Daddy was raised up in RoEllen and came to high school in town which meant that he walked sometimes and other times caught a ride. He was very popular and into ag even then. His ag teacher Mr Sam Reed thought enough of him that he helped him snag a scholarship to UT Martin to get a BS in ag science. That was interrupted by service in the Air Force and my birth but it finally happened. He worked until the age of 55 doing double duty as a plant protection specialist with the USDA and manager of the farm we grew up on. They moved here when I was a year old.
Our lives twirled around the growing seasons and livestock. My brothers hauled hay when they were young and I rode along for fun. One of my most vivid memories of Daddy is of him in his pickup herding cattle in the field across from my house, yelling and slapping on the side of the truck trying to get them back behind the rickety old fence. He was beginning to lose it a little by that time and it scared me to death. Shortly after, the cows went away.
He always put in a full garden and we ate well on fresh food all year long thanks to his talent with the growing and my mother's kitchen skills. Sweet corn, purple hull peas, fried okra, you name it. I hated shelling lima beans and loved the fried yellow squash that mama served up with homemade cornbread. Daddy's favorite "dessert" was a piece of that cornbread soaked in purple hull pea juice. Nothing like it. He also established an orchard with apple and peach trees that still stands but doesn't get the care it needs.
Daddy was raised as a Southern Baptist but converted to the UMC when we were kids and Mama insisted on the family attending church together. Her family's heritage ran deep at first church. He sang in the choir until he went into the hospital and served on every board, committee and what have you that they asked him to. When I was a teenager he fought to have a dance in the fellowship hall for us and was promptly turned down by the powers that be. Man, he was a dancer!
He served for years as an official for the Dyer County Fair Association and in retirement turned his efforts toward things like hauling kids to summer camp, working for the local volunteer blood program and becoming a Paul Harris fellow in Rotary. He and Joe Wood were famous for their fried 'taters and onions at BBQ benefits locally. That tradition continues to this day.
My daddy never told me he loved me but I knew it. He was not a touchy feely person with us, yet he hugged everybody he came in contact with out there in the world. Mama always said it was because of the way he was brought up during the hard times. When he was a young teen he fell out of the barn loft and broke both arms! Guess who had to get his butt wiped by his sisters for awhile.
Letting my father die in peace was one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make. Parts of me wanted to keep trying for a good outcome but he had way too much going against him. Two years ago on a Sunday night in June I got a phone call from Mom telling me he was en-route to the hospital AT HIS OWN request. The diagnosis was not only a strangulated hernia but a massive infection from an old hernia repair on the other side. After two major surgeries in a week, he couldn't breathe from all the anesthesia. He never came home after going to the ER that night and died 6 weeks later not knowing he was in this world but not suffering one bit.
I cherish the things we had in common like flowers and growing things and harmonizing at church. Our favorite routine was to walk each other's yards and name what was coming up or blooming. He loved the birds too and whenever I see one visit me up close and personal I know it's him telling me to keep the faith.