Father's Day and Camels

I get up Sunday mornings, make the coffee, usually before any of the others even think about getting up. OK, truthfully. excluding the dogs, I am always the first one up in the morning. Some of the residents of this house sleep in waterbeds to help with their chances of survival in the unlikely event of a wildfire. I’m sorry, I made that up. We don’t have any waterbeds in this house. However, I do insist everyone take a glass of water to bed. One can never be too careful.


Where was I? Oh yeah, I make the coffee. Next, I sit in my favorite chair and plan the story I am going to write. When I say my favorite chair, it’s really nothing special. It is just a chair at the end of the dining room table that I have always sat on. I’m not sure that chair was picked by me or assigned to me. It happened a long time ago, and frankly, I don’t remember and it doesn’t matter.


I did have a favorite chair. It was a great leather recliner that I sold at a garage sale before we moved to our mountain home. I sold it for twenty-five dollars. God, I loved that chair. When I say, I sold it for twenty-five dollars, I might be stretching the truth a little. I sold the chair to a guy I knew, a friend. He paid with a check. Well, he didn’t actually pay with a check, he gave me a check. God, I loved that chair. Is it bad karma to hope that the spot where my rear end fit perfectly in that chair never quite fit his rear end?


Now, instead of reclining in a soft leather recliner, I sit at the end of the dining room table, surrounded by spinning wheels, looms, plants, and a couch that always has at least one dog licking the armrest. God, I loved that chair. I dream of being able to tell someone, “Hey, get out of my chair!” Without hearing, “Cool it, Archie, there are three more just like it, pick another one.” Did that go over everyone’s head?


Oh yeah, I was picking a story. Usually, I try to pick a story about some current event goings-on in the store. You know like Cascade 220 has a new color, or Elaine will be attending The Taos Wool Market and a show in Salida, Colorado, (which she is). Sometimes I write about construction. Sometimes the story writes itself, just because of what’s on the calendar.


This Sunday the calendar tells me is Father’s Day. I’m going to write about that.


I am a father and I had a father. I am the middle son of five sons. I know, this sounds like a Jimmy Buffet song. Each of my four brothers worked for the family business and was a partner with Dad. I remember I was in high school when Mom said to me, “Maybe you should go find a different job, go open a yarn store or something.” Ok, that wasn’t exactly what she said.


My brothers might disagree, but the business ties brought them all closer to my dad than I was. However, as in all family businesses, not all closeness is great. I also had times with Dad that were special.


Sometime between my toddler and pre-teen years, my dad took over the management of a concrete placing company. His physical career was over and a new career of bidding, supervising, and worrying took over. One cold winter night he asked me if I wanted to ride along in his pickup to check out a couple of jobs. Before we were to check out the jobs he needed to go back to his office. He backed his pickup truck up to a warehouse door at his office. As he got out of the pickup he said to me, "Just sit here, I'll be right back." It was dark and cold. that night. It seemed like he was gone for a long time. As I sat, I became scared and cold. I noticed Dad had left the keys in the ignition. I had seen him start the truck before. I knew the heater and lights would come on if I started the truck. I turned the key. Dad had left the pickup in reverse (manual transmission) The pickup started moving in reverse, right through the closed warehouse door. Somehow I killed the engine with the pickup sitting half in and half out of the warehouse, door pieces everywhere. Dad came running. To this day, I can't believe how calm he was. He asked, "What did you do?" Now sobbing I answered, "I was cold." He then said, "I'll bet we can fix this tomorrow." I'm not sure, but I don't think I went to his office again, but he never had to fix that warehouse door either.


In high school, I might have been a little wild. As an adult I would love to talk to Dad about the night he gave me some advice, It was advice I’m sure he didn’t need to give to his other sons.


I was out late one weekend night with a couple of friends sitting in a car at the local reservoir. We positioned the car where we could see anyone should they decide to sneak upon us. Long story short, a deputy sheriff was able to sneak upon us. My two friends and I were taken unceremoniously to the local sheriff’s office. We were told to call our parents.


Calling my parents after midnight was not anything that was going to go well. My parents would have been in bed for a couple of hours. Uncharacteristically, Mom sent dad to pick me up. I was “released” to my Dad in the wee hours of that night.


He got into his pickup and lit a cigarette. He drove towards home in total silence for a couple of minutes. Ashes about an inch long were hanging from his cigarette. Without looking at me he said, “You need to change your life.” That was it, we sat in silence the rest of the way home.


Coincidentally, a friend of mine who has long moved away reads these stories, was there that night. We were in his car. I see by your social media you also weathered that night.


Not working for the family business, I was seldom in the family shop. One day I was hanging around the office/shop and Dad asked why I was there. Maybe not in those words, but he was wondering. I told him I was going to drive (two hundred miles) to look at purchasing a forklift, for my construction business. I told him I was trying to talk a brother into going with me.


Dad: I’ll go. Me: Dad, it’s two hundred miles. Dad: We better get going then. Let’s take my truck, you drive.


To this minute, I am surprised he went with me that day. We looked at the forklift and had lunch and headed towards home. A couple of hours into our trip home he said, “Do you want to see where my mom was murdered?”


Me: What? Dad: Take this next exit.


I turned off the highway and he directed me to a rural dirt road. After a while, he asked me to stop the truck. He pointed to a foundation of a house long removed.


Dad: The house was right there. She was standing at the front door. He shot her. I was there, I saw it. She told me to run.


I looked over at him and saw the tears running down his face. Dad pointed to an irrigation canal, he said “I got in that canal and ran to the neighbors for help. Bullets were flying over my head into the dirt as I ran.”


We sat in his pickup truck on that dirt road as he told the story of a sixteen-year-old boy watching his mother being murdered by his stepfather. He told the story of his mom lying on the ground with her dress covered in her blood. He talked about why he was the only sibling home that day.