantly brought a smile to their faces. Crying or squirming kids in church became the recipient of his ever-present tape measure, accompanied with a stick of gum. It was not uncommon for him to have a truck bed full of anxious wide-eyed kids, headed to Mutt Hughes grocery store. He proudly bought them each coke, candy, and anything else they might want.
More tidbits of this multi-faceted man:
He loved soap operas. As the World Turns was his favorite. He also snickered many times to The Newly Wed Game.
He loved driving International pick-up trucks. You could hear him coming from miles away in that tin can. Unfortunately, he could also hear his son coming from miles away when his son borrowed his dads’ truck and the son was way past curfew.
He never missed one of his son’s football games, even though it required trading for a dreaded daytime shift with all its “straw bosses.”
He shook his sweet tea glass constantly. He said it made his tea colder.
He said “hoped” in place of “helped.” I’m not sure where that came from.
He said “dunner” instead of “dinner,” which, by the way, was the noon time meal.
He once borrowed a football for his son to practice for a new contest at the time called punt, pass and kick. His son won that contest. This contest was a springboard for his son getting a four-year scholarship to get the education that was so special for his dad.
He once took his family to Six Flags on their one and only out of town vacation. He got to Dallas and made a wrong turn. He went through downtown Dallas during five o’clock rush hour. Four people including himself had never been this scared. I mean, they could reach out and touch the car next to them. They were not in Promise Land, Arkansas anymore. Ironically, his son lives in Dallas today. He thinks of that memory often.
His breakfast making skills were lacking, but he never hesitated to do this when forced. His specialty was flap jacks. His wife was much better at cooking breakfast.
Possibly one of his son’s best memory of his dad was when he spent time with him listening to Arkansas Razorbacks games on the car radio. Their television reception was so poor, they did not pick up the Hog games. The same was true with their indoor radio. Not a problem. They got in their car and turn on the radio. He would move the car around to various places in the yard, so they could hear the game. Three hours invested in his son. Dreams of playing for those Hogs during those special times with his dad, ultimately came to fruition. Priceless!
I’m sure you know by now; this great man is my dad. I have few regrets in my life. One of them is not letting him know how much he meant to me. I guess for years I was upset at him for leaving this world at the early age of fifty-nine, due solely to smoking his beloved Camel non-filters. He missed seeing my two wonderfully talented boys grow. I desperately wish he could give them a stick of gum or take them in the back of his truck to Mutt Hughes grocery store. I wish he could see their beautiful and fun-loving wives.
As I sit here holding my glass of tea, I wonder if I learned much from my dad. I notice my hand instinctively shake the glass. My tea gets colder. I begin to eat my “dunner.” While eating, for inspiration, I inspect one of his prized solid silver fifty cent pieces. A silvery glean appears in my eyes. I’m so proud to call this man my dad!
It took years to realize my dad did not have to say much to teach me tons. He let his actions speak for him. Perhaps I learned more from his example than I ever would have from his words. He did not have to wear fancy clothes. He did not have to stand out in the crowd and say look at me. He had nothing to prove to others. He did not have to have a lot of money. He was a happy man with what he had.
He was short in stature, but a giant of a man.
He was a man of few words. His actions spoke louder than words.
Happy Father’s Day in heaven, Dad! I sure miss you. You meant the world to me. You “hoped” me become the man I am today!