Saturday, June 18, 2011

It's Father's Day

Dad holding new great grandson Hayden in 2007

It seemed to me in my youth that my Dad knew everyone.  We really couldn’t go anywhere without he would run into some old friend.  Even though these meetings usually proved to be long and boring for me, I remember feeling a certain pride in the fact that lots of people liked my Dad. 

Me (John), Mike, Dad, Irch, Susie & Bob in 2003

I liked spending time with my Dad, and I could tell he liked me liking to spend time with him.  My earliest memory of my Dad is riding on his shoulders as we & other family members walked through the Payson Canyon, Utah forest on our way from the lake we just fished in to our old, 1937 Chevy parked along a dirt road.  I remember it was lightly raining, Dad stepped in a cow pie or two, and I got whipped across the face by a branch bent back by my oldest brother walking in front of us.  The images of these and other memories flash through my mind like a slow-motion, “spend more time with your family”, tear jerking commercial, complete with theme music, which is usually an old Tom T. Hall song like “The Year Clayton Delaney Died” or “Watermelon Wine”,  or Marty Robbins’ “El Paso”. 

Dad in Big Nosed Kate's Saloon in Tombstone, Az in 2005

My last memory of Dad was him squeezing my hand from his hospital bed in our living room in a nonverbal attempt to tell me how much he loved me.  It worked.  I knew exactly what he was saying.  He died a couple hours later. 

Dad hunting deers in Eureka, Utah mountains in 1997

Some of my favorite memories of my Dad center around fishing for fishes and hunting for deers.  In the wilderness, Dad became a man that I admired.  Up in the mountains he had an uncanny sense of direction, and an extraordinary instinct for choosing the right trail.  A few times, early on, I arrogantly ventured off his trail onto an obviously easier one, only to become entangled in thick brush or waist deep in snow a few yards beyond the unseen.  He liked this about himself (he had a problem liking things about himself), and I was generous and sincere in my compliments.

Dad looking for Whales on our Oregon coast trip in 2004

Dad and I sat towards the top of a gentle slope in a meadow one time, watching for deers, and being quiet like he taught me.  I was maybe 14 or 15-years old.  Out from the left side of the tree line came this man and a young boy, both dressed in hunter orange, the man carrying a rifle.  They were looking down the slope of the meadow as they walked toward us, talking in low tones, which were easily heard because of the still quiet of the mountains in the morning.  They stopped about ½-way across the meadow, just about 5 feet in front of where my Dad and I were sitting on some rocks (wearing hunter orange), their conversation continuing, the Dad teaching his son the ins and outs of deer hunting.  There they were, just a few feet from us, the only 4 people in our world, and they never saw us.  Dad and I looked at each other and smiled.  I remember thinking, “What if we had been 2 giant buck deers?”  After a minute or 2, they slowly made their way the rest of the way across the clearing and into the trees on the other side, never the wiser that we were there.  I still think about what their reactions might have been if we suddenly spoke, or how about if Dad had fired a round up in the air with his 30-06.  I’ve wondered over the years why that single moment has remained such a strong memory for me (it’s been 30 years since then).  I think it may have been the idea that, to me, the man and his boy were like my Dad and me when we first started our experiences together.  I wonder if that grown up boy smiles when he remembers hunting with his Dad.

Dad still watching for deers in the Eureka, Utah mountains in 1997

Well, that’s enough stories for now.  Happy Father’s Day to my dear departed Pops.  I hope you’re having a heavenly summer. 

-Thanks for listening…

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