jcbellah


My Dad
March 11, 2012, 7:36 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

A little about my dad……….  My dad was born in 1904.  His mother died in a fire when he was four, he told me.  When I asked how that happened, he only said that she was sick in bed and couldn’t get out.  I suspect since he was only 4, that was what he’d been told.  I learned later through Ancestry.com that she actually died in childbirth in 1910.  The baby girl also died.

He had a younger sister, who was a baby at the time.  She died when she was 27, he told me.  As I recall, she had some kind of cancer, but he was never clear about it and I didn’t ask many questions.   One of my biggest regrets, I never asked enough questions and now it’s too late.

For several years, Dad was farmed out to various uncles and their families, brothers of his father.  Dad never complained about his childhood, but it wasn’t hard to pick up that it was pretty rough.  My grandfather remarried and had five more children, two boys, twin girls and one more girl.  Dad didn’t talk much about those years other than living with Uncle Wood and his Uncle Jim, both of whom he was always close to.

He quit high school before he started the 10th grade because he had to go to work.  Although he never really said bad things about his dad, he never praised him either.  The most he told me was that he was a big man, 5-10, 240 lbs and had a 19” neck.  He died of lip cancer in 1932 in Oklahoma.  Oh, he did say that the old man had a beautiful handwriting and I found that to be true.  I was able to obtain some old documents he had written a few years ago and it was something to see!

As I said earlier, my dad was 41 when I was born; I always looked at him as an old man.  He seemed very straight arrow; someone I thought was always upstanding.   When I moved to Portland, one of the twins lived here and I talked to her about him a little.  I found out that he had a Harley Davidson motorcycle in the 20’s and terrorized the little town of Hamlin where he lived.  I asked him about it and he admitted owning the bike, but didn’t want to give me much else!

When he was in his late 80’s, I was visiting them and I took him to Abilene for some reason.  As we’re driving along, he pointed out an area and told me that he used to date a girl that lived there.  Her dad didn’t like him much so he took a friend with him and the plan was to drop Dad off, the friend would pick up the girl at the house, they would pick up Dad and then they would take the friend home and do their date.  Now this country is flat as a pancake and nowhere to hide.  Dad is standing there and the girls Dad comes down the road headed home.  Dad can’t get away so the old man tells Dad’s friend to get lost and chases them off his property.  It was so hard to believe this was my DAD!!!!

My brother, who was born in 1930, grew up with a different dad although he was the same man.  Then, Dad was on the town baseball team and was active in sports.  Dad also worked at hard labor jobs.  He struggled through the Depression, doing whatever he could and sometime in the late thirties, had two different jobs.

Back then, there were chicken hatcheries and Hamlin had the biggest in the state of Texas. During the spring and summer, Dad drove an old converted school bus around the state buying eggs from farmers and selling them baby chicks.  Obviously, he would bring the eggs back and they would be put in incubators, hatched and the chicks would be separated by sex.  He worked for a man name Curtis Martin who was kind of Dad’s mentor.  Mr. Martin was the one who twisted my Dad’s arm and just about made him by the house and property in Hamlin they kept for decades.

In the fall, Dad worked for the cotton gin in town.  Most gins back then were powered by steam engines and Dad knew a lot about them.  He’d been a fireman on the Southern Pacific RR for about 5 years when he was laid off because of the Depression.  So he ran the gin’s steam engine, but also took the time to learn a lot about ginning.  By the time I was born, he had been hired as the gin manager and no longer worked for the hatchery.  In fact, Dad was a gin manager for the rest of his life.  When I was about 4, he was hired by the Paymaster Gin Company and we moved to Roscoe, Texas where he started with them.  Paymaster was gradually getting out of the gin business though and every time a gin was sold out from under him, he was given another to run and was transferred.

But because of Dad’s having to work so hard and so much (and probably a lot of other factors I know nothing about), he and my brother weren’t all that close.  On the contrary, I was very close to my dad.   He was the most stable thing in my life.  My mother loved me and I loved her, don’t get me wrong, but Mom had a lot of other problems that I’ll talk about later.

I can honestly say that even as a teenager (or maybe especially as one) there was nothing that I was afraid to talk to Dad about.  And what I loved about him was that he rarely told me what I should or shouldn’t do, but he would relate a similar experience he had and tell me what he did and how it worked out for him and then let me decide.  I will always love him for that.  Even as a kid, I always felt that he respected me as a person.  As much as Mom loved me, I never got that from her.  She acted as if I were her property and demanded obedience.  It took me years to let go of some of those resentments.

But going back to the different relationship between Dad, my brother and me, one time after I was grown, he asked me to install a ceiling fan in their living room.  When I got into the attic, I saw there was no insulation up there.  I asked Dad what his heating bill was in the winter (they had one gas space heater in the house) and it was over $100.  Now this was in the mid 70’s and that was a lot of money.  I called my brother and told him about it and he suggested we go together and put some in for him.  Since he lived in Texas and was more familiar with Hamlin than me, I let him handle it.

He called me back and said that when he told Dad what we wanted to do it, Dad said that if he wanted attic insulation, he would put it in and refused the offer.  I called him right back and acted like I’d never talked to my brother and told him that we like to do it as a Father’s Day present.  He sounded pleased and thanked my profusely.  Now what the hell was that all about????

On the other hand, when dealing with anything serious, Dad still looked at me as a kid and my brother as the adult.   He never talked to me about financial matters or anything important, but discussed it with my brother.  On some level, I don’t think Dad ever let go of me being a 16 year old kid.  And I was fine with that; I had some good times with him back then.

Thanks again, Dad, I love you.  I couldn’t have made it without you being there for me.

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