Chariton Valley News Press
I hereby nominate my dad for an Academy Award based on his Father’s Day performances from years past. It seems like every dad takes on the role of performing artist during the early years of fatherhood. The cards start rolling in and the father of Picasso performances begin. In the case of my poor father, the performance usually had to last for months.
When I was a kid growing up, we always had a milk cow around the farm. Every morning, Dad would dutifully bring the cow up to the old garage and milk away. Every year around Father’s Day I would set out to make his morning chore easier – and always did just the opposite.
It started out pretty innocent. The first year I rummaged around the piles of used boards and came up with just enough scrap material to make a feed pan. Surely Bossy or Bess or whatever her name was would stand still better for Dad if she had a nice, big feed pan full of feed to keep her focused. Nice theory but my carpentry skills lacked a little in the finishing department. The scraps all fit together nicely, I thought and paint covered all the blemishes.
I did not take into account the need for the feed pan to be wider than the cows nose. A couple of two by fours slapped onto the side of another two by four did not make for a wide enough feed pan to fit her nose down into. This led to Bessy/Bossy/whatever her name was trying to lick all the feed out of the bottom of the “feed pan”.
It also led to the feed pan moving with every swipe of the tongue, Bessy moving to catch up to it, and Dad moving to keep up with Bessy. This may have led to some colorful commentary on his part as well but he certainly never led on to it being a problem when I was around. He always played the part of the “grateful” father for having a shiny new feed pan to use every morning.
I was so encouraged by his performance the next year I decided he needed a stool with a smooth seat on it to go with the feed pan. The empty bucket he used as a chair had that rim around the bottom left marks on my bottom so I knew it couldn’t be comfortable for Dad. It took a long time to milk a cow and that lip left a mark. Back to the scrap pile I went in search of another praise worthy Father’s Day gift of my own making.
In my eyes, every cow-milking dad needed a milk stool of this caliber. I hammered and sawed throughout the afternoon. To the garage I flew to find the perfect color of paint (translation – a can that had enough in it to paint the milk stool one solid color). Next, I found a box and wrapped it up with great fanfare. I’m sure Dad had to stifle a groan when he came in that night and saw the box.
It was time for Dad to once again take off the farmer’s coat and enter the world of the performing arts. As every great father has done, he pulled it off with a convincing performance. I followed him out to help with the milking after church on Sunday just to make sure it was as great as I thought.
Poor Dad! The two, two by fours were not nearly wide enough. The legs were not all the same length and the craftsmanship made for a very wobbly foundation. I’m sure had Dad not been a successful farmer, he would have been an amazing circus star on the high wire. His balancing talents served him well that morning. How in the world he managed to balance himself on that milk stool, keep the can upright, and chase Bessy across the driveway as she licked the feed from the bottom of the previous years catastrophe I will never know.
Eventually, we got rid of the milk cow and started buying milk from the store. Mom and Dad claim it was due to the fact that Dad didn’t have time to milk a cow everyday. I wonder if Bessy didn’t go to market shortly before Father’s Day so Dad didn’t have to endure another one of my attempts at carpentry.
I may never find a gift as perfect as the feed pan or the milk stool ever again but the gifts Dad has given me certainly have not gone unnoticed. The moral compass he engrained in us growing up sometimes seems old fashioned in today’s world, but it is one I have tried very hard to pass on to my kids as well. His work ethic, even today, is one that wears me out trying to keep up with. The levels of integrity and honesty he expected from us as kids set a standard I find myself applying to everyone I deal with in day-to-day life.
As a kid, I always seemed to know exactly what Dad wanted/needed every year. These days, it isn’t so easy. Finding the perfect gift for a man that has everything he “needs” and never seems to “want” anything is nearly impossible. Sometimes I feel like just spending time with my parents these days is a gift with all the demands on my time. I just hope I never reach the point that I need a reminder from the retail world or a red-letter day on the calendar to say “thanks Dad” for all you have done for me.