Strolling through my photo archives looking for ideas and inspiration for the photo book I made to give to Mom when she moved out of her old house and into the new one I had fun reminiscing about this man I knew as Daddy. Our family has many stories and examples that perfectly illustrate my dad’s character – both the good and the bad! Of course I know this can probably be said of most people but those who knew him will likely tell you that my dad was one of a kind.
Dad enjoyed a drink (or two or three…) and many of the stories I’ve heard about his younger days usually occurred as a result of tipping the bottle a few times too many. Driving down country roads with a cooler in the back seat led to much silliness and zany antics. Like the time he and a friend high-jacked a tractor parked at the end of a corn row, put it in gear and let it slowly drive across the field with nobody to pilot the darn thing. Or when he and another buddy stopped at a dangerous intersection, took off their belts and whipped the ground yelling ‘Bad corner! Bad corner!’ Mom tells of how Dad would carry a chair out to the middle of a crowded dance floor and pretend to be casting a fishing rod and then laughingly scold the dancers for tangling his line.
There is a somewhat risqué (but entirely fabricated!) story Dad liked to tell of how he met Mom. She would just roll her eyes and sigh ‘Oh Richard’. Dad would explain (with a twinkle in his eye) how he was crawling around under a booth in yet another dancehall — they both loved to dance! — when he first laid eyes on Mom. ‘What are you doing down here?’ my mother supposedly asked him. ‘Oh, just looking for my glasses. How about you? What are you doing here?’ ‘Oh, just looking for my panties.’
After my dad died Mom and I were cleaning out the office in the sawmill one day when suddenly Mom started to both laugh and cry. We had stumbled across an old wallet in one of the drawers. Not understanding the significance of this discovery I asked what was so funny. Apparently Dad used to hide old wallets, like this one, with a dollar bill tucked into the lining inside an open knot of one of the logs loaded on the sawmill ramp. When a new and unsuspecting hired hand proceeded to roll the log up the ramp he would then whoop and holler at his ‘good fortune’ at finding this not-so-well hidden treasure.
Whenever Dad was on the phone talking business, us girls would giggle and grin and nudge each other as we waited for him to end the call because he would always wrap up the conversation with a curt ‘You bet’. We would all burst out laughing – until that one time when he calmly told the party on the other end of the line ‘Yes. Thank you. Goodbye’. He looked up with a smirk — and a ‘Gotcha’ expression on his face — and laughed at us instead. By golly, he knew!
A favorite story of mine is one I will always remember fondly and with an appreciation of how his mind – churning, twisting and turning and thinking, always thinking! – worked. Mom and I were discussing a precancerous mole that I had just had removed from my belly. She and I talked about how one of my other sisters had also had one removed a few years earlier and that the doctors had been quite concerned. It was a fairly serious conversation. Dad sat there silently, biding his time. When there was a lull in the conversation he quietly observed that one time he’d ‘had a gopher’ on his leg. It didn’t sink in at first. I just looked at him blinking, trying to understand but once I did I was a goner! I laughed and laughed. After I stopped laughing, I’d think again of what he had said and would laugh still more until my stomach ached and big, fat tears rolled down my cheeks. Oh, how Daddy loved to make us laugh.
My husband knows this last story by heart because he has heard us girls tell it over and over again. The best ‘Dad’ story begins with a long-distance phone call. He had just gotten out of the shower as both my parents were getting ready for a big fish fry at the Timber Inn (the tavern my dad had built on our property a few years earlier). Back then it was a serious matter getting a long distance telephone call especially if it was related to business so it was important that he take – and finish – the call. While he was on the phone one of our cows broke through the electric fence. We girls tried again and again to corral it but our efforts were unsuccessful. We gestured frantically for Dad to get off the phone and come help us. Finally he finished the call, hung up the phone, grabbed a pair of pants and ran outside. Fortunately the cow had a rope attached to the collar around its neck and Dad was able to quickly grab hold of the rope. Success! He had the cow. But the cow was apparently in no mood to be had and struggled mightily to free itself from the hold Dad had on him as he ran along the busy highway that ran parallel to our property. Finally Dad had no choice but to grab the rope with BOTH hands. The result of which is that at this point gravity took over and his pants dropped to his ankles. Just as a highway patrolman drove by!
These stories of my dad– and so many others like them – helped all of us get through that dark and difficult time after he died. He was an amazing, wonderful (yet exasperating!) person and I sure do love and miss him immensely.