Saturday, June 15, 2013

Remembering My Dad

This post by drjim put me in the mind to reminisce about my father a bit. Our relationship was pretty tumultuous, and a large part of that was my fault. He automatically wanted things from me I wasn't willing to give, and I was willing to fight about. Which, according to his lights, was verboten, since I was his son and he was The Father. Respect for him to his standards and his way of thinking was me submitting to pointless domination. Not my style.

On the other hand, he did instill in me some pretty valuable morals. One of his pet peeves and now mine is that you should own your mistakes. Lame excuses, never taking responsibility for one's actions, lying and denial set his teeth on edge. That was a mark of deficiency of character to him.

One thing he did that I have been unable to match was his service to various committees and boards in the area. First and foremost, he was heavily involved in the VFW. Dad dressed up for a ton of funerals back in the day. He was on the local electric cooperative's board, as well as the Soil Conservation Board. He spent a lot of nights making hard policy decisions no one else wanted to do, with no pay. My current profession prevents me from similar efforts now, but there is no doubt I will never match his contributions in this manner.

A lot of what I learned from him was based on his actions. Fighting through blizzards, dragging hay bales over snow covered fences to feed hungry cattle in freezing weather. Struggling to get a tractor to run in that same weather to move snow or feed. Once, we got in a shipment of calves. They were not settled in - used to their new surroundings - when a wicked thunderstorm passed through. They panicked, and through the corral fence they went (you cannot stop cattle with most fencing). Dad was up most of the night gathering them back in the dark. Or the uncounted worried conferences with the neighbors over a problem calf that just wasn't responding to the various treatments, even up to calling the veterinarian out. Or the nights spent on patrol during calving season, to help cows who might be having trouble giving birth.

Or perhaps the sight of him crying quietly on the front porch during a hailstorm, knowing that this year's crop was going to be completely trashed. Or up half the night checking the temperature worried about a late freeze killing the wheat (what has already happened this year - not gonna be much if any crop at all already). And I'd also seen him a couple times standing out on the very same front porch, sobbing quietly because he'd managed to grow a bumper crop. He was sad because he couldn't share that with his father, who'd had very few crops like that himself. And to note - since he has passed, I have celebrated exactly one such crop. They are rare for a dryland farmer out here.

At any rate, what he taught me was a love for the land and the knowledge that we are connected to the land and it's occupants intimately. That we need to pay attention to what we see, and how we react, if we wish to profit and even to survive here. And that it is truly beautiful - the birds singing in the mornings and evenings, the deer frolicking, cottontails playing, calves kicking up their heels with their grumpy mothers watching closely. The hawks patrolling the skies looking for their next kill. Cocky pheasants strutting their stuff within rock throwing range (until hunting season - then the wily suckers hide out). Mourning doves and their lonely calls. The coyotes howling their songs in their native tongue. The marvelous, dangerous beauty of thunderheads growing malevolently in the sky. The many hued sunsets - beautiful apterif for a long hot day. Grabbing a handful of freshly worked soil, still slightly loamy with the smell of future growth. Oh yes, these things I learned from my father. Not my mother, who was a city girl at heart.

My father was a farmer/stockman born and bred, as was his father before him, and his father as well. Such is the stuff they were made of, and I remember my father in this manner as well. He sleeps peacefully in his grave on the prairie.

Happy Father's Day to all you dads out there, and for the rest of us, remember yours.


SteveK said...

Hi Jeff. Yes your Dad, my Uncle Bob, was truly a great man, a member of the Greatest Generation who served his country and also served the nation by growing the food to feed its people. A more noble profession is hard to imagine. He was also perhaps the best storyteller and humorist I've ever known, with a wealth of reminiscences and interesting tales to tell. I really feel grateful to have known him and I miss him too!

threecollie said...

Looks like he taught you everything he needed too. Very beautiful, thanks

Jess said...

Good post.

Bob's Blog said...

I'm late, as usual, but I found this to be beautiful writing, and have linked to you here:

Jeffro said...

Thank you, Bob.