Since yesterday was my dad’s birthday and today is Father’s Day, I thought I would do a little tribute to my dad. As you know, I grew up in a teeny, tiny town called Ball Ground. We had a caution light and a four way stop, a small grocery store, along with a few small businesses, including Dad’s tire store and my grandmother and great aunt’s restaurant.
Generation after generation lived in Ball Ground with very few ever moving away and even fewer moving in during that time. The closest fast food chain restaurant was ten miles away and the closest movie theater was at Cumberland Mall in Marietta, Georgia, which was about a 45 minute drive. Of course all of that has changed now, but when I was growing up, Ball Ground was in the middle of nowhere, and we were considered “country” by most, if not all, outsiders.
And I think, in a way, we were kinda proud about being country. We lived in a place where you knew everybody and everybody watched over their neighbors, whether the neighbor lived across the street from you or three miles down the road. You took food when someone was sick, or had died, or had a baby. A trip to the grocery store or post office would take a while because you were sure to run into neighbors and friends while there, and you needed to catch up on who was sick, had died, or had a baby so you could take food to them. People would drop off fresh vegetables at my dad’s store because they had extra and thought we might like some.
Doesn’t it remind you of Mayberry on Andy Griffith? Well, that’s what it was actually like.
Now back to my dad…
I’m here to tell you there’s nothing like being raised by a country dad. Southern dads are generally protective of their little girls on most things, but Southern country dads make sure their darling girls know how to take care of themselves, their livestock, and their car. They like their daughters to be independent, but at the same time nobody better mess with daddy’s little girls if they know what’s good for them.
All of that held true for me, too. My dad taught me how to use a hammer as we built on to our old barn, how to paint a fence in the middle of July (and boy was it hot!), how to ride some crazy pea brained horses (Better hang on with your knees so you don’t get dumped. Those horses didn’t have a brain in their head.), and how to work hard because whining about it wasn’t gonna get it done.
My dad loves his animals, especially his horses. He has a sharp, dry wit, and he can play the banjo, guitar, and harmonica by ear. While I inherited his wit and love of animals, I can’t carry a tune in a bucket and my mom reminded me of that every time I tried to sing along to the radio. It’s true. I can’t sing to save my life, but I enjoy it all the same so I still sing with great enthusiasm…as long as I’m by myself.
Dad also has a soft spot for the runts of the litter and for ugly mutts, but he would probably tell you differently if you asked him. He let me take in every stray dog around (and there were LOTS) and he tolerated me training and taming his guard dogs when I was small. I was a dog whisperer apparently, and after I played with the dogs they became useless as guard dogs. Sorry about that dad. They were cute dobermans and I had fun playing with them. I’m sure you understand.
After reading the stuff below, you’ll probably think Dad was mean and tried to work us to death, but that wasn’t the case. Dad had a tire store, muffler shop, and feed store all combined and he did physical work 6 days a week. When I was really little he would open the store around 8:00 a.m. and would close at 7:00 p.m., and then he would come home to ride horses before he ever made it to the house to sit down and rest a while. He was always working hard and I seldom ever heard him complain, even though he a right to.
So you see, my sister and I did chores to help out and to give our dad a break. And really, that’s what you do when you have a farm anyway. There’s always work to b e done and everybody has to pitch in and help so it gets done quicker because those same chores will be repeated week after week on a never ending cycle.
All of the quotes below are from my dad unless otherwise stated. Some of these conversations were in person while others were on the phone, and you’ll be reading his side of the conversation only…
On answering the phone when guys called…
“Hello…Tammy? You want to speak to Tammy? Well, she’s out in the backyard practicing her hula hooping…Yes, I know it’s 9:30 at night but that’s when she likes to hula hoop. Hold on for a minute and let me see if I can get her to come inside…”
“Hello. Tammy? She’s out milking the cows. Let me see if she’s almost done…”
By the way, I hadn’t hula hooped since I was 10 years old, we never had cows, and I was usually sitting across the room from him when he answered the phone. He thought he was so funny.
On taking care of the animals…
“Did you water the horses?”
“If you don’t put your fingers in the horse’s mouth, then he won’t bite you.”
“Have you fed the dogs yet? You know they can’t feed themselves. What are you doing eating dinner before you feed them?”
After being kicked in the elbow by a horse… “You don’t need no doctor. You ain’t bleeding and I don’t see no broken bones. You’re fine.”
“Have you water the horses yet?”
8:30 a.m. was sleeping in to my dad. “If you’re going to stay up with the owls, then you need to learn to soar with the eagles…Go water those horses.”
“If you don’t put your foot under the horse’s hoof, then it won’t step on you. You’re foot is FINE. You don’t need no doctor.” My foot was swollen and blue, but apparently it was FINE. I bet keeping it inside my boot while I finished up chores helped keep the swelling down some.
“Can you go check on the horses and make sure they have water? It’s awful hot today and they’ll be thirsty. And be sure to turn on the fans… Oh. You just showered? Well, you might need another one by the time you’re done. It’s awful hot out there…”
By the way, a horse can drink 10-20 gallons of water on an awful hot day. And guess what happens after they drink that much? Yeah, if we weren’t watering the horses, then we were cleaning their stalls.
On yard work…
Dad: “You and your sister need to mow the yard and then rake the grass. The grass is high and if you don’t rake it, then it will kill the grass underneath.”
Me & My Sister: “How about we use the grass catcher?”
Dad: “It’s not working. You can use the rake.”
By the way, I’m sure that grass catcher was working just fine.
I was home from college one summer and I started push mowing the grass after dinner, but then went back inside…
Dad: “Why did you quit mowing?”
Me: “I bumped the lawn mower into that old stump and a swarm of yellow jackets came out of it and stung me! Apparently I’m allergic to them. I’m already swelling up.”
Dad: “Go ahead and doctor them and then go finish up. That yard’s not going to mow itself. Just make sure you stay away from that stump or you’ll make them bees angry again.” I kid you not… But in all fairness, he was probably joking in his dry tone of voice, but like with everything else, the yard work needed to get done so I went out and worked on it some more.
Happy Father’s Day daddio! I’m honored I was raised by such a great man. Through your examples, you taught me to be compassionate when caring for our animals, to be giving to those less fortunate, to work hard even when no one was looking, and to always remember, no matter how much or how little you have, there will always be those who have even less.
I’ll always remember all those times where you helped out the locals who didn’t have enough to pay their bills even when it meant you wouldn’t be making the money you needed. And those times where people would call the house at night, wanting you to open the store back up so they could get a bag of dog food. Even though you had been open 10 hours or more on those days, you always, always opened the store up so that their dog wouldn’t go hungry that night.
I hope you’ve had a wonderful Father’s Day. I’m sorry we couldn’t have been there to celebrate with you today, but we’ll be seeing you next weekend. Love you Dad!