Every time I hear Reba McEntire's Greatest Man I Never Knew, I think of My Father. He was one of those that was raised to not show any feelings. I think maybe he thought it was a weakness, or more correctly didn't want to let everyone else see his weakness. I think it was a generational thing. I can't ever remember hearing him say "I love You" with words. He did not really have to, because we all knew. He could say more with the touch of his strong work roughened hands than most people can say with their entire vocabulary. When he was proud of you, he would place his hand on the back of your neck, and just give the gentlest squeeze. That was his way of communicating how he felt.
He always wore blue jeans, and an old Stetson hat. My mother tried on a number of occasions to throw the hat away. Dad would go out and dig it out of the trash, and with a funny little grin, he would say "It took me too many years to get that dam hat to fit just right; to let it be thrown away, besides it has character". He always had jobs where he could take us kids to work with him. Dad was one of those people that could do just about anything he set his mind to. He was a surveyor for most of my childhood, and every summer we would go with him. On a number of occasions, he would forget to put spoons is the lunch pail for the fruit cocktail that was always present. No problem, he would just pull out his pocket knife, and whittle one out of a piece of lath. He taught us all, boys and girls alike, to be self sufficient. He would teach us to drive at a very young age, saying "You never know when I might get hurt, and you'll have to drive us home". He always had a down to earth way of thinking. We got to help him name the roads of the subdivisions he was doing. That's why there are names like "Gitchy Gooney Lane" and so on in many of those subdivisions.
One of Dads favorite pastimes was reading, and he managed to pass that along to us. I can remember sitting at the kitchen table with him until the late hours of the night reading Louis L' Amour, WEB Griffin, Clive Cussler, and many others. I used to think that I gained many of my traits from Louis L' Amours characters, but have recently figured out that they were also traits my father displayed on a regular basis.
He was a quiet man preferring to sit back and listen to see what was going on. At the same time, he was a man that people listened to and respected his opinion. Every time one of the city folk did something stupid, he would just shake his head and say "Those dam Flat Landers". There was one situation where his whole demeanor would change, and that was if there were infants, or small animals around. That was the only time he put out the ever present cigarette, and change into this big goofy man that loved to play with kids. Often sticking his false teeth out, and then laughing and smiling when the little kids would try to do it. He had the biggest soft spot for little kids and small dogs or cats. I used to laugh at him when he would make some comment to me about getting another dog or cat, but then he would sit down and play with them for hours. Dad had an unusual sense of humor, and loved music from the story tellers like Bobby Bare, Tom T Hall, Red Sovine, and Marty Robins.
Dad loved to ski, learning when he was in the Military in France and Germany. He used these old Head 220 skis with leather bindings. Once I asked him why he didn't get a new set of skis, and he said "I don't want any of those new fangled contraptions, I don't trust them". We were raised on skis. Dad being on the Ski Patrol at Geneva Basin, and later building the Indian Mountain Ski Area for the land sales office. We all held jobs at the ski area. It had one lift, a Palma lift. Really just a tow, You place a small disk at the end of a spring loaded pole between your legs and it pulls you up the hill, just make sure you don't try to sit down. Every weekend we went out there, and ran the ski area for all the home owners. It was just a small 5 run setup, but we had fun with it. We spent hours out there at night during storms so Dad could pack the snow, other wise it would blow away. Dad was instrumental in our school starting a ski program. 10 Saturdays a year the School would take all the kids that signed up to Breckenridge Ski Area, for lessons and free ski. After awhile the school started getting their own skis, donated by Gart Brothers Sporting Goods in Denver. Dad would be at the school every Saturday loading his old yellow truck, he called Shasta, up with the skis from the school. I asked him once why he named the truck Shasta, he said simply "She has ta have gas, She has ta have oil, and She has ta have water". Once at Breckenridge, he often helped their Ski Patrol.
When any one of us got our drivers permit, Dad would load a folding chair up in the back of the truck. and tell us we were going for a drive. He would sit in the passenger seat, giving little hints and tips like "don't drive with your foot on the clutch pedal. Change gears and then get your foot off the clutch." Then he would direct us to some back road we had never been on before. Once he found what he was looking for, he would say "see that snow drift there, drive through it". Once we were completely stuck, he would grab his folding chair, and take it over by the road to sit down, saying over his shoulder "now dig it out". Then he would make us change a tire, and check the oil, and anything else he thought was important.
Dad was the type of guy that would tell it like it was, and not mix words about. He would bend over backward to help you out if you were trying to help yourself. If a person was just asking for help, and not trying to help themselves, or make any change, he would let them be. During my high school years, we had a service station, wrecker service. There was also a liquor store attached. Dad would get very mad when people would come in trying to buy liquor with their food stamps, he would chase them off. Invariably one or two would come back with cash, and get very upset when he still would not sell them liquor. Dad would tell them flat out, that if you have to get help to buy food, the last thing you need is alcohol. He really did not care who he pissed off. It was not long before he changed the liquor store to a feed store. Dad hated it when people came in to use the bathroom and parked where it blocked the fuel pumps. He would always go out and ask them politely to move their vehicle, we had plenty of parking that did not block the pumps. Of course there were always those who thought they were too good to pay attention to the gas station man, and would come out to find their car dangling from the back of our wrecker. We had one guy who told my mother to do something unspeakable when she asked him to move his vehicle. Dad came out with a tire iron, and promptly tried to get the guy out of his fancy little Porsche. When the "gentleman" wouldn't get out and face up, Dad put a couple of dents in the car. He spent a little time on probation for that, but said on a number of occasions that he didn't regret it at all, he just wished the coward would have gotten out of the car so he could properly teach him a lesson on how to talk to a lady.
The day of Dads funeral, we had a serious snow storm that closed roads in a number of places. We figured it was him trying to get people not to make a fuss over him. There was still over 300 people that showed up to celebrate his life. I have been told by a number of people that they had never been to a funeral like it before. It was sad for us, but not a sad occasion if that makes any sense at all. It truly was a celebration of his life and the good memories. If he were standing here right now, he would be telling me to "get over it, its all part of life", while placing his hand on my neck, and giving me a little squeeze.
My sister did a tribute a couple years ago on one of her friends sites. Here is a link to that post if your interested. Fathers Day Tribute