Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day - a Tribute

I've mentioned my dad in many comments throughout the Toobs so now I want to put it out there in style.

My dad is a child of the Depression. He was raised in a rural area with few jobs and fewer social services. Back then, you took care of yourself as best you could 'cause there was no bailout, little charity and most of your neighbors in the same boat as you. My grandparents couldn't afford to live together most of the year. Grandpa would be staying at a logging camp and Grandma with her brother and his family. Dad stayed with his other uncle on his ranch on the Colville Reservation. Dad got to know most of the Indian kids his age from those years. Through it all, Dad never lost his perspective that no matter the situation, you always had options even if they were hard to do.

He played basketball in high school, was pretty good too. He held the single season record for points scored for 20 years, until a kid from Spokane broke it by one point in 1970. A couple of colleges wanted him to sign up but there was not much of a scholarship so he declined and went to work at the lumber mill. It was 1950. After a year of working in the mill, Dad got a chance to fall trees. This meant more money and better job security. However, once he got started as a logger, the Korean War came calling. Dad went into the Navy.

He was lucky and didn't see any action. His first ship went to Korea just as he was reassigned to another ship, one that had just come back. He only stayed for one hitch. Then, it was back to the woods.

One has to take into consideration the nature of this kind of work. Today, there are dozens of safety systems in place to protect timber workers from accidents but there are still fatalities. In those days, loggers had little safety equipment save a tin hat, leather gloves and thick leather chaps (if you could afford them). Dad saw many of his buddies succumb to the dangers of falling trees. There's no amount of experience or calculations that can tell you how a tree will fall. You just take a good guess and hope you have a clear path out of the way.

He worked the woods of Northeastern Washington for 50 years. His legs bear the scars of chain saws and fir trees, snake bites and burns. When his woods caught fire, he picked up his McCulloch and went to carve fire lines. A few times he was nearly overrun by fire, but I think Mother Nature had a soft spot for him.

In 1956, he married my mom and soon had a gaggle of kids running him ragged in a two bedroom, one bath house. I have seven brothers and sisters. From 1956 to 1970 about every two years, there was a new screaming poop factory added to the fold.

He and my mom never flinched in taking care of us. There were no vacations but there were day trips and picnics to the campgrounds and backwoods areas Dad knew well. My brothers and I would accompany Dad hunting sometimes but we never got anything. I don't think any hunter got a buck within a hundred miles of my brothers and me, loudmouth little punks that we were. But it was time with Dad. Good time, time to bond and fart and show Dad that you knew the proper way to handle a knife without a trip to the emergency room. We would go fishing with my sisters and catch loads of fish on Conconully Lake even if it meant we had to touch fish guts.

Dad never made more than $30,000 per year his whole career, that was the last year before the mill close. I remember my college financial aid form had Dad's income in 1976 at $18,000. I can tell you as a fact that we were never poor. We always had food, clothes and trips to the movies once in a while. The clothes came from the church rummage sale sometimes, the movies were far and few between but we weren't deprived. The food mostly came from Dad's buddies who bartered with him for meat, eggs, and such. Dad got end cuts from the mill that we chopped up and split for firewood. Cords and cords would be stacked in the back which would go out to his buddies that had ranches and orchards. Dad would get a half beef which would go to the butcher for cutting and wrapping. The butcher would keep the fancy steaks, cut roasts and some steaks and make hamburger out of the rest. Little to no cash would change hands. Dad also would pick apples on the weekend during the fall for a bit of extra cash for my glasses or my brother's football camp. Dad also had a garden. We've always grown our own veggies. Dad's garden took up most of the back yard at first but dwindled in size as he got older.

Now, Dad's retired and living the easy(!) life with Mom and my sister. He still has a garden - Boy, does he still have a garden. If I live to be a hundred I'll never have the talent at growing that he does.

Let me introduce you to my dad and his garden...

taken in 2005, he's 74 here.

the backyard (June 2004)- the grass on the left and behind the building were once garden too.
From someone who had to pull weeds in that garden, I can't tell you how thankful I am that the grass was planted.
In the garden, the beans on the left are on an archway trellis. They grow up the wire and meet at the top.
Then you have a 'tunnel' of beans that we walk through and pick.

Everyone thinks their dad is the greatest and I'm no exception. I've learned a great deal about life, responsibility and honor by his example. I hear lots of guys talk shit about courage and what it means to be a 'man' - well, that's it right there. You'll find no better example of what a man is supposed to be like. Don't take my word for it, I've got seven siblings that'll say the same thing.

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there.
And especially to the one who means the most to me.

Thanks, Dad, for everything!

So Mote It Be,
David A.

1 comment:

Grandpa Eddie said...

You are very fortunate to have a father like him.

That was very interesting, David. I wish I could meet your dad.