A Look at My Dad on Father's Day
With Father's Day just around the corner on Sunday. I have taken a few minutes to think about my own father. Even though my dad passed away in 1988, I still have a dad. I think of the many things he taught me all of the time and it is as if he is still with me.
My dad was born in May, Idaho in 1918. He learned how to work hard early in life and always believed in an honest days work for an honest days pay. He worked many jobs as a young man and he always liked being in the outdoors and out on the land. He worked on farms mostly and then he herded sheep for a man with a large livestock operation. Herding sheep can be a smelly job. Sometimes after they had hauled the sheep to an auction in Idaho Falls, the owner would take all of his workers to a nice restaurant and treat them to dinner. My dad always laughed when he told the story of the stares they would get from other diners when the group of smelly sheepmen came to dinner.
It seems people who work on the land always have a favorite horse and dog as a constant companion. Dad's horse was very patient and always just waited around as he worked on fences or anything else that needed attention.
My dad spent four years fighting in World War II. He didn't talk a lot about the war days, but we knew he was proud to have served his country. My brother and I were fascinated by a tatoo of a lady on his arm which mysteriously appeared there after a night he couldn't remember while stationed in Hawaii.
My mom and dad were married in 1948 and my sister was born two years later. My dad went to work at a hard rock mine in Patterson, Idaho a small town just down the road from May where he was born. Things from then on changed quite dramatically in his life and mine too although I wasn't born yet at the time.
One night after work he was climbing the stairs back out of the mine, his boots were muddy and the ladder was slick; he slipped off the ladder and fell 30 feet onto a pile of timbers used in the mine. His back was broken. He spent many months in recovery. He was taken to a Veterans hospital in Long Beach, Calif. where they did what they could for him. The doctors there told him he would never work again and they wanted to sign him up for complete disability. He refused, telling them he would walk again and he would work again. His recovery process was long and hard. He was left paralyzed from the waist down, but he found someone who could make him braces for his legs and he learned to walk with them. He sometimes used crutches if he needed to move faster.
The end result of his accident, was that we had to move and leave Idaho so my dad could find work. He became a teamster, because the physical labor of farm work was now something he couldn't do. But, he knew he could drive a truck and make a living for his family. My brother was born during my father's recovery from his accident. The doctors figured my brother and later me were pretty close to being miracles.
So we moved to Utah, as I grew up, I figured I was the one gypped because I wasn't born in Idaho and the rest of my family was. We returned to Idaho many times during my growing up years and my family always referred to it as going home. Going home for Memorial Day and going home for Thanksgiving.
The Salmon River Valley is so beautiful and here we had to move to a desert I thought. I remember not wanting to come home after trips to this bit of "God's country" as my relatives like to refer to their home.
I know how hard it was on my parents to leave their beautiful home and venture out, but I know how important it was to my dad to stand on his own. I think of the people today who look for ways to get out of work and try to get something for nothing. I am so proud I had a dad who believed in hard work and integrity. His word was his honor and his good name. If he said he was going to do something, he found a way to do it, no matter how painful.
Once as a young child we lived in Bluff, Utah. We had an event at school where we ate and everyone was standing in line, for their plates. One of the servers asked my dad to carry a plate for one of the young children. She handed him the plate and then as he turned to walk to the tables, she could tell that he was moving very slowly. She said, "Wait, I didn't know that you were crippled." I looked at my dad, I had never heard of such a thing, I didn't know that he was crippled either. He never seemed crippled. He was just my dad. I know he didn't ever pick me up or carry me anywhere. He couldn't but it didn't bother me. He did everything that dads are supposed to do. He loved us, yelled at us, took care of us, taught us to work hard, taught us to be good people, taught us to be a good friend. Never once did I think of the things he couldn't do, but I know that he did. He referred to his life often in telling a story, "As before I got hurt, or after I got hurt," to set the preface. We knew what he meant.
Now that I am much older, I think that my dad must have spent much of his life in pain. But he never complained.
My dad gave me a life that was very much filled with adventure. In my younger years, we traveled from construction job to construction job in many states. I loved the moves, it was hard to leave friends behind, but I knew that there would be new friends just down the road.
While living in Grantsville, my sister, said that she had moved quite enough and stayed behind to finish out her senior year at Grantsville High school. But, my brother and I were put in the car for one more move. This time we stopped in Huntington as my dad was going to work at the Huntington Power Plant as a teamster. He drove a sanitation truck for the power plant, they were constructing the plants at the time and needed much cleanup work done.
Since arriving in Emery County in 1972 I have remained. I love this place, the alkali does indeed grow on you. I think it settles around the stomach, because most of the time, I can't get my zippers to work just right. I am glad my dad's travels and jobs landed him and his family here in this place. After his retirement, my mom and dad moved to Tooele, where my mom still lives, now that my dad has gone home to May, Idaho.
Every Memorial Day, the family in Idaho has a get together for anyone wishing to return home. My son and I took my mother, age 81, up there this past Memorial weekend so she could decorate her family graves. Although, I've never lived there, a piece of me still thinks it is my home, too. The home of my parents and grandparents.
My father is buried beside a pine tree in the rustic May cemetery. A bird has built a nest in the pine tree and sings beautiful songs from his perch. The glorious mountains surround the spot. It's a perfect place to call home for a dad deserving of a rest.
I hope all the fathers everywhere have a great day and think of the many influences they are having on their children, whether they realize it or not.