May 30, 2007My dad, Ralph, is quite a character. A jack of all trades. He was a farmer, a carpenter, an independent businessman, salesman and horse-trader; my dad is all of these and more rolled into one unique package.
With Father's Day just around the corner, and working with Brad Barrett, DDA Director, on a special Father's Day promotion, I stumbled across a picture of my dad and son. And that got me thinking about some of the many stories about dear ole' dad.
Notice I mentioned horse-trader, when describing my dad, I mean it generally and not specifically. He did trade horses, but he also traded a brand new home near town for an old farm with no inside plumbing, in the middle of nowhere. Mom wasn't too happy with Dad over that one. It did however end up being a great trade.
Dad once traded Mom's new 1965 Ford Fairlane 500 for a crane, saying he was going to get into the pond dredging business. Yes, a crane!
Dad's also the life of every party, family reunion, hunting or fishing camp, morning coffee shop or a simple visit to the grocery store — he's a fun-loving guy.
You never really know what he might do or say at any time. Several years back I came home from work to have my son, Keil, greet me at the door. "Dad, Grandpa Ralph is here, he let me drive his pickup!"
Looking to my dad I said, "You didn't let him drive did you?"
"Yep, good driver this boy," Dad replied, patting Keil on the head.
"He's not old enough to drive, he's only 13 years old!" I told him.
"Didn't stop you," Dad recalled. "I remember you used to take Grandpa Jorgensen to town every week, you weren't even twelve yet and you were driving all over the county," Dad justified.
"But that was up in the boondocks," I reminded him. "You could drive all day and not even see another car."
"Ahh, don't worry 'bout it, he's a good driver, you should have taught him before this anyway," he instructed.
And that brings to mind another story.
My son is now done with his college days and landed his first job with an advertising agencey in Southfield. He's grown and making his own way, although Grandpa Ralph has contributed to Keil's education as well. You know, helping my son get a grasp on life, so to speak.
This story unfolded when Keil was a freshman in college and my dad lived nearby. Dad stopped by his dorm room on this particular day to take Keil and a couple of his roommates to the Soaring Eagle Casino — for dinner he said, but gambling would be the dessert.
"You took him gambling?" I asked my dad sternly later in a phone conversation.
"No, took him to dinner, gambling came afterwards," Dad replied rather matter of factly.
"Dad, I don't know if he should be gambling," I stated. "You understand my concern, don't you?" I reasoned.
"I understand, and you're right, this boy shouldn't be gambling," Dad shot back.
I sighed in relief.
I mean, letting him drive before he was 14 years old is one thing, but gambling, well that's something entirely different.
"He lost twenty bucks playing blackjack, he's not very good at it. Darn good at the buffet though," Dad went on to say.
The flow of money between generations seems to be a problem in our family. Now that my father is a grandfather, seemingly gambling is okay. When I was my son's age, going to the casino would have been foolish and a waste of money. Now, all those years later, I'm certain Keil got some gambling money from his grandfather.
I think something is rotten in Denmark.
When I was a young man and asked Dad for a couple of bucks, he would tell me the story of his life; how he got up at four o'clock in the morning when he was seven years old and walked 20 miles to milk 60 cows.
He told me the farmer he worked for didn't have a bucket, so he had to squirt the milk into his hands and then walk eight miles to the nearest milk can. For five cents a month.
And that, of course, was after he got his chores done on the family farm.
I never did get the couple bucks I asked for.
But that's my dad. And you know what? I wouldn't trade him in for the world!