Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Milestone: 80 Years? Already?

In January 1929, the 28th day, in the small town of Del Rio, Texas, a little guy was born that changed my world. Without him, I would be nothing. Literally. He is my Dad. Or “Little Daddy” as I call him.

There is not enough room here to tell all about him, but the short version is that he started out in Del Rio, and soon the family moved to Austin, where he grew up. His first job was at the Capitol Saddlery Shop, cutting leather conchos for saddles. He was under ten years old. Then he drove a bread truck for Butterkrust Bakeries, the rural route. He was 14.

He skipped his first day of school; his mother took him to the school, but he never went in. Instead, he walked part of the way home, sat on a rock wall and ate his lunch. Then he went home and told his mother that school let out early.
That was the last dishonest thing he probably ever did.

He grew up, and while he was off in the Marine Corps, his mother and father moved to Texas City, and so that’s where he came home to. While hanging out with a couple of tough guys on the corner, a girl drove by in a big DeSoto Suburban, and he was smitten. His buddy flagged her and the gang of girls she was cruising with and hitched a ride for him and my dad-to-be. Alvin, my Dad, reached up with his pocket knife and cut off a little curl on the back of her neck. He was sure he’d marry this girl. He did.

He was in the Marine Corps Reserves, so he got called up to go put down the trouble in Korea. He did, and brought home some metal from a Russian mortar that tried to kill him. It’s still in his left leg.

As a Dad, he was the best. He knew when to play, and he knew when to discipline. I remember nights after grueling tickle-fests in the living room, trying to settle down to go to sleep. Just as my pulse would return to normal, and my breathing evened out, I spied a form creeping in the door on its hands and knees, then springing up to my bed, standing over me on the blanket roaring and laughing before descending to pretend to eat my neck. I get chills even now thinking about it. I should be scarred for life, but instead, my children are. I also remember my mother saying, “Alvin stop it, let him go to sleep!”

He scratched my back with his whiskers on Saturdays when he refused to shave. Did all the normal things that a guy teaches his son how to do; throw a football, skip rocks on the river, catch minnows in a bedsheet, fly fishing, bass fishing, how to shoot a pistol and a rifle. How to drive (“More brake, MORE BRAKE!!”), how to trim trees with a bow saw and a rope (without falling to your death), and how to treat people.

More about that last one, because it’s important. Everywhere we went, I saw the way my Dad treated everyone; like they were his equal or better. The bus boys, waitresses and gas-pumping kid at the service station. The high school kids that scooped our ice cream at Baskin Robbins after Sunday night service always heard, “make it like you were makin’ if for yourself…” with a big smile from my Dad. Sure enough, they looked at him, and as the realization of what he said dawned on them, a huge smile spread on their faces. They would then bend to the task of giving the man that engaged them more ice cream than anyone else in the store.

There is nothing false or phony about this man. Everybody knows who he is and where he stands. As a machinist and later a maintenance supervisor at Monsanto Chemical Company for 31 years, he showed everybody there what it meant to be a Christian. Not a “Sunday Christian”, but a real, every day believer and follower of Jesus. For some of those guys, my Dad was their only exposure to God’s love and compassion.

I remember one guy in particular who had an alcohol problem that always would call my Dad for prayer and counseling late at night, or in the afternoon, or whenever he needed help. We took him to church and now, that man after thirty years, still stays in touch with my Dad.

If you have ever tasted an example of the produce or preserves from the Soderberg Farm and Chicken Resort; the bread and butter pickles, the red pepper relish and jelly, blackberry jelly, cabbage, carrots, broccoli, spinach, chard or tomatoes, you have participated in what he likes to do. That is, running around at a trot for hours a day tending to the garden and chickens. He can still out-work me.

So Happy Birthday, Little Daddy. From your Baby Huey!

PS: I have adopted the “Make It Like You Were Makin’ It For Yourself” ploy with ice cream dippers and the like. It works, just look at me!


invigilator_tex said...

Wow! What a man! What a tribute! If I weren't such a macho-kinda guy I'd say that was a tear running down my cheek, but I'm pretty sure it's just a mote of dust......

Well, Geezer, wish Little Daddy a happy birthday from me too, will ya?

I'm thinking your dad could make a million dollars teaching a class on how to be a good dad.

Anonymous said...

Not ashamed to say - I cried. Alvin from Alvin is one of the best! I am writing him now...
PS Perhaps you best work yet


Anonymous said...

We are so blessed. I'm glad he cut that lock of hair!!!
Beautiful thoughts. ;)

DammitWomann said...

That is a magnificent tribute to your Father. Just be sure to share it with him. Men like him are far and few between now days I'm afraid.

aA said...

He sure don't LOOK 80, and he don't act it, neither!

the photoSmith said...

bravo! what a great birthday tribute! i've had the privilege of tasting the delicious treats coming outta the soderberg farms and WOW it's amazing stuff. hopefully jackson will be able to give a tribute half this great when i turn 80!

Howlsatmoon said...

Happy Birfday to the Senior Geezer. Sounds like a darned fine Man.....and hey, he IS a Marine, dontcha know.

Rob V. said...

How interesting. My dad (who passed away a few years ago) also returned from the Korean War (or was it just a "conflict"?) with a purple heart, due to a bullet being placed directly through the calf of his right leg. He also taught me a lot about fishing, but I never learned about catching minnows with a bedsheet (you sure you didn't make that one up?). Did your mother know you used a sheet for catching minnows?

aA said...

MrV, my Mom gave us the sheet, held a corner and helped us put the minners in the minner-bucket!

Anonymous said...


It has been 24 years since my Dad passed away and I remember the special friendship both your Dad and mine shared, in fact I would be close to calling them best buddies.

Everything you shared about your Dad brought back great memories for me, whether it was camping, Church in Houston, riding in the back of your Dads truck with my Dad riding shotgun, etc...

Thanks for the great memories, sometimes when things aren't going as well as I expect I kind of forget to remember those who influenced an important time of my life. Here's to Alvin and Doug...Cheers!

Send your Dad my love and that I wish him a happy belated birthday.

Gary "Falcon" Dickson

spacemonkey said...


I know it wasn't a sad story, but you had me in tears.

I'm calling my dad.

Anonymous said...

Oh, how I love your dad and mom! Soon after I began attending their church, I saw them at the grocery store. Your mom was standing near the end-cap of the aisle and, true-to-form, she did something clever. She started jerking 12-packs of beer off the shelf and pretending that she was surprised and embarrassed to see me. When Father's Day rolled around this year, I was standing in the lobby with Leah who is about your sister's age. Your dad ran up with his usual squeezes and encouraging words. As I greeted him with "Happy Father's Day," I just almost started crying and added, "from ALL your daughters." Leah chimed in with her agreement, also choking up. Your dad is precious and we appreciate you kids never getting tired of hearing about it. You know they are so very loved here. Brenda R.