Over my 50 some odd years on this earth, I’ve met a lot of people. Plain vanilla people are fine, but in my adult life, I’ve always been fascinated by people who are different, people who might be labeled as strange, weird, eccentric, or people that just plain march to a different drummer. We sometimes refer to these type of people as characters. My dictionary lists the following as one of the many definitions of character;
…a person of a specified kind (usually with many eccentricities); “a real character”
Well, using that definition, my Dad was certainly a character. He had many eccentricities and he did things his way, no matter what anyone else thought. One of Dad’s eccentricities was his use of one of his favorite expressions, “while you’re resting”, which taken in context went something like this; “while you’re resting, why don’t you go hoe the corn patch” or “while you’re resting, why don’t you get a machete and chop down a 100’ row of maize and feed it to the sheep”. Since he never used that expression as a suggestion, I always wondered why he didn’t just come out and tell us to go hoe the corn patch or chop the maize. When I was a teenager, I sometimes got angry or embarrassed by his unorthodox ways, but as I grew to be an adult, I realized just how lucky I was to have a father who was “a character”. As Dad grew older, I was always able to smile when his deer lease buddies made fun of him for hunting from the front seat of his pick up truck or when one of his phone company buddies would tell me a funny story about Dad’s peculiar ways.
Well it just so happens that my dictionary lists another definition of character that fits Dad to a T;
…good repute; “he is a man of character”
My Dad was a character who was also a man of character. For Dad, his family always came first, no matter how hard he had to work. He worked hard at his day job and worked even harder hunting, fishing and raising food to make sure his wife and 9 children were well provided for. We didn’t always have new clothes or shoes, but we always had a roof over our head and because of Dad’s hard work, we ate better than most rich folks. We grew up on a diet of home grown meats such as chicken, duck, turkey and lamb and home grown produce such as tomatoes, potatoes, asparagus, squash, cucumbers, onions, carrots, figs and strawberries to name a few. Not to mention an abundance of wild game such as deer, duck, goose, dove, quail, rabbit and squirrel and fresh redfish, speckled trout, flounder and other fish.
In his younger days, Dad would seldom let his emotions show to us kids. The day after he died, one of my sisters mentioned how happy she was that Dad had finally told her that he loved her. She then asked if Dad had ever said those words to me. No, he never did. I know those words meant a lot to my sisters, but I think I would have been a little worried about his mental health if he had suddenly blurted out “I love you” to me. It would have been like him telling me that the grass was green or the sky was blue, what’s the point in telling me something that was always so obvious. Dad always loved his family. He worked hard to provide us kids with a good life. I look back now and can think of thousands of times when my father showed me without a doubt that he loved me.
An example of that love was our yearly vacation trip. Not many men would load himself and his wife, 9 kids and at least 1 dog in a station wagon towing a U-haul trailer and take them camping 250 miles from home. But Dad did that every summer. He always spent his vacation with his kids camped out on the Frio river. And frequently on weekends he would take all of the kids to Surfside beach for a day in the sun and surf. And he always took us boys hunting and fishing with him.
Not only was Dad a character and a man of character, but he was also a very intelligent and talented man. Dad was as close to a mathematical genius as I’ve ever met and he was a better bookkeeper than many CPA’s. When I was about 12 years old, Dad explained to me how the “rule of 78’s” worked and showed me how to work up a 10-year monthly amortization schedule on a tablet. And this was before computers or even calculators were available; he did it all in his head and put it down on paper, seemingly without any effort at all. Dad was meticulous at bookkeeping, using a piece of paper or a tablet, he would keep track of all kinds of things, including finances and what he planted and harvested in his garden. When he was climbing telephone poles for a living, he would keep a list of potential blackberry picking spots in his company truck. On weekends in the springtime, he would take us kids blackberry picking and because of his list, we never wasted any time looking for a good spot.
Yes, Dad was smart, but his most obvious talent was his ability to work the land. His love of the outdoors is legendary. Dad really was a “good ol’ country boy”, which was pretty amazing for a man who grew up in the shadows of downtown Houston. Dad was never a “gun nut”, but he could shoot a rifle or shotgun as well as any one I’ve ever met. He was an expert at hunting and fishing and he never wasted any of the game he shot. He knew how to skin and process just about any type of wild or tame animal. He raised and processed all kinds of livestock and he grew some of the prettiest gardens you’ve ever seen. Dad was also a good handy man; doing fence building, carpentry, electrical and plumbing work like an expert and he was also an accomplished taxidermist.
Every day I realize more and more how much my Dad taught me when I was growing up. Thanks Dad, I sure do miss you.