In life stories, words collide

Jun 22, 2017 By Betty Starks Case

Everyone's life is a story. Though Fathers Day is past, fathers still populate the Earth, and work, and fight, and love. To me, Steve Peck's editorial suggestions, "A father's answers," are ever worthy of consideration.

My father is no longer here, but years ago he told me a story about the first gas pump he'd ever seen. I was so excited about what else might have been around at the time that I exclaimed, "Daddy, why don't you write something about those times for the rest of us to enjoy?"

I don't know if his stomach ulcers were acting up, or the ever-painful hernia, but the response was a growled, "Aw, why don't you write it?"

Where was he born? Coleridge, Nebraska. No longer on the map, but a small café visit there led us to an elderly man who asked, "Have you been out to the old Starks place?"

With his directions, we found what was once a nice home, now deserted, with a huge tree limb crushing its roof. The small cemetery not far away held numerous stones with the family name, some we recognized.

My dad's father was a carpenter. He lived with us for a few years when I was a child, where he built a log cabin home. When mice found a way in, Grandpa built a small frame house he called "the shanty."

Now, my sisters and I climbed to the old cabin's top to watch bulls fighting in the east pasture, a safe and exciting event from Grandpa's roof.

My dad's favorite movie stars, radio or TV shows? I chuckle. Had such entertainment even been dreamed of yet?

His favorite sports? As a child, probably something like the ones he taught my two sisters and me when we were small - ball and stick games, learning to walk on stilts we made ourselves, walking a rolling barrel, paddling a raft in a large puddle if it should happen to rain that much. Use your imagination.

Subjects he was good at in school? I never heard him talk about it, but he certainly paid attention to my grades. When I earned a "C," he frowned. "That's average. You're not average."

A rare and iffy acknowledgment, but I took it as a compliment and pulled it from memory whenever I needed a boost. My dad believed I could do better.

In 10th grade, a wealthy but childless aunt and uncle in California asked him to live with them. They planned to send him to college, but he soon became homesick and relinquished his chance to inherit a fortune.

I take that to suggest he had a fair amount of common sense.

I remember the big township finance books he managed in order to earn money to feed his family when I was a child. I presume that means he was good with figures.

As a dad, he sat in the old oak chair he was rocked in as a child and created perfectly timed and rhyming poetry about the child in his lap. In his retirement, Ned and I enjoyed his newsy letters.

Literary interest? After working all day in the fields, I recall him lying on his aching back on the floor reading a book my mother's sister had sent him. In retirement, he read non-stop.

Entertainment that interested him as an adult? Baseball, when a gathering of neighbors might make up a team, seining the White River for fish, Saturday night card games with neighbors, where babies lay arranged on the master bed, and where women brought delicious cakes for a midnight treat.

Military service? You heard that story not long ago when The Ranger published a decoupage of his "Letter from Luxembourg," in World War I.

My dad and mother were married on Christmas Day, 1919.

Their first home? A small tar-papered shack on the South Dakota prairie, filled with peace, love, sunshine and wildflowers, where the horrors of war could not touch them.

How did he feel about having children ? Didn't matter in those days. They came anyway. He rocked them, sang to them, and created long tales to induce a nap.

As we grew older, the discipline firmed, probably a good thing, but not always logical in the view of kids.

In trouble, he believed there was no better sword than laughter. Sounded ludicrous, but made sense. Laughter relaxes body and brain. Better decisions come through.

From this man of many colors, who literally and figuratively danced to the tune of his own harmonica, we learned to balance sometimes sharp words with surprisingly tender ones.

Like the rainbow and the storm that creates it, words must sometimes collide to beget the colorful man we called "Daddy."

Print Story
Read The Ranger...