Today, my Father would have been 82-years old, having been born in 1927. Unfortunately, he had a massive heart attack a few years ago and died on his driveway in a little farming community in Idaho. He died so suddenly, none of us were able to say a proper goodbye.
I had just talked to him the Sunday before he passed away. We had a nice visit. He had just arrived home from his "snow birding" in Arizona and was attempting to begin the never-ending task of keeping an acre of land spruced up.
My Father liked to spruce up stuff. He always had a wonderful garden and great flowers, particularly the peonies. Over the years, he had given me starts of various flowers, and most of them have done well. Unfortunately for me the peonies have never flourished in Wyoming, and I doubt they will. The raspberries I have transplanted in north-central Idaho and eastern Wyoming have done great. After Dad died, I transplanted some raspberry plants to Wyoming. They definitely have not flourished. This past summer as I stood there contemplating the plight of my raspberries, I wished my Dad had been there at my side to tell me what I needed to do. He just had a knack for growing things and knowing what to do.
I also miss going to Arizona in the winter and hanging out on the BLM property that he and my mother used to park their trailer on. Even after my Mother passed away of colon cancer, Dad carried on the tradition of motoring south when the temperature hit 32 and freezing in eastern Idaho. When we visited, the ritual was always this: We would stop in, have a wonderful Dutch-oven meal with friends outside around the campfire (Dad was always the campfire guy); visit various people we had met the year before; spend the night in the trailer, get up the next morning and drive to Yuma and spend the night; have breakfast at the buffet in town where it seemed that our we were the youngest one in the restaurant; drive to Algadones, Mexico, to purchase different things, including his and Mom's medication; drive through the date farms; stop and get a date shake; and then drive back to the trailer where we spent time just chatting and listening to the coyotes--yippers, Dad would call them. We always had a great time.
Sometimes I would go by myself, but most often I would take the girls and/or my wife, and we would have a great time. The girls loved to go because the "snow birds" loved little children because they reminded them of their grandchildren at home. When we visited various people, it seemed like "trick-or-treat" because all of them had some snack to give to the girls. I was amazed at the relationships my parents made as snow birds in Arizona.
Dad taught us how to work. He made sure that we always had a cow to milk, chickens to raise and feed (100 chicks every spring), pigs to slop, and horses to feed and take care of. One of my jobs was to work in the garden, which I loved then and still love today. He tried to teach me how to build things. Unfortunately, I didn't take to it, but my little brother did. He is now a great cabinet maker and can build anything.
Plus, Dad volunteered in the community and help the elderly. We had next door neighbors on both sides of us. My brothers and I hauled wood, chopped wood, shoveled more snow than we wanted, pulled weeds, and did other odd jobs for them, never taking a dime. Dad insisted on service, including working on the farm, irrigating, pulling weeds, and harvesting potatoes. I am sure we weren't happy with some of it, but we learned to serve others, truly a trait that all of us have carried with us.
So, Dad, on your 82nd birthday, I salute you and wish you a great birthday. If you can, send me a message on how in the world to grow raspberries on the high plains of eastern Wyoming. I would appreciate it.