Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Precious Memories

"I'll race you to the gate, Daddy" I told him as we were walking across the yard to go feed the chickens.

He gave me a headstart but easily overtook me and beat me (he was a track star in his day, after all), hopping the fence with one hand perched atop the rail as his legs rose up and effortlessly sailed over to the fence and landed on the other side.

I ran behind him, the Oklahoma wind blowing through my hair as I trailed along behind him, stopping to climb up the chain-link fence and down the other side. We walked across the road to the chicken coop where I would help him gather eggs that would later find their way into the incubator and brooder or into the refrigerator.

One of my favorite childhood memories is sitting in the little shed that he kept the incubator.

The warm air would overtake me as he opened the door to check the eggs. We'd pull the eggs out one at a time and put them over the light. If the light went all the way through, it went to the refrigerator. If the light created a shadow inside of it, it went back into the incubator.

Once the eggs started to crack, they were moved to the bottom shelf where the chicks (be it chickens, ducks, turkey, quail, or even pheasant) would hatch and dry out.

This was where I would 'dip their beaks' for the first time, though they rarely ate or drank when I tried to get them to.

After a day or two in the incubator, they would be moved over into the brooder where, again, they would be submitted to me regularly "checking on them" and "dipping their beaks".

In the winter months I would help with firewood. I was determined to make Daddy proud by carrying much more wood than such a little person should be able to carry.

So I'd hold my arms out straight in front of me and he'd pile me as high as I could hold it with limbs and small "logs" of wood for the fireplace. I'd trail up to the house behind him and proudly show off any scratches I might have earned along the way.

During some of the cooler months my dad would reload or pour jig heads. The jigs were my favorite. He would hang the jig heads inside a wooden box with wire strings running across it. We would paint each jig head and then hang it on the wires to dry.

After they were dry, he showed me how to cut the right amount of feathers and glue them to the jig-head and then wrap them to make a variety of beautiful fishing lures. To this day we still have hundreds of them left from my wonderful childhood memories.

When the snow and ice came, we would bundle up for days of fun in the snow and ice. Daddy would gather five-gallon buckets and pack them full of snow, using the molded snow as "bricks" to make a life-sized igloo in the yard.

When the pond froze over he would tie the boat to the back of the three-wheeler. My sister and I would load up in the boat and he'd pull us all over the neighborhood and even out on top of the frozen pond, where I was astounded and awestruck to see him build a fire right on top of the ice we were standing on and it never even melted through the ice!

We moved to Arkansas when I was nine and I got a little older. Sooner or later I talked Daddy into a horse.

Daddy rented a bag of bones horse for a few months to make sure that this wasn't just a phase and that I was willing to do some of the work that came with a horse. Once it was established that this wasn't temporary, we went to a horse auction where he bought my frist horse.

My first horse wasn't just any horse, she was a racehorse straight off the tracks.

Which is why Daddy turned around and sold her about 10 minutes after discovering this information.

My second horse was a solid black Tennessee Walking Horse I named Pride. (I was into a series of horse books called The Thoroughbread Series.)

After Pride came Dollar and Bo (who would become my show horse for barrels, poles, and several other events). Dollar and Bo were half-brother and sister out of Oklahoma Star. Then came Sierra, Fancy, Rooster, Buttons (who wasn't really ours but was on the same land with ours for so long that he may as well have been), Baby Sister, Doc, and a few more whose names now escape me.

We would go to "the land" nightly to feed the horses. On our way back in we'd stop at a convenient store and I'd get a Strawberry Clearly Canadian and he'd get a Peach Nehi.

"It tastes just like you're biting into a fuzzy peach," he would always tell me.

Eventually, when Clearly Canadians were no longer sold, I would convert over to the Peach Nehi as well.

The first vehicle I ever truly drove by myself was his old red Ford Truck in the pasture at the land.

Oh yeah, I was pulling a hay trailer, too.

We'd ride out at the land regularly. To this day I still think I could navigate those trails with my eyes closed and we've been out of that pasture and on land of our own since 1997.

Dollar and Bo (my dad's horse and my horse) are the only two we now have left.

Then came the days of boys and social lives and "having fun". Because that, for some reason, became more important than dear ol' dad.

And there was no one tagging along behind him, slowing him down, or helping him feed the horses. There was no little person talking non-stop and singing and cheering in the deer stand while we were "hunting".

And yet he never once complained.

He never once told me "hurry up" or "no, let me do this myself, it's faster". He never once denied me a simple little pleasure simply because it would cost him a precious moment's time.

And I see him being the same wonderful type of Daddy for my son that he was for me.

And I want to be that type of parent, too.

I want to be someone my son can grow up to admire and love and respect so deeply.
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