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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Father's Day

I think it's time for a Father's Day post.

What? You say it isn't Father's Day? True, but I'm not much on such "days," believing that they were created more to put money in some one's pocket rather than honor a Father, or Mother or the birthday of Christ.

But I think of him a lot, the older I get the more so. Born into a middle class environment, he saw that disappear with the Depression. And while banks even then were probably cutting special deals for Senators, a la Dodd and Hussein and Conrad, no one was cutting any special deals for the common man. At least not until Roosevelt.

So his formal education was cut short but he loved books and newspapers and because of that tolerated his oldest reading anything and everything in sight. He loved to hunt and he loved dogs. There's a picture of him with his dog and his shotgun. He would grin and say that he had no shells for the gun but carried it because the dog expected it. He loved jokes but his humor was gentle and I have often seen him dance around the warm morning stove in the morning, just pleased to be alive and in the world.

There were no jobs, just farming, timbering and working in a "store." So he went to Roosevelt's CCC camp and sent money home to the family while working to build roads and parks. It was hard physical labor with actual things done. No "organizing," no "midnight" basketball. Just work. And that was precious and meant something.

Later he met my Mom and they married and I came along. Having nothing they became sharecroppers and lived in a shotgun house. When WWII came along he was 36 and it was unlikely he would have been drafted. Yet he joined the Marines and served in the Pacific. He never discussed his service and refused to see any war movies. But he was always a Marine and had a disdain for the Army that was only partially hidden.

He was Scot Irish tough but would give you anything he had if you asked. Family came first followed by friends and country. Politicians and police were not to be trusted although both groups were required. He taught me that it was "Yes Sir and No Sir and Thank You Sir Please." He never lectured about segregation, but the "N" word was not allowed. It was "Colored People" or "Negro" and the greeting of respect was used without exception to race. Both may be out of favor now but remember this was in the early fifties.

He learned to be a machinist and my Mom worked in a local garment factory. They bought and paid for a farm and they retired comfortably, yet he never wanted to quit working. He worked a few years with the university on demonstration projects and could drive you around the county and show you the results. We have to grow more food he would say. Simple and direct and spot on. I don't have to wonder what he would think about using corn for ethanol while people in the third world are going hungry. "Who in the hell is doing that?" he would demand, even though he knew.

He never had a major health problem, yet at age 75 stood up one morning while at a friend's place of business and announced, "I feel bad." He died on the spot the same way he lived, quietly and with little fuss.

It broke my heart but I have since come to understand there are much worse ways to die. He was a Common Man that did much with very little. The country used to have millions of them. But there appear to be damn few left. We suffer because of that.