My daddy was the smartest man I ever knew and he was my hero. There wasn’t anything that he fell short of when it came to common sense and knowing how to get by. He always said, if ye got common sense ye can go far in life. He’d be the first to admit he didn’t get much schoolin as he put it, in one door and out the other. But times were different back then, young'uns had to help with the work, planting, harvesting, etc.
What time daddy wasn’t in the fields helping his daddy plow he was at the gristmill helping to grind the corn people would bring for their bread. That’d be an all day job. They’d come in home and eat supper and head towards the corn patches and plow till pitch dark. They’d get up before the crack of dawn and head back out to the fields. Then his dad would tell him, you get on up that hill to school son. Daddy said, he’d stay for a little while and get something on his mind to do and slip out the back door. That teacher would keen his legs good the next day with that hickory limb but it didn’t do any good. He’d do the same the next chance he got. His daddy would jump on him when he got home and sometimes do the same as the teacher but it didn’t stop him none.
It wasn’t easy to get a book education back then but daddy learned early on how to get through life. He never let it stop him with anything except one thing and that was getting his driver’s license. He never would try. He said since he couldn’t read and write what was the use in trying. He always said, what are they gonna do with an old man like me if they catch me, put me in the jailhouse and throw away the key. If they did I’d have it made with three square meals a day and there’d be less expense and worry for your mammy to have on her shoulders. Of course mama didn’t see it that way and always said if they catch ye you’ll have to lay in the jailhouse cause I can’t get ye out.
From the time daddy was old enough to hold the reins he drove an old wagon helping his dad and I guess he figured why worry about a license now. There was so many old, gutted, out roads he traveled down in an old wagon and later on in life he helped build them and Dams too. He worked for the WPA (Worker’s Progress Administration) when President Roosevelt signed it into law. He always said it was the best thing to come along. That’s why he knew every road around.
I can honestly say he never did get caught and was blessed to never be in an accident. We told him he had angels riding with him and God for sure.
But there was this one time he came mighty close. He always took the backroads when he got the chance but sometimes he had no choice but to hit the main roads.
He was taking my sister to the doctor one day for a recheck on her knee that she’d fell and twisted a few weeks before, when they came upon a road check. She was around twelve or so and it scared her. She yelled, “oh no we’re in for it now daddy.” He said, “calm down and stop ye worryin so much.” She said, they’ll put you in the jailhouse daddy, you ain’t got no license.” He told her again to calm down and stop frettin. Daddy slowed the old truck down and stopped, waiting for em to get through with the car in front . The officer waved daddy on through when it came time for him to pull up and be checked. Daddy slowly pulled on out and they stopped the vehicle behind em. My sister said, I wonder why they didn’t wanna check us daddy, and daddy said, “I told ye they ain’t got time to fool with an old man like me.”
They got to the doctor’s office and when they walked inside, daddy walked up to the window and said, “we’re here to get this gal’s knee checked, you know the one that tore her knee up while scufflin at school.” One of the ladies asked my sister what her name was and she told her. Daddy found him a seat in amongst a bunch of old fellers and started running his mouth as if he knew every one of em and they did the same. Who knows, he probably did. He knew everybody and if they didn’t know him they’d get to know him really fast
Daddy couldn’t write her name down on the clipboard or his own name either for that matter but it never stopped him from facing what life threw at him and he would walk into the biggest crowd to come along and made himself at home. He never saw a stranger.
I remember when he finally gave up his driving. His reflexes weren’t as good as they once were and it was for the best. The old truck just sit there for the longest time and everyday he’d crank it up just to hear it run. We felt sorry for him but it was for the best. He finally gave in and sold it. And he never mentioned driving anymore.
He taught me a lot about common sense and how to get through life. I’m so glad I got the privilege to attend school and learn what I did. My daddy and mama encouraged us young'uns to get as much education as possible. They always said, “ye never know what you might face in life and how much ye may need it.” They were pretty stern on an education and today I know why and appreciate em even more so. But common sense goes along ways and my daddy was living proof of that . He lived life to the fullest every day and walked up and down the same roads that he help build. After we lost daddy the doctor told us that’s what kept him going was his walking. The only times I can ever remember him being in the hospital was when he had to have a couple of minor surgeries and being put in for his blood pressure being to high, as he called it the swimmy heads.
That’s saying a lot for an old man that lived to the ripe old age of ninety four. I bet he’s talking to everyone he comes in contact with up in heaven and if there’s a chance he can drive, he’s doing that too.
I still hear him sometimes as he walks through my yard and those famous words, “I’m going out to the old homeplace to check on the garden and see if that groundhog has finished it off.” Of course, that was just an excuse to go back to the old place where he was born and raised and where he raised his own family. He loved that old place and he followed his memories, just like I’m doing today.
Thanks daddy for showing me how to follow my heart and giving me so many great memories and lessons in life. You sure did leave a lot behind for us all to enjoy and live by.
© Susie Swanson 2016