This story was published in the Montana Woman Magazine in 2017. With Father’s Day just ahead, we want to share it again. We believe the world would be a better place, if every child had a father like ours.
The First Man We Loved
He didn’t make headline news. He wasn’t wealthy. His hands were rough. He had an eighth grade education. Cigarettes and a pipe were his constant companions. In spite of working 12-hour days repairing steam locomotives, he carved out time to enjoy an occasional cigar and listen to a boxing match on the radio. Although free time was rare, but he was a committed hunter and fisherman, not for sport, but to help feed his family.
Natural musical and art talent brought him joy. His skills included mandolin, violin, harmonica and piano. His oil landscapes won awards. Known as an excellent wood craftsman, neighbors and family members commissioned him to build shelves, benches and other creations. He sold artistically carved decoys and unique ice-fishing spears.
For several years, he used his leadership ability to serve on the school board and church council. He read broadly and completed several correspondence courses including cartoon drawing and locomotive diesel engine maintenance. His achievements prepared him to work on diesel locomotives that replaced the old steamers. He was promoted to a Round House Foreman for the Great Northern Railroad.
Caring for the less fortunate came easy. When hungry hobos got off the freight trains, he told them his wife would fix them a sandwich and gave them directions to his home. He often cut the hair of men and boys who couldn’t afford a haircut and he taught a man with Down Syndrome to play the violin.
Along with his many talents and interests he had a passion to raise his four successful daughters. We happened to be the two in the middle. This man we loved and respected was our dad. If he ever wished for a son, Dad never mentioned it. Instead, he taught us independence and told us we could be and do anything we set our minds to. (Photo is Dad enjoying his first grandchild with Bev.)
Dad’s primitive cabin workshop served as a private trade school. It had no floor, only beach sand warmed by a little wood stove. As his understudies, we learned the quality of various wood, the names of every tool and how to properly use them. When he finished detailing his carved fishing decoys, we poured hot liquid lead into the hollowed belly of the fish for balancing.
On cold winter days when the ice on the lake near our home was thick enough, we took turns accompanying Dad to his ice-house. In that tiny wood-framed tar paper structure, a wooden bench sat against one wall and a wood-burning stove he made from a small metal barrel sat in a corner next to the 2 x 3 foot fishing hole. On the coldest of Saturdays, warmth and the smell of wood smoke in that dark little house surrounded us with comfort and security. As small pre-teens, Dad would belt us in place on the bench to keep us from being swallowed up by the vast spearing hole in the floor.
Bobbing one of his red and white perfectly weighted decoys was unbelievably exciting. We sat in silent anticipation hoping to see the head of large northern pike appear in the water below. With a thrust of his spear, the water turned red, and we had fish for dinner.
Dad was kind, gentle and loving. Always there for us. He didn’t swear and rarely angered. As we matured, Dad held a powerful place in ours and our mother’s heart. He loved Mom and treated her with unconditional respect, often acknowledging her many creative talents.
As young girls, we were encouraged to study, work hard, set the bar high and do our best in all things. We were taught respect. We were taught to tell the truth, fulfill our commitments, and care about others.
Dad was our advocate and hero. It wasn’t until our late teens and early adulthood that we began to see a different truth about many men. We then fully realized our good fortune.
If all men could treat children and women like our dad treated us, wouldn’t this be a wonderful world?
Messaging begins in the home.
Lipstick Logic Sisters
Betty Kuffel MD and Bev Erickson