Tuesday, March 19, 2013

March 19, 1887

Before rural free electric cooperatives, before broadcast radio, or automobiles or airplanes, before color PCs, Macs (big or laptop), CRTs, LEDs, SmartPhones, or Google -- indeed, while Queen Victoria still reigned in England and while Grover Cleveland was in his first term as president of the United States, during a severe drought in Texas, in a farmhouse near the little community of Red Oak, my father was born. His father and grandfather were farmers. Still in his early 30s, he moved to South Texas and took up cotton farming there. Another long drought combined with a barn fire ended his efforts to make a living farming. I was born less than a year after he moved to town and took a job as a store clerk with the firm to whom he owed the cost of the lost farming equpment, in order to support his young family and pay off his debts. He rose from there, starting with a position as bookkeeper of the same firm, to be Vice President and General Manager of that store and its subsidiaries, and Vice President of the bank associated with the original company. At the farm, about 1926. In the office, about 1940. Studio portrait, about 1938. With his wife and two oldest daughters, sometime in June, 1927. He weathered those droughts, two World Wars, and the intervening depression, raised five daughters and a son to adulthood, saw all of them through to college degrees, and enjoyed summertime and Christmastime visits from his first half-dozen or so grandchildren into his ripe old age. He lived until July 31, 1964 -- long enough to enjoy watching baseball games and the news on his own color TV, and to hear President John F. Kennedy promise to land a man on the moon. I think about him every day of my life and feel infinitely lucky that he was my father. This is a photographic reproduction of an 1879 watercolor by Winslow Homer, which I found at Wikimedia Commons. Both the painting and the photograph are now in the public domain.

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