Dad’s earthy messages never lacked valueFatherhood. Men never seem as well-prepared for that mantle as women are for motherhood. The female side of parental responsibility appears to be so much more natural.
By the time most men grasp the art of parenting, they’re grandfathers. That’s much easier. Just spoil your grandchildren and hand them back to their parents, your children, and let them deal with it. Some even call it revenge on their children.
This is not to say men can’t be excellent parents, it’s just that women will always possess a natural edge.
My own father died much too young at 57. He had no really clear recollections of his father, who died when Dad was barely three. Then he lost his mother when he was 11.
Parenting, particularly the emotional bonding, was extremely difficult for Dad.
He grew up in an era — in the 1920s and early 1930s — when working hard to provide for a family was the most important thing a husband/father could and should do. While, he never shirked any responsibility, it seems Dad thought working daylight to midnight and providing food, shelter and transportation was his realm and raising four sons was Mom’s responsibility.
Dad’s experiences as a youngster helped him create a veneer that didn’t permit many people to get to know him well.
As a fifth grader, he was perpetually late for school so the teacher asked him why he was late. Dad told him he was working and had to have the job. The teacher explained that he “had to have an education” as well. Then he asked Dad what his job was. “Breaking horses,” Dad replied. For the uninitiated, that means riding horses that bucked until their “spirit was broken” and they could become riding horses. Finally, the teacher asked Dad how much he made for breaking a horse and Dad told him a dollar, a lot of money in the late 1920s. Then, the teacher asked, “You think they’d hire me?”
His introduction into raising and selling livestock came a year or so later, when he rounded up 100 donkeys at the behest of a “Yankee” resort operator and sold them to the man for almost $600. Shortly thereafter, at age 13, Dad left his childhood home of Brady and made his way 220 miles cross country to his birthplace in Freestone County where he lived with his maternal grandparents. He went to work and never returned to school.
Dad managed to overcome his shyness enough to marry Mom on Christmas Day in 1935 (both were 19 years old). Mom said he was so shy, they sat in the back seat of a car as a “preacher” stood ankle deep in snow and leaned in the back door of the car and performed the ceremony.
It took his sons years to get to know him well. He was a quiet man, but the few who really knew him would describe him as laid back. It was bits and pieces of experience with him plus gaining a little age ourselves that ultimately showed his sons what was a veiled soft side.
Dad was “cowboy” through and through and made his living “hoss trading.” The eighth-grade education didn’t stymie his skill with numbers as, on many occasions, I saw him walk around an 18-wheeler loaded with cattle, tell you within 10 pounds the gross weight, and within 10 pounds the “dressed out” weight and to the penny what they were worth. No pencil, no paper and no calculator. And, his word was his bond.
While his lessons to us were sometimes earthy, they were never lacking in message value: “Boy, don’t ever let me catch you backing up for a paycheck.”
Dad’s four sons got college degrees and none ever forgot his shortly worded lessons filled with long-term wisdom.
Happy Father’s Day.
Willis Webb is a retired community editor publisher of more than 50 years. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.