President of his high school senior class. Officer in the Halls Community Club. With his father, a productive dairy farmer whose farm was selected as a TVA test-demonstration farm for the education and improvement of farms not only locally but also nationally and internationally. Successful small businessman as a local brick mason, known for his honesty and work quality. Deacon and Sunday school teacher.
This is a worthy resume for any man. But one other entry that could be added to those achievements is much more important to me: that man was also father–my father. Daddy.
Daddy was not a perfect man. No man is. But he was a godly and dependable man. If he said something, you could count on it. If he told me that I’d get spanked if I disobeyed, I knew–from experience–that it would come to pass even as he had said it would. (Yet, I got far fewer of his spankings than I deserved.) If he told a client that he would do a job for a certain price, that’s exactly what he charged, even if he had to “eat” expenses that pushed his costs beyond the stated amount. He refused offers of additional money to push one client’s project ahead of a project of another client on which he was already working.
Daddy was not only a man of his word but also a man of the Word. Although he was not a good reader (his mother had to read his high school reading assignments aloud to him or he never would have finished them), he read his Bible faithfully. (His pastor, O.V. Edwards, wearing a black jacket in the photo of the church project to the left, taught him to lay brick while constructing their new church building. Daddy is to the far left in the photo.) From his own Bible study and the preaching and teaching he received in church, Daddy accepted Christ and developed his doctrinal beliefs and convictions. And he was firm in those convictions, come what may. He sometimes faced opposition over those convictions, but he stuck to them, even at the price of loss of friends. Although those former friends disagreed with him, they secretly admired and respected his commitment to his convictions.
Daddy was not without humor, although it was often dry or bent toward good-natured pranks and teasing. He once told a laborer who had forgotten his jacket on a chilly morning to stuff scraps of fiberglass insulation into his shirt sleeves. The uninitiated worker quickly became initiated by the itching that the insulation produced. Daddy also loved to tease his children when they were young and especially his grandchildren. But teasing was his way of showing people that he liked them. If he didn’t tease a person, it was a sign that he was ambivalent toward the person.
From the time my brother Dale and I were old enough to get into trouble at home, Daddy made us go to work with him, where he kept us so busy carrying bricks, mixing mortar, and either building or tearing down scaffolding that we didn’t have time to get into trouble. If we didn’t have anything to do, he found something, even if it was cleaning out the tool box in the bed of his truck. At home, he kept us busy mowing the lawn, weeding the strawberry patch, removing pruned grape vines, or hauling off wheelbarrows full of our garden’s greatest crop–rocks.
Occasionally, Daddy would find time to “pass ball” with us, throwing a baseball back and forth–on the ground, in the air–to help us hone our skills. He even tried to teach us to throw a knuckleball, a skill that Uncle Homer, a part-time St. Louis Cardinals scout, had taught him when he was a child. His knuckler was easy to see (because it rotated almost none, the seams were clearly visible as it came toward me) but hard to catch. When I did catch it, it stung my gloved hand as much as a hard fastball did. I never did master that pitch, but it increased my appreciation for the skill of such great major league knuckleballers as Hoyt Wilhelm and Phil Niekro.
Other boys might have had fathers who were easier on them, letting them do whatever they wanted and not spanking them when they did wrong. Others might have had fathers who sought to buy their affection with material things. And others might have had fathers who taught them by their example how to get ahead in this world and to gather to themselves wealth or fame. But Daddy gave us kids something much more valuable. He taught, by his example, a love for God and His Word and the character qualities that befit someone who claims the name Christian.
I will forever–on not only this Father’s Day but also every other day–be grateful that God gave me him as my daddy.