One man’s opinion – a Father’s Day reflection from my brother

My post last year about my dad’s sayings prompted my brother Bob to write this wonderful essay. This week, we’re writing about famous fathers and Bob’s piece demonstrates why our dad is pretty famous.

My Dad had many witty sayings which he often repeated during my formative years. Though much of his wit and wisdom seemed to be wasted on the youthful inexperience of his children, much like a beautiful painting, or a beloved bible verse, over time the color, depth, and richness of his sayings have opened to reveal a particular beauty not seen at first. Here are a few of his prodigious sayings, with my thoughts of what they meant at the time, and some of what they mean to me now.

“It’s all work and it all has to be done, so it doesn’t make any difference to me, I’ll do whatever you need me to do.”  Dad’s attitude toward work never ceased to amaze me – he seemed to thrive on it. Unfortunately that character trait didn’t pass to the next generation without some dilution. I’m much more particular about what work I do, and also how much I do.

“Well which one did you think I meant?”  Dad’s patience was tested frequently when instructing his children in the finer points of working cows. We thought at the time that he expected us to be mind readers, now I understand that he expected us to be in tune with what he was doing so that we would already know what he wanted done, and would just need a little guidance on the particulars. It rarely happened that way.  He never could quite figure out why we couldn’t quite figure out what we were supposed to do. “Hold that one, let that one out, shut the gate, get in front of her, open the gate, no, not that one, watch behind you, now what are you doing?”  I’m telling you, PT would have been glad to have Dad on his crew.

“I’m always glad when the neighbors do well, they may want share some of it with the rest of us.”  To this day at the age of 94 my Dad is an incurable optimist. Always thinking well of others, wanting the best for them, totally satisfied with more modest accommodations for himself. Generous with his time and attention. His invitation whenever someone showed up at the door was “Come on in and join us, we’ll put another cup of water in the soup.” His reply when anyone would offer to pay him for some kindness he’d shown them was “You don’t owe me a thing except a kind word.” I think the only times he ever ‘splurged’ on himself was when he bought hay equipment.

“It’s right there where I told you it was, now go back down there and get it.” Another frustration for Dad was his children’s inability to recognize various hastily described machinery parts that he would send them to the shed to retrieve. Invariably we would return empty handed, declaring that no part bearing any resemblance to that description was within 100 miles of the place. He’d end up taking us to the shed, going to the exact spot and pointing at the requested piece.

Our family has a trilogy of well-worn jokes that now only require a punch line as everyone knows the story line leading up to it. “No, it just doesn’t take me long to look at a horseshoe.” “What’s time to a hog?” and “It can’t be my goat, he’s tied to a log.”  Of course Dad has managed to also apply the punch lines to a multitude of life’s experiences and situations over the years, and if someone hasn’t heard the original joke, he’ll tell it to them, laughing just as hard as he did the first time he heard it.

“That’s okay, he’s one of the good guys, and we want to take care of the good guys” is my Dad’s response to anyone who opines that he may have come out on the short end of a deal. And Dad did come out on the short end at times, but he always seemed to make enough to get along, and that’s all he seemed to need.  And he got to help out the good guys. What a way to live.

“Don’t throw that away, you never know when you might need it again” and “We’re saving that for hard times” were two expressions heard almost daily at our house. “Don’t be so wasteful. Just because that was easy to come by doesn’t mean the next ones will be.”  Growing up during the Great Depression and participating in WWII rationing efforts to help our country win the war activated Dad’s frugal gene, and it’s been growing ever since. So if times ever get tough and you need a magneto for a 1939 H Farmall tractor, there’s a strong possibility that Dad has one.  If he ever had one, he still has it.

Other frequent saying were “Whiz went Nellie’s hat” and “Sold to the American,” random expressions of joy that flavored our world. “I just want them to have happy childhood” was his stated philosophy on child rearing, tempered by “You don’t always get everything you want.” “Zigging when he should have been zagging” described someone who had made a move that hadn’t ended as intended. “I’m going to see a man about a dog” meant grown-up business that kids didn’t get to tag along on, and often yielded new hay equipment, sometimes a new horse, maybe even a new dog on occasion. “Well if you’re not going to do anything anyway, get out of the way doing it” was usually muttered as we headed back out to pasture to round up the cattle that were mistakenly let out.

My favorite of Dad’s sayings wasn’t spoken as frequently as the others, but it carries a particular depth of meaning for me. I was pretty impressionable as a youngster, and it was easy to tell the persuasion of the last person I’d spent time with, or read about, as I would be convinced that their position was the correct one, whether it involved gold mining in Alaska, cattle ranching in Montana, or any number of half-baked ideas I stumbled upon and wanted to adopt.  After listening to me wax eloquent about the subject, and speak passionately about a specific position, or especially if I became obstinate that my position was clearly the correct one, Dad would often wryly state that “One man’s opinion doesn’t necessarily make it unanimous.”  I’ve since adopted this saying as my own, and have employed it a number of times over the years, in regards to myself, as well as others.

I know that my humble opinion doesn’t necessarily make it unanimous, but I believe my Dad is one of the greatest, and I am truly grateful for his wit and wisdom that he has poured into my life.  Thanks Dad, I love you.

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About Susan Mires

Susan Mires is a writer in St. Joseph, MO.

7 responses to “One man’s opinion – a Father’s Day reflection from my brother”

  1. Cherie Gagnon says :

    A wonderful tribute to your dad. I hope my kids will remember phrases that I often repeat with the same warmth one day.

  2. pagesfromstages says :

    This is wonderful! A treasure to keep. So many of those thoughts are from that generation. What wonderful memories and words of wisdom. Your brother did good!

  3. Susan Mires says :

    I’m quite proud of him and glad to show off his work.

  4. Paula says :

    Susie – Bob has written a great essay about Dad. He could have written a 1000 pages and still not captured all of his expressions.
    Remember these: “I’ve told you a million times not to exaggerate.” “Time to shave, shower and shine our shoes!” and “It’s exactly the same only different.”
    I’ve added a few of them into my speech, too.

    • Susan Mires says :

      One I find myself repeating is “Don’t be so wasteful.” The first time it came out of my mouth, I about fell over in shock.

  5. pagesfromstages says :

    I love it! Great essay!

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