I need far more than Fathers Day to honour my father,
a hardworking, decent man who quietly accomplished the impossible. My
father found a way to protect us all from the woes of the
Of course like all children, I never realised what a marvellous
feat he had accomplished. I thought living on a dairy
farm in rural Ohio was drudgery. There were moments when
I enjoyed roaming through the hills and picking blackberries;
riding my brown and white pinto horse through quiet fields
or feeding a baby calf a giant bottle of milk just after it
was taken from its mother. I never once realised those
simple events were the end of an era.
Today, few if any fathers could accomplish what my father
did. It is impossible to protect children even in our own
homes. Watching TV, going to the movies, switching on a computer
and even listening to the radio can be hazardous to your health.
When I was a child, my father acted as a deejay, spinning
one of those old-fashioned 45 records with Ray Charles moaning, Take
these chains from my heart and set me free... Elvis
Presley snarled his way through Hound Dog and Benny Goodman
pierced the night with his mournful clarinet.
During the day while my father planted wheat or milked cows,
we switched on the radio and listened to Bob Dylan, Joan Baez,
and The Beatles. The bad boys of early rock and roll were
the Rolling Stones. Thats as bad as it got. We
didnt know enough to translate cryptic messages about
LSD in The Beatles Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, but
we did have a clear understanding that drugs would make you
We certainly didnt switch on the radioas my children
now doand hear marijuana glorified. We didnt
hear deejays cursing and talking nonsense. Deejays
even had proper grammar when they spoke. They knew their music
and they knew the history of their music. Crime was
something confined to the television with stories that seemed
so remote to us. We were aware that the world was changing:
Martin Luther King was marching on Selma, Alabama; Governor
George Wallace was a menace to Georgia, and Malcolm X was
frightening, but we had arrowheads to gather and a black dog
named Rocky to teach how to herd cows.
Our peace was threatened by water moccasins, poisonous snakes
invading our yards. The biggest worry we had was rain
threatening to mildew the bales of hay laying in the fields.
We had not yet heard of computers. There was no cyberspacejust
astronauts in outer space circling the Earth in space capsules
and talking about landing on the moon. When they finally did,
my grandmother swore she could see where the astronauts planted
When my father locked the door for the night, we felt safe.
We didnt have to worry about predators luring us into
cyberspace. There was no danger lurking in our bedrooms.
Nothing but chirping crickets and croaking frogs disturbed
Even television was kind. Kurt Russell acted in a weekly series
called Jamie McPheeters, Walt Disney hosted a family show
that sometimes featured his animated characters, and Bonanza
showed us how close a family of only males could be.
The gun battles were fake and the bad guys usually were the
only ones who died. If a good guy died, the bad guy was
punished. We could clearly tell right from wrong in the
television shows we saw. Dying on TV was hardly a gruesome
event. You didnt see knives and blood. There were
gun shots and hands slapped across the heart as bodies stumbled
and fell to the ground with a thud.
The closest we got to nudity in films was Elizabeth Taylor
showing her bottom in Cleopatra, a movie that made my paternal
grandmother, Flossie Faye Bennett Bowman, gasp loudly in the
Those were simpler times. Still, it was an accomplishment
for a father to find a way to protect his children so absolutely
as my father had done.
We were raised without fear. We were raised to trust
and respect adults. I used to sit on a knoll in the yard
and look down the dirt road. I was hoping to see a cloud
of dust roll my way. This would be the signal that a car was
coming up the lonely road. I could go for days without seeing
a car until someone opened up a dude ranch about five miles
from where I lived.
After that a parade of city slickers got lost in the
countryside and wandered my way. I had to give them directions
to the Cedar Creek Ranch. My father taught me the directions
and I felt very grown-up passing them on to strangers. It
never occurred to me to be afraid of kidnappers or predators.
Yes, life was good and simple and my father made it so. I
know there are a lot of good fathers out there doing their
best to create decent homes for their children. I salute
you in your efforts. I know its not easy. Times
This officially ends my trilogy on three men, SuperBlue, my
Uncle Glen and my Dad, who had a major impact on my life. It
is important to remember and cherish what is good in our lives.
I wish that for everyone.
Next week: I have a surprisingif not shockingannouncement