Daddy woke me up at first light the morning after I graduated from college with a 28-inch McCulloch 142 chainsaw in his hand, “Son, get up! Mother’s got breakfast on the table. We’ve got work to do.”
He was excited about the day. About life. About cutting… whatever it was we were about to cut!
I lay there for a moment, collecting my thoughts. I’m 22 years old. I just graduated from the highly respected University. Surely I had earned the right to sleep in one day – at least till 6 a.m.!
Daddy didn’t tolerate dawdling.
I was buttoning my shirt in the half-darkness as I stumbled toward the kitchen when it dawned on me; we don’t even own a chainsaw! I was washing down my second biscuit with some cold milk when I remembered I was taking Debbie Dillard swimming at Paris Landing State Park today.
I stared at the mimosa tree in disbelief. It took up half of our backyard! We’re talking an all-day job here! Why in the world did he decide NOW was the time to cut this thing down!
And what am I going to say to Debbie….
I don’t know to this day if Dad was testing me. Or showing me he was still the boss. Was this some kind of teaching moment? Or did he just need help taking down a tree that had outgrown its living space.
You never knew with Dad. Mom would talk your ear off. Explain everything to you in perfect English two or three times. And then ask if you had questions. Dad just kinda pointed you toward what he expected you to do… and expected you to do it!
Daddy didn’t encumber us with lots of rules. He didn’t sit us down at any particular age and explain life to us. He never got into the right and wrong of things. Now, if you messed up, he was on you in a nanosecond. And he’d set you straight quicker than that!
But even then, as he intervened directly to get a point across, he’d end by saying, “You know better than that.”
And guess what. We most always did.
He seemed to do things backwards at times. If I hit two home runs and won the game for our team, he wouldn’t say a word. He’d just find some firewood that needed to be stacked or some fence row for me to clear. If I struck out twice with the bases loaded and we lost, he’d put that big arm around my shoulder and tell me how he liked the way I hustled after that ground ball in the second inning.
You could make fun of the women’s hats at church. You could drop a firecracker surprisingly close to your little brother. You could get in a fight with George Sexton and tear your shirt half off. Dad would let that pass. He figured it was part of growing up.
You hint you didn’t like something Mother cooked or ignored a direct statement from her or, Heaven forbid, you didn’t say “yes ma’am” quick enough… He’d be on you like a duck on a junebug!
As this Father’s Day approaches, a thousand thoughts race through my mind. But mostly, I am just thankful all over again!
He would return from Tupelo after delivering a load of hogs and before he could climb out of that old International truck I’d meet him with a ball and glove. He’d never get in the house. We’d play pitch till dark. I didn’t realize he’d driven 300 miles, fought twice with those hogs and probably skipped lunch.
He didn’t seem to notice either.
He’d let me follow along when I was too young to help. He’d take my side if Leon got to pushing me around. He showed me how to hold that hammer down toward the end and drive nails like a man. He treated me like a real person… before I became one.
I often thought he gave us too much credit for “knowing what to do” until I realized he honored us by trusting us, giving us the leeway, to figure out a bit of life as we went along.
Of course, he didn’t take his eyes off of us. Especially Leon!
At my college graduation Mom, as usual, was doing the talking. About what a fine young man I was turning into. What a special day this was. The sky was the limit!
Dad stood quietly off to the side. Without speaking. But if you knew him at all, you could see the pride bursting out all over him.
That made the day special for me.
And oh, Debbie Dillard and I never made it to Paris Landing. But, I’m telling you, she hauled mimosa limbs out to the road all day long like she was born to it.
Dad had that effect on people.
No. 2 Son