'I wish he were here'


The bond between father and son strengthens with time

Good throw," Papaw shouted as I completed my first back-of-the-pick-up rope sling.

On the first attempt, I caught the sick calf around the neck. I was about12-years-old and no words could have made my head swell bigger than anykind of "atta boy" from him.

I called him Papaw and he called me Tirdhead. He was my hero. He hadthe patience of Job with me as he taught me how to work. He had taught meto whirl that rope and size my loop. He had taught me to keep my slack untiljust the right moment when I should close it down on my target.

It has been a while since he died. Just today I remembered him deeplywith the fond memories that can only come after the sting of loss has passedand reveals the voice he left to guide me. It was this little voice I heardwith each item I removed from the trailer.

My wife, Kerri, and I finally got a storage house. The day after he died,I loaded up all the things out of the barn that he had told me were minewhen he passed on. They were all packed neatly into a stock trailer thatbelonged to his dad.

The trailer and all my treasures had been in storage since a few daysafter he died.

Pieces of history

It took me hours to move pieces of our history together from the trailerto the storage house. Each nugget brought back a moment that he and I hadspent together; him teaching me and me not even knowing there was a lessonin progress. He made learning the lessons of life such fun that it was yearslater, when I had grown into a man, before I even realized how much he taughtme and how much time he spent doing it.

As I dug through the pile, I uncovered a bottle of "Thermic Liniment."It must be 30 years old. He used it on every sore horse we ever had. Saidit "pulled out the swellin' ."

He could fix anything that was ailing. He was so particular about howto care for our animals. Everything had to be done correctly and at theright time. Even though he had no idea, Papaw was instilling in me a lifetimemission of seeing about the needs of animals. He gave me an incredible interestin caring for critters that lives on today.

'Find the moments'

He also challenged me to find the moments. He had an incredible way ofseeing the world. I would hear him describe an event and his descriptionwas much better than actually living through the moment. I used to loveto hear him tell someone else an event that he and I had lived through together.Listening to him made me aware that I was not watching the world close enough.

He would often ask me what I thought the horse I was on might be thinking.He would tell me that if I would look at things through the horse's eyes,it would open up an entirely new world. Through the eyes of critters I wouldfind an entirely new perspective.

What a ride

"Good throw," Pawpaw shouted as I completed my first back-of-the-pick-uprope sling. The thing he had not told me was what to do next. The calf mayhave been sick, but he still weighed 500 pounds and I weighed in at about85. I watched as the coils of rope in my hand got smaller and smaller andthe calf got further and further away. In a panic, I dallied to the nearestthing in sight, a CB antenna coming off the headache rack. Well, it wasn'ta whole antenna, just the spring that made up the base. The antenna hadbroken off years ago. This, of course, didn't even slow him down. As thetension hit the antenna, the knot on the end of the rope hit my hand. Notwanting to disappoint my hero, I held onto that knot for dear life.

The next thing I remember was a moment of peaceful flying before me,the CB antenna, the bracket that held it on and the driver's side rearviewmirror that was hung on my boot hit the ground like Johnny Bench slidinginto homeplate. All I could hear was, "Let go of the rope, Tirdhead!!!"He was saying it over and over and the sound was getting softer and softeras the calf pulled me in the direction of his momma. By now, letting gowas not an option. The bracket of the antenna had wedged between my handand the rope and I was being pulled along like a rag doll.

Ear surfing

The only thing I remember hurting while I was being pulled was my leftear. Somehow in the fall, it had filled up with dirt and grass. I must havebeen surfing on that ear for about a 100 yards before any other part ofmy body hit the ground. The dragging began to slow as the calf wore down.He finally stopped well short of his momma.

Being 12-years-old and made of rubber, I hopped right up and jumped onhim like a rodeo clown. By the time Pawpaw got there, I had it tied up andwas working it over. If you can tell how bad a dragging is by the amountof dirt in your underwear, this one was monumental! I had enough in my britchesto grow potatoes! It was filling up my boots as I got up to walk away.

Whole new perspective

I miss him. I miss his view of life. I miss being called Tirdhead. Iwish I had told him how much he influenced me and how I watched him andhung on his every word. He got to see me become a veterinarian.

In his own way, he displayed how proud he was without ever saying thosewords. I wish he were here now to read the words he spoke as we rode throughthe weeds and mosquitoes and see how they have given me a whole new perspective.I wish he were here now to give me guidance and fill my world with his thoughts,but I guess I'll have to settle for the voice he left to guide me.

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