Sunday, June 20, 2010

Notes from a Cow Cage

Well, It's Father's Day and it wouldn't be fair to have written a tribute to my mom for Mother's Day and then not have one for my dad.

My dad is like no other man on the planet.
NO other.
Be assured.
It's true.

My dad is creative, smart, funny and completely impossible to fully explain.

He can build something fantastic out of absolutely nothing, in a fashion that would make McGuyver look like a novice.
And he has.

His inventions are numerous.
One was an enclosure he welded to fit into the back of his Ford F250 truck that we all called the "cow cage."
It was what it sounds like it was.
It served many purposes.
One of which was to completely embarass me in high school in the times I was forced to drive that truck to school.

I can still hear the rattle of it as I drove over the speed bumps that led into student parking. Try being popular in a blue cow cage truck.

He invented a dog-pulled sled that was on wheels.
It was a contraption in the truest sense of the word. And it was fun on the beach.
We'd drive it out there, hook our two family dogs up to the harnesses and take off, gently pulling the hand brake if they got going too fast.

He welded and hammered and melted noxious chemicals on the kitchen stove at all hours of the night.
*Tink. Tink. Tink.*

He once build a canoe in the living room. He still has that canoe.

I learned to fall asleep to just about anything, including light flashes from the welder and banging against the anvil in the living room as he mounted a rivet on something or made designs in some leather item he was designing.

He was the best person to have in your circle when it was school project time, because even though I hated it at the time, he wanted it to be perfect.
Just so.
The Egyptian dioramma couldn't just have straight chop stick palm trees beside it, they had to be bent like REAL palm trees. So we steamed them. On the stove. At midnight.

We got an A.

Until the day she died, my fifth grade teacher held on to that dioramma as an example to all of what REAL chop stick palm trees looked like.

He fishes.
He camps.
He sews.
He rides horses.

He brought home unusual pets. This was heaven for a girl who loved every animal. This list of pets included, but was not limited to:
a skunk
a raccoon
a pair of chipmunks
a pot bellied pig
a catfish named Smoky (That actually lived for YEARS in a fish tank in the dining room)
hostile chickens
and for awhile, we had pigeons until my brother forgot to feed them while my dad was gone on a trip and came home to a dozen dead pigeons.

He was strict.
There was a chunk of my life where he would measure my fingernails wiht a micrometer weekly because he didn't want me having long nails. It was too "hooker-y"

He thought he was funny. He'd call my boyfriends by the wrong name on purpose just to throw them off and make them question if I was seeing someone else.

He once switched out my toothpaste for hemhorroid cream and fell out of his chair laughing when I came out of the bathroom saying,
"Dad.....What did you DO?!"
because my mouth was numb and not so minty.

His medical practices included treating himself with horse medication which he always kept in the fridge next to the eggs, and soaking wounds in liquid bleach.
Amazingly.....They both worked.

He's had more near death experiences than I can count and it's almost dinner conversation now, with how used to it we all are.

"I was pinned under a tractor for 12 hours today while buzzards stood watch just waiting for me to die."
"Wow. You must be hungry. Can you pass the salt?"

My brother and I spend hours laughing our way through the memories of how he'd drink a slim fast , do 5 sit ups, and then follow that with a handfull of cookies and a nap.

Or the time he sent us out front with a box full of bread crumbs and told us to pluck all the snails from off the side of the house and put them in the box. He said he was going to cook them.
He said they were dinner.

He taught me to draw.
He taught me to work.
He also taught me to drive after my mom gave up on watching her life pass before her eyes.

He has always smelled like metal, wool, leather, rope and hard work.

He can draw out an invention on a napkin at lunch, complete with dimentions, and go home and knock it out in hours. Amazing. He once built a horse trailer that way.

He plays every instrument and is the type of guy that ALWAYS has on hand, in his truck, whatever it is you are looking for no matter where or when.
Need a paper cutter? Got it.
Bottled water? It's there.
Native American beading kit? Don't doubt it.
It's probably under the weed-whacker or the model ship kit.

We've had our moments of misunderstanding eachother -- As I became a teenager and he was....well....a dad.

But no matter what, I can always say that as complex as he sounds, I know just who he is.
He has never waivered.
Never made me question. I know where he stands and what he believes in, and one of those things he believes in is me.

I'll never ever forget him helping me pack up a truck with all of my belongings while he was still in his work clothes as I set off on my own - Moving out for the first time. He had tears in his eyes as he patted the hood and told me to come home for dinner soon because my "Mom would be missing me."

Now that I'm married, I watch as my husband comes in the door from work and immediately dons a pink tiarra if asked to, jumping in an instant from Costco Chic to Princess Perfect.
I see how the girls all look up to him and expect certain things from him and I see myself as a little girl, looking up to him -- this mystifying, amazing person.

I only hope that my daughters will one day look back on their childhoods with the same smiles and laughter.
I hope they'll compare notes about things their dad used to say and do and that they will get as much joy from their memories.

My dad wasn't perfect, but he did the most important thing you can do as a dad.

He showed up.

He stayed and worked at it.

So for every dad out there, hold your Slim Fast Shake to the sky and let's toast to Fatherhood.

Every anvil pounding minute of it.

1 comment:

  1. Awwww Kerr! This is great! Especially since I had the privilidge of living through some of it with you!