Today (the 29th) would have been my dad's 80's birthday. He was born near the beginning of the Great Depression and died just over three years ago when our nation was at war again.
Papa was not rich or famous. He did keep a roof over our heads and food in the cupboard. He had a passion for reading and he loved trains. He didn't talk much about his childhood other than his high school adventures and playing football. He grew up in the panhandle of Texas with a brother and two sisters. He was the oldest.
He left the Texas Panhandle as soon as he could and went to work in the oil fields in Colorado and Wyoming. His time with the oil companies took him around the world. He worked in the Arabian peninsula and traveled to Ethiopia, Spain, Greece, France and England. He jokingly told us that as long as they learned to order a beer and could find a bathroom, he and his buddies got along just fine overseas.
He also served in the Korean Conflict. He was stationed in Europe. He did his required time. Because of that he was a member of the American Legion as long as I can remember.
His love of trains, prompted him to buy an out of commission caboose and park in the pasture behind the house. In fact he had to get a company from Casper to come move it from the side rails to the pasture. It was a play house for years and later was donated to the historical society in Chugwater. I can remember him 'making' us go see the old steam engines. He also arranged for my brother and I to ride the 'beet' trains in the fall.
He taught me to drive the 62 Rambler with the stick shift on the column. Trust me, I didn't much like my dad that day because I had trouble figuring out the pedal and shift timing and I basically killed the dang car, time after time. But after awhile, I was at least figure it out. Stick shifts aren't my favorite things to drive but I can drive one if I had to.
My dad was also a cancer survivor. He had colon cancer. He later admitted to me just how close he had been to dying. Not that I was told that at the time. He had gone in for a screening test. The local doc sent him to Cheyenne immediately. He had surgery to remove the tumor in the upper part of his colon. His surgeon told him was less than 90 days from terminal. Which meant had he not gone in when he did the tumor would have grown to a point that operating would not have been an option.
With the cancer came two years of chemotherapy. He lost his a lot of his hair. His nose ran all the time and he had a metal taste in his mouth all the time that nothing could take away. He had his good days and the not so good days. The cancer was also a disabled him to the point, he could not return to the drilling work he had been doing. At the time he was contracting to drill large air holes in mining operations in eastern Utah. It was something he was never able to go back to doing.
He wasn't a church goer. He did attend funerals, wedding, etc but he had his reasons for not belonging to a church. I understood that the older I became.
He listened to country music, the Hank Williams twangy variety. He listed to the radio and he was a newspaper reader.
While Papa survived the cancer, it was complications of dementia that took him away. The dementia took the essence away and with that his ability to be an active part of his granddaughters lives when they would have remembered him the most. I firmly believe had the brain illness not impaired him, he would have made certain he had a front row seat at those ball games, state tournaments, speech contests, play competitions and graduations. But sadly, it was not meant to be.
Happy Birthday Papa. Love you and miss you always. B