Friday, June 6, 2014

My Dad

My Dad was born eighty-one years ago today! June 6 has always had a special meaning for our family as many events happened on June 6. Most notably, of course, was June 6, 1944 when the Allies stormed the beaches at Normandy and turned the tide in World War II.

Another notable June 6 was the night Robert Kennedy was shot on the fifth and died twenty-six hours later on June 6, 1968 just after winning the California Primary Election. If only he had taken the intended route out of the ballroom instead of being whisked away at the last moment through the kitchen.

I do not intend to discuss the latter two events; but rather discuss the life and times of my father who died of mesothelioma on July 23, 2006.

Like many children of my father's generation, he was born in the house on the family farm near Elkton, South Dakota on June 6, 1933. He took us by that farm a couple of times and the thing I remember most about that small farm was the artesian well that supplied that farm for many, many years. As far as I know, that well is still gushing out clean, fresh, cold water at a rapid rate. I remember looking out over the pasture and seeing three water tanks that had slowly been carried away by that well as the water pressure wore away the bottom of the tank and pushed it away from the well.

I am not sure exactly how long they lived on that farm before my grandma and grandpa bought the farm where Dad spent most of his early life growing up until he moved away to go to college. He used to tell great stories about his memories growing up despite all the tragedies they had to endure on that farm.

My dad was a runner. My grandmother made sure of that. My dad is the second of seven children born to Ben and Irene Patrick. When Grandpa Ben was plowing on May 27, 1942 he saw a storm coming from the West. He told dad's older brother, Murl, who was barely ten years old, and plowing with two teams of large draft horses, to take the horses in, unharness, curry down, feed and prepare them for the oncoming storm. Grandpa told Murl he would be in when he was done plowing. Grandpa never made it out of the field. A bolt of lightning saw to that. 

When the storm had passed and Grandpa had still not come in from the field, Grandma, pregnant with child number seven under the age of eleven, brought a couple of the kids out to see where Grandpa was. She found him going in circles, literally, fried to the tractor, and had to figure out how she was going to get him off the tractor and out of that newly plowed field.

She ended up driving to neighbors' farms eliciting help to get Grandpa off the tractor after they got it stopped. By that time, it was time to do the evening chores which included milking the cows, gathering the eggs and feeding all the other animals. Life was not easy in the good old days!

Three years later, baby Lorraine had seen the boys throw kerosene into the large round, old, gravity furnace in the middle of the basement. She thought she would do like her older siblings had done, except she did not know you had to flick the can to stop the kerosene from bringing a flame out and burning her. She died of the burns shortly after that.

By the time, my dad was twelve years old; he had lost his father and baby sister. I do not think he ever got over that. He did not, nor did the rest of the family, have time to grieve, as there were chores to do!

Murl, Dad, Leroy, Norris, Barbara and Dorothy all went to a small one-room schoolhouse through the eighth grade. After that, Grandma gave them a choice. The only two I know of are Murl and Dad's choices. As I understand it, when Murl was young he liked Gene Autry, the singing cowboy, and wanted to be the next Country and Western star! Grandma gave him this choice; you can go to high school or if you choose to stay home on the farm, I will give you a guitar and lessons.

Murl chose the latter and sang the old Country and Western songs his entire life, amassing an impressive collection of incredible, valuable guitars.

Dad's choice was this: you can stay here and help Murl and me run the farm, or you can go to high school and continue running. However, if you go to high school, you have to run everywhere you go, and when you are here at the farm, you have to wear a pair of five buckle overshoes.

Dad also chose the latter and became a member of a small five-man team from tiny South Dakota State College in nearby Brookings to win a National Championship in track and field in Abilene, Texas in 1953. Here is a picture of that team:

Click on the image to make it larger:

Kneeling: Russ Nash and my Dad
Standing: Jack Pearson, Leo Hammerich and Pete Retzlaff looking at the trophy with coach Jim Emmerich

Along the way, Dad ran everywhere. His siblings have told me they remember passing him in the family car on their way to high school as he ran the five miles into town.

I have a lot of stories I would like to tell you about my dad, but I see I have already written a long post. Let me finish with a story and a picture of my dad teaching me to bat left-handed. I was thirteen years old and we lived in Sibley, Iowa in the summer of 1968.

Dad was my coach, mentor, father and friend. He had some shortcomings, and I was occasionally on the short end of the stick, but not very often. We had a special relationship and I miss him every day. I am sure if you have lost a parent(s) you feel the same way.

Click on the image to make it larger:

I miss all the time we spent together. He will be teaching me again all too soon!

Happy Birthday, Dad!

As always, I look forward to your comments.




Colleen said...

What a treasure our memories are. I am thankful we also have a multitude of pictures to enhance those memories. At times I often wonder what "moments" I missed along the way.

Earl Hipp said...

Powerful testimony to a very good man, loving father and pal. Happy for you Mike, and I know he loved having you as a son.

Happy Fathers Day


Lynne said...

Great post, Mike!

Adam said...


What great memories. I could tell stories about my dad too but they would not be very uplifting. My dad was a bad alcoholic who was often mean and not fun to be around. I do not think I learned anything from my dad except how to argue and curse!

My best to you!