Colorado 1937 to 1960
Of course everyone's dad is the best! So let me say that we had one of the very best dads.
I have learned to tell jokes and write stories from recalling how my dad loved to tell jokes and stories over and over again, laughing at his own jokes, making wild gestures and funny faces, telling elaborate stories about his family and friends. He enjoyed sharing his stories and jokes with anyone that would listen, beginning with a big smile, a large belly laugh, and ending with a louder laugh than anyone else around him. He was a big man with big hands and an even bigger heart.
He was the one that told me I was adopted (not), called me cotton top (yes, I was), taught me how to milk cows, ride horses, drive a John Deere tractor and chop chickens' heads off. I can still hear him say, "Always give them the benefit of the doubt," and "Be kind to others," and almost every day he would say "Now you be good," pointing his big finger at me with a smile. And at bed time he would say "Good night and don't forget to say your prayers."
Yes, dads are special. Here are a few stories from my sisters and brothers about how special.
Dad owned two ranches besides the home farm that he called the Shamrock Shorthorn Ranch. He bought the two ranches after I left home so I have to rely on my brothers and sisters for information. There was a creek running through one of the ranches and Dad and Mom and anyone that came along, spent endless hours fishing for brookies (brook trout), a small stream trout.
My sister Elaine relayed this story about the Grace Creek and the T-Bone ranches.
"Mom and I were frying up a mess of brookies and Cowboy Red, who was Dad's ranch hand, and his wife were in the trailer house next door. We heard a big 'kaboom' and while we were still trying to figure out what the noise was, Cowboy Red came running out the door and said 'Me and the War Department (what he called his wife) are going into town to eat something.' Turns out that they had put a chicken in the gas oven but the oven went out. Red opened the door and struck a match to light the oven again and the accumulated gas exploded, blew the chicken across the room and coulda' kill that old guy."
This is a story for my little brother Jim.
"Dad's guffaws and belly laughs were funnier than his jokes. That is the part I remember most fondly. As I am doing things and talking to folks some of his stories sometimes pop into my thoughts."
Jim told another story about Old Red, who was a constant source of amusement for Dad and Mom. Such is the time when he declared Mom's fried chicken "musty." After sensing his impending demise at the hands of our kind and gentle mother, he added, "So durn good I must eat more!" Or the times Dad chuckled endlessly at another "Red story." Red would shoot coyotes in the wintertime, letting them freeze solid, and propped them up against the mailbox for the mailman to take them to the guy who skinned them. He sold the fur and paid Old Red back by via the next mail run. And Jim adds, he distinctly remembered Dad, Old Red and him standing near the barn when he saw his wife's car coming down the lane. "Uh-oh!" Red declared, "Here comes the Grim Reaper!"
But Dad always got the biggest chuckle and his real enjoyment and deep guffaws when he retold his stories to the people like the bank president, his lawyer, the CPA, or any of their receptionists or anyone else who would listen.
My sister Ginger remembers Old Red calling his wife "the Grim Reaper: "He'd say "I gotta go now, the Grim Reaper is shaking her horns at me." Then on the his way out of the ranch door, he'd pick up anything left over, such as shriveled and wrinkled hotdogs from the counter and put them in his pocket. He did the same with leftover pancakes and Mom, catching on, would always make extras.
My sister Ginger also relates the story about "decisions" that Dad told frequently when you were faced with a question that required a decision: "Times were hard for an old farmer, but he couldn't turn away a hobo that had come seeking work. The old farmer didn't have any chores for him but he said if he sorted potatoes he'd give him his supper and a place to sleep for the night. The farmer led the man to the cellar and said 'See that pile of potatoes? I need you to sort them into three separate piles; one pile will be for the good unbruised potatoes that we can store for a while longer. The second pile will be for the potatoes that are starting to spoil so we will have to eat them first. The third pile will be for the rotten potatoes that will have to be thrown away.'
"The farmer left the hobo to the chores of sorting the potatoes. It wasn't until just a little while later the hobo came running out of the cellar, hollering and waving his arms! 'I can't do this job! It's too hard! I got to go! I'm leaving! Good bye.' The farmer, truly puzzled, tried to calm the man down as he ask him, 'What can be so difficult about sorting potatoes?' The hobo looked at the farmer with wide eyes and flailing arms, shook his head, and screamed, 'Decisions! Decisions!'"
Now see if this story doesn't come to mind whenever someone asked you a question!
And I have to add my own story about how brave I thought my Dad was doing doctor work. When I was very young, we made the long trip to Red Feather Lakes, in northern Colorado, with my grandma and grandpa and aunts and uncles. During the night my grandpa got up to go outdoors to do his business. He pushed the screen door open which pushed a porcupine up against the screen. The little critter took exception and grandpa ended up with quills in his leg. Dad did the doctor work and pulled the quills out. I thought my grandpa was so brave not crying and that my dad was even braver for being a doctor in a crisis.
My brother John, who lives in Montana, was not able to participate in the storytelling at this time. He is busy being a Super Dad to his daughter Sarah who is fighting stage four colon cancer. This wonderful smiling lady has just about finished chemo and tells us she is doing well, but has surgery coming up soon. No doubt with the abundant help of her dad and mom, her husband, Trav, her two small children, Trenton and Brooke and all of her wonderful "village of friends" who have offered daily prayers and well wishes, she will, of course, come through this with flying colors.
My brother Jim ended by saying, "Dad was a neat person and one-of-a-kind. And when I'm doing things, every now and then I'll just see something, sometimes in the kids are grandbabies that remind me of Dad and I try remembering the stories and the embellishments that was added each time Dad told a story."
And one last story: In later years recalling the story about wayward grape, Mom would tell this story, but not without laughing until the tears poured. Seems Dad got up to have a midnight snack, got a plate (no doubt for some of Mom's fine chocolate cake) and stepped on the wayward grape. Thinking it was one of those spiders with the big butt; he dropped the plate on his big toe and let out a yell that scared the daylights out of Mom. His toe nail turn black and his big toe was sore for a long time. Mom could not tell this story without laughing until the tears ran down her cheeks.
And with that, I will end this article with a smile on my face about our father who enjoyed telling stories more than anyone!