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—— A Father’s Day Letter ——
It’s almost Father’s Day, and as I sit alone on the couch in the dark… I remember. Not so many years ago, it was still dark on a clear spring morning, an hour or so before sunrise, and I sat with you at the kitchen table. Soon we would step into the cool air outside and begin walking across the field, following a sheep path you knew well. For Father’s Day this year, I’m giving you something I can’t buy in the store or make with my hands. It is, in fact, a return of a gift you gave me some 45 years ago. To you, this day, I give a memory.
In the early 60’s, when farming was less intensive and industrial, you used to raise sheep. As a little boy I remember well checking on the young lambs with you, penned in the barn with their mothers to make sure they got enough milk to stay alive and grow. Often it was the dead of winter, cold and dark, or rainy and wet, and freezing fingers combined with fragile newborns to make for tough work. At other times, however, times like that clear late spring morning as we started across the field, farming was pure joy. We would walk briskly for the mile or so it would take to get to the big farmhouse, with the scale pens behind, where the sheep to ship would be waiting. As we approached the pens, the sun would be just over the horizon, and the dew would glisten in the light. We would each know what to do (for you had taught me my part), and the counting and weighing would begin. As each batch of sheep was herded, gently but quickly into the scale itself, you would weigh them and record tag numbers. I would then drive them out the other side, and the next batch would come. We worked quickly, because Mr. Roberts and his big truck would come soon, and there was only so much time to get them to market in Louisville before the day became hot and the woolly sheep became heat-stressed. When the truck backed up to the pens, I would help the others lift and set the loading chute you had made, and the sheep would begin scrambling up into the back with a clatter of hooves. Mr. Roberts always seemed glad to see me, and it was with satisfaction and excitement that the final sheep scrambled in and the loading gate was shut. You were happy, too, I think, because much had been done, and the sun was barely up into the sky.
The best part came next. Tired and satisfied, I would walk with you up to the big farmhouse and my grandmother’s kitchen table, for the best breakfast anywhere. Oh, how I loved to sit at the breakfast table with the grownups! I would take part in the conversation, eat those eggs, bacon and batter cakes, and believe I was a real farmer, just like my dad. In a way, it was real, because I had done real work, and the part I played was just as important as anyone else’s. Though I was just a kid, nobody told me what I couldn’t do, and you always made a point to teach me how to do something better. I was part of the team, and I loved it.
In this memory, Dad, I find the precious realization that you went to a lot of effort to involve me in your work and life, even when I was slowing you down or making the job harder to do. During those summers on the farm, I’m sure there were times I was bored or unwilling, but you didn’t give up. There are so many things I know today, and so many good habits, that you taught me all those years ago. Later, when Beth and I first considered how to educate the children we had started having, your practical training helped give me confidence to try home schooling for a year, just to see if it would work. Now, having graduated 3 of the 4 from our very own Chenoweth Academy, I look back and see your influence in our success. Your careful patience and persistence in my life has made a tremendous difference, and for that I will always be grateful. Happy Father’s Day, Dad! May it be happy for you, as you remember and know how important your fatherly care and love has been for me and my family.
With much love and appreciation,