Remembering Dad, celebrating Father’s Day

By Bill Shepard

Daddy, dear Daddy, long gone on to that other world, but beautiful and sometimes painful memories linger! Oh, how I wish I would have said to my Daddy all the things I am about to write. Some of my fondest and most memorable moments of Daddy were when I was a little boy. Those were the years of the 1920s and ’30s. Times were as hard as cement and presented a challenge to every man to provide for himself and his family. Dad had been a poor dirt farmer all his life, plowing a living out of another man’s land. When he learned of the big cotton mill that was operating in Darlington, he sold his mule and moved his wife and three young sons to Darlington and started a new career working in the mill. It was a job that lasted as long as the old mill was in operation. When his three young sons became old enough, they followed in his footsteps and went to work in the mill. At that time, long before the 40-hour week went into effect, the mill operated one 12-hour shift per day, five and one-half days a week. Dad reported for work at 6 a.m. each day and finished at 6 p.m. In the wintertime, it was dark when Dad left the house for work and dark when he returned home. As hard as the day’s work was, I never heard Dad complain. He was grateful to have a job and a house for his family to live in. I liked the summertime when the days were long and warm. That was when Dad and I spent more time together. I liked helping him plant his garden. Dad would dig the holes and I would follow behind dropping seeds into each hole. When the plants started growing, I would help him hoe the weeks and grass around them. Dad could always find something to do, and I would help. On Sundays, Dad would take the family on pleasure rides through the country in his T-model Ford. Those were exciting trips. Seldom did we make a trip that we did not have at least one tire to go flat. While Dad patched the tire, I would play up and down the road. Sometimes a person walking by would stop and help Dad. After finishing, Dad would reach into his pocket and give the man some money. Dad really loved his family and put them and their welfare first in his life. My Daddy was a quiet man and as gentle and kind as a human could be. He was honest as a day is long, paid his debts as they came due and was careful not to make more debt than he could pay. He lived by that rule. One of the best lines of advice he ever gave me was, “Never allow yourself to want what you cannot have.” Dad lived by that rule, and I can say that he was the most contented person I have ever known. Dad taught his family by the example he lived before us each day. Dad was a stay-at-home Dad! He was satisfied to work in his garden during the summer months. He raised two hogs every year and enjoyed watching them grow all summer long and all the family enjoyed the fresh meat at Thanksgiving and Christmas, after they were butchered. I can remember Dad going fishing only twice in his lifetime. He cared nothing for sports of any kind, and as far as I know, he never went to a movie in his entire life, nor to a ball game. “Must have led a full life!” I can hear someone say. No, I have already stated that he was the most contented person I have ever known. I never one time heard my dad use a word of profanity; he was never given to strong drink and was generous to lend a helping hand to those in need. He lived his life by the Golden Rule – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you! I often wished, as I grew older, that I could be the kind of man my dad was, but I never felt that I could measure up to all his qualities. My regrets! Our family was complete when two beautiful girls were added. It was as though they were sent to comfort Mama and Daddy when the boys were away in the military during World War II. It must have been hard on both Mama and Daddy during those years. Shortly after the war began in the Pacific, there was a rubber shortage in America and the government was in need for rubber to make tires for the vehicles used in the military. The government made a plea for folks to sacrifice their spare tire in their car if they had one. A.T. Shearin at the YMCA in Darlington headed up that program. Dad had five tires. His old car had been wrecked beyond repair, so he took all the tires from the car and sold the car to a junkyard. When Dad learned of the project, he took the tires and turned them in to Mr. Shearin. When he was asked what he thought he should be paid for them, he answered, “I have three sons in the military and if the government needs these tires, I am glad to give them.” “You are a poor man, and you should be compensated something,” Mr. Shearin insisted. When the check arrived, it amounted to less than $1! I do not think Dad ever cashed that check. It lay on a tabletop in our house for as long as I can remember. This is almost Father’s Day, and I am remembering my father! He was a guiding influence in my life and still is. Wherever you are Dad, Happy Father’s Day! For each of you reading this, if your father is still living, tell him all the things you wish him to know – do not put it off! I start thinking a lot of times, About back when I was a boy. Of the place where I grew up And the things that were mine to enjoy. There were seven of us in all. We lived in a three-room shack, At the end of a short dirt road Down by the railroad track. I remember as though it was yesterday. The good times we shared together. We did not have much of this world’s wealth, But somehow, that did not matter. My Dad worked at the mill all day, And Mom, she stayed at home. She kept an eye on the children she loved. We were never left alone. My overalls were handed down. From Harry to Harvey, then to me. They were faded and frayed and thinly worn, And patched from the seat to the knees. We had a cow and a pig or two, And chickens all over the place. A dog and a cat were always around. It was fun to watch them chase. The war came along and changed the world, For Harry, Harvey and me. Never again would home be the same, We grew apart, you see. Harvey was first to go away. The Navy reached out for him. Harry was next, the Army called. Home was never the same without them. I was the last of the boys to go, Leaving my sisters with Mom and Dad. Thinking of that parting now, Makes me sad, oh so sad. The war ended and we all married, And started our own families. But Mom and Dad, they stayed on And lived with their memories. Then one by one they began to leave, For the world where we all must go. Dad was the first to bid farewell, Ah, we missed him so. Then Harry left and Harvey followed, And Mom did not linger long. My youngest sister was next to leave, To enter the great beyond. There are only two of us that are left, My older sister and me. Soon there will be one, then none, We will all be gone, you see. And if things could be as I want them to be, We would all be in Heaven together. Just the way we were down here! Then nothing else would matter!

Author: Rachel Howell

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