They say people can never die so long as they are remembered by the ones left behind. That might be true for people whose lives are recorded in newspapers or books, but not for common folk, who fade from existence when everyone they knew is gone.
My father was born 100 years ago this week. He had the stamina of a farmer, so it took cancer to stop him at 78. I fear then when all his family and friends disappear, he will, too. Maybe I can head that off now.
Wallace E. Moore was born April 11, 1914, into a large family on a north Georgia mountain. He had to drop out of school in the second grade to help farm, so he never learned to read or write and could only sign his name.
It is the great regret of my life that I could not teach him to read. When I tried, my mother set me straight: He was too proud to try to learn at his age, and I was to drop the matter.
I kept forgetting he was illiterate, anyway. He could drive a load of grain into a city and find an unfamiliar destination without following signs. He could read the sky, the winds and the moon to tell what lay ahead.
Mere Renaissance men paled by comparison. He could run all sorts of machinery, repair it when it broke, find lost calves, treat weak piglets on a cold night, out-stubborn a cantankerous mule pulling the plow, concoct feeds, medications and pesticides, cut down trees and cut it to lengths for firewood, operate a sawmill, add rooms to the house or erect barns, and supervise a field full of hired hands – including his children – to get hay out of the field ahead of the rain.
That was just a fraction of his job, and it took seven long days each week to do it. A newborn calf doesn’t observe Sundays, nor does a crop understand sick days. Vacations didn’t exist.
Life was tough, but there was comfort in knowing that whatever we did, Daddy did much more. His worked through his pain. And he did try to lighten our load.
On weekends, he would crowd us into the family sedan to go see family. On a summer Sunday afternoon, we would cram inner tubes into the trunk and drive a few miles to float down a muddy creek. That might be followed by a trip to town for an ice cream cone. Once, after Daddy cut down a tree in our yard, he turned it into a flying jenny – a long board pivoted on the stump, looking like a spinning seesaw.
From Daddy, I got my bony feet, my lack of patience and, to a much lesser degree, my work ethic. Because he was so active, it hurt to watch him hobble in later years after he hurt his foot. When my young son and I visited, he sat there and taught Tommy to whittle with a pocketknife.
Songwriter Steve Goodman wrote of his dad: “And now the old man’s gone, and I’d give all I own, to hear what he said when I wasn’t listening, to my old man.”
If I had learned more of my father’s teachings, people would see, through me, what a great man he was.
Reach Glynn Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org.