Dad was of German descent with all the cold and legalistic traits of those people. He loved his family but could not praise us. I believe now that he was only able to show his love by criticizing us and making sure we did things the right way. But he could be jovial and entertaining as well. Dean and I loved to ride with him in the old Willys Jeep when the snow was deep and the roads impassable to any other vehicle but tractors. He would sing silly songs and take great joy in bustin’ through drifts. He loved to tell stories and could keep us all in stitches about growing up with his brothers.
And he could be tender as well. One of the few memories I have of my childhood is watching him sitting by Lois’ hospital bed, set up in the dining room, feeding her. Struck down by Polio in her junior year, it was a long recovery. Mother told me once that all us kids ever saw between our parents was fussing and bickering, “But you never knew what went on in the bedroom, and I never slept a night that my head wasn’t resting on his arm.”
Dad had a neat, distinctive script and he was almost never seen without a note book in which he made lists and figured expenses. He was an avid reader and taught a boys’ Sunday school class as my mother taught the girls. Later he taught adult Bible classes and they were well attended as he spoke from neatly printed notes. However, we often had “roast Preacher” for Sunday lunch as he criticized the current minister and I believe it was out of a deep inner disappointment that he had not had the opportunity to attend college. Visiting ministers, evangelists and missionaries were frequent guests in our home and Dad loved debating with them. Probably one of his biggest disappointments was that I chose marriage over BibleCollege. That Dean attended Purdue was a great source of pride to him
If Dad were alive today he would have a computer and live on it. His appetite for knowledge was insatiable. He was on the School Board, the Farm Bureau Advisory Board, served as CountyCommissioner for a term or two and was a 32nd degree Mason; all this and the breadwinner for his family. His fields were as neat as he was and he loved the terracing and checked corn planting that was popular in the fifties. He was a gentleman farmer in the true sense. His clothes were always neat and pressed thanks to Mother’s expertise with an iron. Even when working he was as neat as could be managed.
His farming transitioned from workhorses to tractors and he loved innovation. Dean and I came along at the same time horses were being phased out of the operation. I can remember a team called George and Kate; a team of black Percherons who were put out to pasture when their usefulness was over. I remember a Thanksgiving dinner when one of my sisters came running to the table to tell us George had died. Kate was blind by this time and had to be put down for she was lost without George. My sisters grew up on the backs of workhorses and I have family photos to prove it. In their polka-dotted dresses, sausage-curled hair and bare feet, they were the epitome of farmers’ daughters.
The world would be a better place if more families had the advantage of such a father.