Sunday, January 5, 2014


This is a quickly written piece to fill a void in WF Blog for today.

My father was a difficult man to describe, perhaps just like the many fathers of so many families in this harsh world. Mine was born in 1912, a very long time ago, and he passed away in 1998 at the age of 86.

In those days, long ago, reaching the eighth grade was for most young people, the culmination of their education. My father didn't go that far, instead he dropped out of school at age twelve to help support his family of a widowed mother and thirteen sisters and brothers. It was a small town and he supported them by cleaning out three different churches, milking cows, cutting firewood, delivering food, working in a bakery, and any odd job he was offered.

When he became a bit older (it was a very small town) he began helping others. Despite his own poverty, when he saw a child without a coat in the fall or winter, or without socks and shoes, he would go to a mercantile owner named Blumenthal and say, "See that kid over there..." an old man, Blumenthal would, on credit and at a discounted price to my father, give the item the child needed. I know this to be the absolute truth and for the rest of my life, my father performed such anonymous gifts of kindness. My father grew up being a very active server of the principles of the New Testament, but never in an intrusive or public way. The only exception, was that he loved to greet people at church on Sundays, to be the doorman and usher, and shake everyone’s hand on the way in and on the way out, saying hello to every man, woman, and child who would speak to him.

My father was a simple man but also a complex one. Had he the opportunity of an education, I am sure he would have made a terrific politician (an honest one). What he became was an oil field worker, a roustabout, a man of physical labor. All his life he was very muscular, very strong, and very fit. He used to show his bicep and say, "Feel that, can't kill me with a pickaxe!"

Strange for a physical laborer, was my father's love for the news, for reading, and for books. How he loved to sit and read a good book after dinner. Then, it was early to bed and early to rise, six and seven days a week, rising at five in the morning and returning home (when he could) around five or six at night. This continued until he reached his sixties and was seriously injured.

My father not only loved books but poetry as well, and later in life he collected and memorized poems and would recite them at a drop of the hat, at church, at gatherings, at a restaurant, in line at a store---and people stopped and listened---because father had that kind of magnetic personality. As I live and breathe, he made hundreds, thousands of friends by doing so. My father was a very well-liked man, all his life.

When my father courted my mother, he did so with books. Inside, he would put words of endearment and then he would cite certain pages for her to read and tell her, "This is how I feel about you."

But my father never lacked for words and he could spin his own tale and charm anyone, child, woman, or man.

This leads to the title of this short piece. Some of the collected books my father gave to my mother eventually ended up in a small linen cupboard, the linens having to be stuffed elsewhere. These books that survived (most destroyed by my wicked maternal grandfather---another true story) were placed there for my father to read and reread at his pleasure. When I was eight, against my father's wishes (thinking me too young) I discovered these books. Such authors as James Oliver Curwood, Jack London, Gene Stratton Porter, Margaret Mitchell, Zane Grey, and William MacLeod Raine, I found on those shelves.

From reading the first two novels, Zane Grey's Light of the Western Stars, and Jack London's Burning Daylight, I fell in love with literature, and believe it or not, went on to read four books a day for years and years and years, totaling well over 20,000 books consumed.

My father was an incongruity, a juxtaposition of two very different things, a workman and lover of literature. It's totally his fault that I went on to become a writer, and looking back over all these years, I realize that I loved my father very much indeed.


  1. Charlie, I really enjoyed this piece about your father. He sounds like a remarkable man--and a wonderful human being. I know you must be so proud of him and the influence he had on your life. Thanks for giving us this insight. My dad, too, had books that were very special to him. I still have some of those and treasure them dearly.

  2. I have only one objection to make about your post, Charlie. As long as a person learns how to read, I don't think it makes a difference whether they are a physical laborer or white collar worker. Readers come in all walks of life and classes.

    Two of the most avid readers I know of were my father and one of my good friend's father (we were just talking about this last night, coincidentally).

    Her father was a bricklayer. He was also an avid and broad reader all his life.

    My father, like yours, had to start working to help his divorced mother (my maternal grandfather left her before my father was born). Being born in 1923, he had to finish grade school and attended high school for a couple of years while also working as a picker in the summer and doing deliveries year round. Also like your father, he was an avid reader. He's the reason I started reading Zane Grey and Louis L'Amour - also Jack Higgins, Alastair Maclean and Donald Jack.

    I'm sorry our fathers never had a chance to meet. If they did, we probably wouldn't be able to stop them talking.

  3. The legacy your father left is beyond measure. Thank you for sharing such a personal and inspiring story. We are our parents and that is a great gift. Doris

  4. Cheryl,

    Thank you for posting this piece and the comments about your father.

    I have the many books my father collected over the years, with the endearments of love he wrote to my mother on the inside cover.


  5. Alison,

    Thank you for commenting. Sounds like you feel as strongly about your father as I do mine.

    I know that many people are readers from all walks of life, but I believe it is still special and unique for a working class person, to have such a love of literature as did your father and mine.


  6. Doris,

    Thank you for the comment. Yes, I guess we are in part, our parents. And the older I become, I realize just what an influence they had on me. Even using some of the old expressions my father was so fond of using!



  7. Thank you for this blog, Charlie. Your father sounds to have been a remarkable and inspirational man. A good human being and you have every right to be proud of him.


  8. Keith,

    Thanks. Always glad to read your comments and see your smiling face!



  9. Wonderful tribute, Charlie!

    Jim Griffin

  10. Jim,

    Thanks so much. Good to hear from you!


  11. L. J.,

    Thanks for the comment. Yes, my father, my old man, was a special person, indeed.


  12. What a wonderful tribute to your father! Makes me feel as if I knew him. My own father didn't read novels very often but was an avid magazine reader after he finished the day's chores.

  13. Jacquie,

    Thanks for commenting. I have written several pieces about my father. This one was written in a few minutes for the blog, and my fingers flew across the page.

    I guess my father really did mean a lot to me, and to so many others.

    And, Jacquie, I guess most of us, really loved our parents, and miss them so, once they are gone.


  14. Charlie, that was a wonderful post. Perhaps because you wrote quickly, you allowed your true love for your father to show. My father had a lot in common with yours, including giving me a love for reading and encouraging me to write. My father did finish the eighth grade, then went on to teach for a couple of years. His brothers encouraged him to come work with them at the cotton gin, where he would make more money than teaching. Later in life, he regretted leaving teaching.

  15. Caroline,

    I missed your posting until today when I just read it.

    It means a lot to me that you commented.

    I have written many pieces about my father (and a few about my mother) over the last 45 years.

    It is my belief, that all of us are so enriched by reading and it changes us and makes us better more tolerant individuals.

    Sounds like you honor your father, as I do mine.