Sunday, June 20, 2010

Not just a Father, a Dad

I posted earlier knowing full well that it was Fathers day but I just had not taken the time to really reflect on the day so I did not mention my Dad or anything related to Fathers day. This afternoon we traveled to the Tricities and met with Amanda and Sam to have dinner for Fathers day. Since we have been back home I have had some time to really think about Dad and all he was to me so I have a second post today.

My Dad and I were close. The fact that we were only 20 years apart in age made it like Dad was almost like an older brother that I could have fun times with but also was old enough to confide in and look to for guidance. Dad took me with him often and at a very young age. He pretty much was open to letting me try anything that I felt I was old enough to attempt. I would drive tractor pulling a pipe trailer while he would load or unload pipes off the back. I am not sure exactly how old I was when I learned to drive tractor with a disk or harrow on the back but I know I was still in elementary school. I remember the first time he let me pregnancy check a cow. He convinced me that it was tradition to palpate your first cow without a glove covering your arm and I could tell he was proud when I did so without hesitation.

Dad was there for so many things in my young life. Over the years Dad was a Little league baseball coach and a Webelos scout leader. He was there for everything from congratulating me for winning Grand Champion market steer to physically explaining to me what happens when a teenage boy calls his mother a bad word. He taught me how to use your forearms and leg strength to flatten a middle line backer and the occasional undernourished free safety. He taught me how to hunt and fish and how you cleaned your kill or catch and did not waste game. How to change the motor oil in a machine, how to change a tire and how to use a foil gum wrapper as a fuse in a pinch were other things that were learned.

Those are all tangible things that Dad taught me over the years and for that I am very grateful. I will say though that the best thing he taught me was how to love and embrace life and everything in life especially your family. One clear memory of just how much Dad loved me came when I was about 12 years old. I was driving an old John Deere 620 “Johnny popper” with a fork on the front loader and forks on the back 3 point lift. I was hauling round bales to the edge of the field and then stacking them. This field is on some pretty steep ground with a large canal (about 15 feet deep) at the bottom. The tractor had a hand clutch and the brakes were a bit shaky. On one trip I came down the hill a bit too fast because of over confidence and cockiness. As my right leg stomped the brakes my left hand pulled back on the hand clutch with all my might. I held on until the last moment and bailed off over the fender and to the ground as the tractor plunged over the canal bank and into the deep water. Pop, pop, pop, glug, pop, glug, glug as she disappeared into the water.

Once I stopped shaking and the pee quit running down my leg I started walking up the hill to where Dad was combining wheat in another field. I was so afraid to tell him what happened. I just knew he was going to explode once he understood the tractor was completely submerged under water. I think I had a few tears in my eyes when he climbed off the combine. I told him what had happened and waited for the resulting mushroom cloud of anger and cursing. Instead he just wrapped his arms around me and asked me if I was ok and apologized for allowing me to drive the tractor on the hill so close to the canal. Ever since I have been a father I try to remember the importance of that moment and give my kids that same sense of security he made me feel that afternoon.

Dad also taught me to embrace your life no matter your social or economic standing at any present time. I do not know if he taught me this along with loving the cow business or because you have to be secure in your life standing or it would be tough to love the cow business. I do know that I am so glad he taught me how to love the cattle business. Everyday that I drive or ride through the cows I think about him and miss him. Working outside, being able have freedom and living close to nature, especially water, sunshine, grass and cows and having a good time doing it was ingrained at every chance he got. He left this earth way too soon but he left a big impression on me and so many others that live on today. Happy Fathers day Dad. I miss ya partner.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is Marestail aka Conyza Canadensis.

Today’s picture is my Dad with Dakota at the Adams county fair.