(Originally written in 1996)
Nine years ago my Daddy went home to Heaven. At 21 years of age, it was very difficult to say my Good-Bye’s and to let him go, but I suspect God must have had a special job for a very special man. A man that could brighten any room with his smile and the twinkle in his eyes. A man that was a hard worker all of his life and always treated others with honesty, respect and compassion – regardless of whether they were a banker, doctor, or a ditch-digger. A man that loved his family dearly and made time in his busy schedule to show and express his love.
The past nine years have provided me an opportunity to reflect often on the memories I hold of my Daddy. Memories are the only lasting impression we have once a loved one is gone, and I am blessed with an abundance of sweet memories of my Dad. Growing up in a small Texas town out in the country, there was always a lot of work to be done – most of which was done by my Father and me. It seems like only yesterday that my Dad put me behind the wheel of a 1963 Ford pickup at the ripe old age of 12 and said “Keep her between the ditches!” He also taught me to operate our tractor and to back a trailer as straight as an arrow. He did this by making me back a 16 foot trailer up and down the long narrow lanes of our peach orchard (much to his amusement!). After I finished, he pointed out that my tire tracks looked like the prints of two giant snakes that had wriggled their way up the lane! But he didn’t give up on me and eventually I got it right.
And it seemed as if there were always miles of fence to be mended. I remember the preacher coming out to visit one Saturday afternoon while we were out mending fence. He went on and on about how special it was to drive up and see a father and a son out working side by side. He was right, it was very special. We worked side by side on many projects including mowing pastures, clearing brush, cutting firewood, feeding and working cows, picking peaches, pruning the orchard, building barns and corrals, working our garden, tinkering with truck engines, and whatever else needed doing. One of my favorite memories is that, at the end of a long hard day, we would walk down a few hundred yards to our stock pond and feed the catfish. We would sit and relax and sip on some on Mamma’s ice cold sweet tea as we watched the sun slowly sink and fade into the horizon.
In addition to his agricultural pursuits, my father was also a successful businessman. He and my mother owned a Sears catalog store. My Dad began taking me with him to make his deliveries at a very young age. I helped him install everything from washers, dryers, refrigerators, freezers, ranges, air conditioners, garage door openers, riding lawn mowers and anything else that the customer asked to have delivered. All the while, my Dad was teaching me about the products so that, when I was ready, I could begin working in the family business. I learned many valuable lessons about business and more importantly, life, by working with my father.
As I reflect back, I can now see that most of the “work” I was required to do was really to teach me a lesson of some sort. One lesson that I will never ever forget is the lesson of the “electric fly”. We had just finished stringing up an electric fence around our hay to keep the cows out. Standing back and admiring our work, I noticed a fly sitting on the electric wire. I pointed at the fly with the pair of metal pliers I was holding and asked my Dad why the fly was not being shocked. He told me to gently give the fly a little nudge with my pliers. As I got the metal pliers close to the fly, the electric current arced through the fly and gave me quite a jolt! When he quite laughing, he explained that the fly was not being shocked because he wasn’t grounded. But when I got my pliers close enough, I was grounded and thus the electricity had no problem flowing through me! Needless to say, the fly didn’t survive that little lesson.
While my Daddy and I did work hard, we also took time out to play and enjoy ourselves. One of our favorite activities was to go for a long motorcycle ride on Sunday afternoons. We must have explored every little single lane road in the county. We also enjoyed watching the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday afternoons even though we could never agree on who the best player was and whether or not Tom Landry had called the right play! In addition to motorcycles and football, we loved stock car racing (before it was cool). We watched our fair share on television, but the most exciting times were when Daddy would take me to the races. Afterwards, we would walk the pit area and he would tell me everything there was to know about each of the cars.
Whether in work or in play, my Daddy and I were often seen side by side – partners through thick and thin. He always told everybody that I was his A#1 helper and I’ve always said that he was and still is my greatest hero. As Father’s Day is nearing, I suspect I will replay many of the fond memories in my head and at least once during the day lift my eyes toward Heaven and whisper to him how much I love him. And finally, I will slip down to the old country cemetery and spend a few moments underneath the huge shade tree where he is buried and give thanks to my Heavenly Father for the wonderful earthly Father that He gave me.