By Clyde Davis: Local Columnist
I thought of him, more than once or twice, while we were hiking up to Castle Rock and the Lighthouse as we visited Palo Duro Canyon a couple of weeks ago. That particular hike, especially in the heat over 100 degrees, would have been a bit beyond what he should challenge himself with. He is, after all, over 75 years old.
But if he’d been here, we could have done one of the park’s briefer hikes, along the river bank for about a mile and a half. That would have suited him just fine. We’ll have to keep that in mind for the next time he visits.
My favorite picture of him is over 55 years old, as he leans on his elbow in his World War II Navy uniform, wearing the smile of an 18 year old who says “The world can’t get me down.” Funny thing is, he still wears that same smile, almost 60 years later; the face that surrounds it is just a little older and wiser.
Truth be told, the world has been a pretty to him; he managed to carve out a good life for himself and the people he loved. From what I remember, he had a good example in his own dad, with whom I hung around as much as possible before his passing in 1963.
If I saw him back down from a challenge, even now, part of my emotional infrastructure would quake. The words “I quit” or “I’m afraid” just don’t belong in the same sentence with my dad.
Now, we learned early that it was okay to cry; the first time I saw that with any remembrance was the passing of his above-mentioned father. I was too little to understand much of what was happening, though I understood something significant had happened at the hospital, and my granddad was not coming home. But to back down, or quit? Nope, not my dad.
I know one time he probably felt like it. Thirty years gone, it still is a high point of my teen years; I know what he gave up to do it. You have to understand, my dad hates camping. Hates it. He loves to be outdoors, to hike, to swim … and then to go inside, eat his supper at a table, take a shower and sleep in a bed. But hates camping.
So he and a few other dads took us all up to Pymatuning, a marvelous lake, and it rained the whole first night — hard. All night long. To make matters worse, we stayed up each night of the weekend, singing stupid songs in our tent, instead of sleeping and letting our dads sleep. With it being summer, and a constant supply of the outdoor work he loves to do, I know there were places he’d rather have been. But he did it anyway, for us.
Sometimes, when I was under 10 years of age, I found it hard to understand why he paid extra attention to kids like Jackie and some of the others. I didn’t understand that he was doing it because they didn’t have dads, or their dads were off drinking beer instead of being dads. So he, and Ronnie’s dad, and Bob’s dad — they picked up the slack.
Somewhere along the line, I must have figured it out, because I’ve spent lots of time doing the same thing, following that example. I doubt that he ever looked in the mirror and said “I will provide a male role model for unfortunate boys.” He just did it. I guess his dad had likely done the same, knowing my granddad.
You know what they say. Anybody can be a father, but it takes a special gift to be a dad.
Clyde Davis is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Portales and an instructor at Eastern New Mexico University. He can be contacted at: