Thursday, March 30, 2017

My Dad...

My dad passed away after a battle with lung cancer on March 24, 2017 at the spry age of 91. He led a good life and I will miss him terribly.

All three of his children (me included) shared stories of dad at his funeral. This is mine: (okay, the extended version so people wouldn't boo me off stage at the funeral home)

As I was going through a chest that contained many of my dad's memorabilia items, I found  photo of me on my first "big horse", Flick. This picture is of me and Flick when I was about 7 or 8.

And it reminded me of a story.

Pretty much since the day I could speak, I began asking my parents for a big horse. Every day, relentlessly and with incessant nagging, I begged for a big horse.

And one day my parents showed me my new real horse. We were standing in a pen with a pony they called "Peanuts" and I was pretty confused. I had asked for a BIG horse and this horse was not big.

He was really very small. I suggested we take him back and trade him in for a big horse but my dad explained that I would need to learn to ride Peanuts because in his words, "If you can ride a Shetland, you can ride anything."

He was right. That pony was the most stubborn animal I have ever met. I would get on and kick him to get him to go and he would just stand there. I'm pretty sure he was chuckling at my effort.

But I stuck with it and eventually I learned to ride Peanuts. I reminded my parents of that every day, relentlessly and with incessant nagging, until one day they showed me this big, beautiful, palomino gelding with two white socks and a beautiful white mane and tail. I was about five years old and he absolutely towered over me.

I was in love from the first minute I saw him. He was gentle and sweet and my new best friend, well second to my best friend Jana Jo, but a close second.

And Flick was FAST!! I mean fast. He would eventually become my barrel racing horse as we grew up together. He was so fast that he could smoke any of the other horses we owned, with ease. I loved that about him!

My dad wouldn't let me ride him alone at first. He led me around the pen and then he allowed me to ride without him leading me but within an arm's length. That grew going outside the pen into the fields and pastures away from the barn but I had to be hooked to a lead that my dad was holding while riding one of our other horses, Cactus.

And every day I begged him to let me ride without being connected to him but dad said I wasn't ready yet.

I knew I was ready and I begged him every time we rode to let me go without him until finally one day when we were about a quarter or half mile from the barn, he reached down and unhooked Flick and smiled at me and said I was ready.

I was SO happy!!! Finally...I had waited all of my life...and being 5 years old that was a REALLLY long time!!

I smiled and we kept riding but it only took Flick about a minute to realize he was not hooked up to dad and Cactus any longer....and he was so over this riding thing and wanted to go back to the barn.

SO...Flick turned around and made a bee line for the barn. He ran as fast as he could go. I was holding on with everything I had while screaming, "HELP DADDY!!! I CAN'T STOP HIM!!!" and my dad was shouting, "JUST HOLD ON!!!! DON'T LET GO!!!"

He couldn't catch me. Cactus was too slow and as a parent now I can only imagine how terrified my dad was for me as he watched his 5 year old daughter bouncing in that saddle screaming and crying for him to help when he couldn't reach her. Falling that far at that speed would not be good and my dad would have known that.

Flick kept going that fast until we reached the barn where there was fence. He got right up to the fence and put on the brakes, full stop!

It was like I had been launched from a catapult and I just went flying right straight up and over Flick's head! Fortunately, where I luckily landed in some loose hay on the ground in front of him, and on the other side of the fence.

And I began screaming and crying!

I remember my dad rushing over and picking me up. After he made sure there was nothing broken, he  began brushing off my britches, pulling the hay out of my hair, and wiping away my tears. And I'm fairly certain he suggested that we not tell mom about this whole thing.

When I had calmed down enough, he told me that I was going to have to get back on Flick and ride him again, that day.

What had he just said? Had he not just witnessed the whole runaway train thing? Clearly, I was NOT ready for a big horse. We had all made a grave mistake and we needed to trade Flick back for Peanuts because the dream of having a big horse was just not something that was going to work out for me.

As I was screaming, crying, and protesting my dad picked me up and just flung me on the saddle and started walking Flick around. I screamed, cried, and protested for quite a long time and dad said nothing. He just kept walking Flick around.

When I calmed down enough, he pulled the lead off and made me ride Flick by myself. When I had successfully accomplished the mission, he pulled me off the saddle and got down and looked me right in the eyes and said, "Do you know why I made you ride Flick again?"

The only thing I could think of was that he was a really mean person but he said that was actually not the reason. ;)

He told me that he made me get back up on that saddle and ride Flick because if I didn't Flick would always know that he had me "buffaloed" and I would never have control of him because he would always know I was scared of him.

And he told me that I needed to know that even though I was scared and didn't want to do it, I could.

That lesson has served me very well in life.

Just get up, brush off your britches, get back in that saddle, and go forward.

And I see this trait in my sons, most especially Braden who has been fearless and fierce through his two respiratory failures as an infant, autism, three cancer diagnoses/battles. His ability to get back in the saddle every single time absolutely amazes me. In that way, I see my dad every time I look into his eyes.

I then began to think about not only how this lesson served me well but about how much it said about my dad. My dad was humble, quiet, gentle, kind, patient, and sweet. He never raised his voice and may have been the most agreeable person in the universe. You would not have chosen the words "strong and fierce" to describe him but he was strong and he was fierce.

My dad was an County Extension Agriculture Agent and he started a corn husking contest in Logan County, Kansas when we lived there. I'm sure that the board he reported to was super excited about his concept and plan. I'm sure more than one probably said,

"So let us make sure we have this right. You want to have some rows of corn, put a hook in the hands of people, send them down those rows of corn, ask them to shuck the corn and throw it in a wagon and then we will count how many they shucked into the wagon and how many they left behind and choose a winner. It sounds awesome Ross...thrilling and exciting and we are sure there are hundreds of people who will turn out for that."

But my dad believed it would be a source of community pride and it would bring people into our community by the hundreds for commerce and fun.

And guess what. It did. Hundreds of people DID turn out and it grew and grew and grew until multiple states adopted corn husking contests!

He was strong.

And he was fierce.

And he was also humble and kind.


Along with the picture of Flick and me, I found a note that my dad had saved since 1974 when I was a third grader. I had no idea he had saved this and I didn't even remember typing it.

Often, my dad would go back to the office at night or on the weekends and I loved to go with him because the Home Economist had an electric typewriter and I would type for hours while he worked.

This was one of my "masterpieces".

 It says,

"I love you very much. You are nice. You drink coffee. You eat chicken. You eat pheasant. You hunt. You're a farmer. You ride horses. You read very much. You ride Cactus when you ride. You use manners at the table.  You say please and thank you. You shoot at pheasants but you miss every time you shoot. You shoot at ducks but you miss every time you shoot. You go to the fair. You go out of town. You go to to Hays. You go to Ellis. You go to Hutchinson. You go to WaKeeney. You go everywhere but home you silly goose.

The End

By Deliece Your Daughter


I do love you dad. Thank you for brushing my britches off, picking the hay out of my hair, wiping away my tears and setting me back in the saddle when I was too little to do it by myself.

And for teaching me how to do it for myself so I could be bigger than my fear.

I will miss you every day until we meet again in Heaven. I hope to make you proud of me!