Born in an Oak Savannah forest overlooking a treeless prairie, he picked choke, saskatoon, and pembina, but his favorite was June berry.
He taught me about wild asparagus, and horseradish and onion and currant and how his mother made gooseberry jam. He showed me the travois marks of the Indians who came to this place to make pemmican.
Though he loved the Turtle mountains, his life was down below where he could see a distant horizon where barley and wheat would grow.
He worked for a while surveying and learned about theodolites and transits and more. He learned about arpents and acres and rods and he loved numbers – a mathematician to the core.
He taught in a one room school house and had children from Kindergarten to the 9th grade, and he just smiled when I asked him if the frustration, was worth the money he made?
And then this young man who loved the endless prairie, was taken from home and family, and reported to a small ship to traverse a rolling and roiling endless sea.
He had a brother who went to Europe to help defeat the “Hun” and he was on an Island that launched the planes that brought an end to the “Rising Sun”.
In the midst of world wide chaos and the reaping of the wild winds that were sown, he thought of fields and the farmland and the prairie and the place that he called home.
He tried his hand at farming and that was not to be and he had to figure out a way to care for my mother and me. So he packed us up and moved to the place he landed when he came back from sea.
He worked at building airplanes and that too was not to be and he had to figure out a way to care for my mother and new brother, and me. He worked on pipelines and in a mine and he was never seen to shirk. He taught no matter what the job there is dignity in work.
He did something amazing that most people thought could not be done. He applied to run a computer that an entire mine would run. We hadn’t heard of computers and most thought that engineers would get the job instead, but he brought home a stack of books and every night he read. He beat out the engineers and the college graduates and such, and when asked how he had done it he said he hadn’t done that much.
It was in part because he loved to read I believe that he got that job. He devoured everything in print from newspapers and magazines to our kitchen table cereal box. He believed in books there were treasures that in reading we could unlock. He loved Louie LaMoure because he was from “around home”, and Zane Grey – anything about the west. When I would read we had a game, he asked questions and put me through a test. I usually passed because I love to read. TV and movies leave me cold, but for entertainment a book is the best.
He taught me about high finance when I received a $10 check. Right off the top 2 dollars to the church – he said that I was blest. Six dollars to a savings account, and I got to keep the rest. He explained to me later that he thought the tithe was the ceiling, the least, the floor. It was like the dues we paid at the library to get access to treasure beyond all price, and what we gave above the dues was a response to Christ’s sacrifice.
He was a marvelous lay theologian and he studied the Bible through. He was shy but willing to canvass the town to share the Gospel’s truth and he worked hard at the church, did the janitor work and supported the Pastor and he taught Sunday School too.
I loved to play baseball and I could pitch but couldn’t hit, and he spent some time catching for me and he did it without a mitt. I asked how he could stand the pain and he showed me calloused hands and I learned of a life of labor and what some received for it.
It wasn’t just calloused hands he showed but a philosophy of joy, that made a big impression on an impressionable little boy. Whatever happens, happens, whether good times or times of strife, in a munificent plan laid out by a God who gives us abundant life.
He took us to church and didn’t drop us off. He worshipped and we watched him sing and pray. He made an example by the things he did and not just the things he’d say. I thought he was the smartest and nicest man that anyone could know, and a lot of other people agreed, I know because they told me so.
I thought he was indestructible and I ignored what I saw with my eyes, that he was slowly fading away with the ineluctable passage of time. Sometimes when we were talking, the light in his eyes would die and I realized he was on another journey and soon we would say goodbye.
One day we talked of dying and he answered a question of mine; was he afraid and was he ready? and he told me he would be fine. He knew in whom he had trusted and he knew he trusted him still, and he put his faith in the promise of God’s eternal will.
God’s will is our salvation and so He sent His Son, to win that treasure for us by the Cross the victory won. My father trusted in Jesus and His death and rising to save. My father had a Father who promised him life even as we laid him in a grave.
He died knowing that we loved him and that is all that we could give. He died hanging onto Jesus who died that he might live. There was so much more I could have learned from him, and that has made me sad, but I will go to my grave thankful that I got to call him “dad”.