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My Father, "The Deacon"
No, he wasn't actually a deacon. I'll explain shortly.
But first I want to introduce MY DAD! He was, after all, the best Dad a girl ever could have.
My dad was a special man among men, as well. Though he was short of stature and "stocky", he had "presence" more than many tall guys have!! He exuded capability, wisdom and willingness to work which earned him respect wherever he was.
He could fit in with others so effortlessly that he was often considered one of them. My Irish teacher was sure he must be Irish! His Mexican workers hardly doubted he was Mexican when he learned quickly and easily to converse in their colloquial language and understood their colloquial methods of doing things. Only folks who tried to undo him or outwit him felt the real differences.
Yet he had grown up in "The North", making him a 'damnyankee" to many a southerner. Up there he would probably be termed "Pennsylvania Dutch", due to his family heritage. He was of German, Dutch and Swiss descent and had the complexion and coloring to prove it! Auburn-headed, light brown eyes, light ruddy skin which sunburned easily. And where he ended up living most of his adult life was a place with relentless sun! He always had to protect himself with a big straw hat, long sleeved shirts and long pants, - almost always his "khakis", always meticulously laundered and ironed. He had his "dress khakis" and his "rough-wear khakis" - which was the fate of the dress khakis eventually. His only dress suits were conservative brown shades. But his shirts were always snowy white, starched and perfectly ironed, his tie and pocket handkerchief always coordinated. He did NOT believe in "show" but viscerally believed in quality in all things.
He didn't "need" a lot of social life. He preferred his family and the time to pause, read and reflect when not working. But he didn't object to Mother's having a wide circle of friends, art club involvement and Church involvement. He simply "passed" on such things for himself. If occasionally they "entertained", it was dinner and possible a trek to the farm (not the same as the ranch) to fish and cook out. He did love to fish but didn't get too many opportunities. His life was ordered and full. His "things" were ordered and simple.
But with it all, he was a lot of fun! I can just hear him, from where he'd be reading - burst out laughing and calling for Mother, "Elcy - come here - you've got to hear this! This is RICH!" And he loved to read aloud - and to share "a good one". People naturally seemed to come to him for advice and for the pleasure of his company. He seldom felt the need to seek out company, though. But he strongly believed in hospitality and welcomed visitors and guests.
How He Became "The Deacon"
My parents' idea behind moving to Texas was to strike out to try to make their fortune on their own. Their #1 goal was to be able to educate their one baby daughter, my eldest sister, and any other children they might have. Dad went to work on the drilling rigs in the newly opened Burkburnett Oil Boom oil fields in North Texas, and they settled into a house in Electra, Texas.
From his early childhood to his becoming a man eligible to go into the Army in WW was spent in northern Indiana under the auspices of the Mennonite Church. He had once considered becoming a minister, in fact. In his home town and surrounding farm area, in fact, were several Mennonite churches, actually named for his family.
But an ethical difference about going into military service as a conscientious objector, as the Church required prompted his break with the church, though he never abandoned its moral and ethical standards. Mother was of a different religious persuasion and he simply cut all ties with his church and all organized religion. And so it remained. In fact, I've never seen a Mennonite Church "for real" in my life, though I grew up hearing about it and its rigid customs.
But even after his departure from it, his demeanor and obviously high ethical standards earned him great respect and the nickname "The Deacon" among his coworkers in the very grungy work of oil drilling at the same time that his quick sense of humour and ready robust laughter kept it light and made him well-liked, plus he always "got the point" of even the most subtle jokes and in several languages!
He was a brilliant man, well-educated, but strictly left-brained, analytical, scientific - and an enormous propensity for "applied knowledge". He was not an "ivory tower" kind of thinker, but he contemplated things thoroughly and continuously.. He read assiduously. It was his "recreation", in fact. He could appreciate, admire and respect art and creativity but he didn't have an artistic mode in his own arsenal. That was Mother's primary realm, though she was a brilliant woman, in her own right, too.
This brings me to point out that, being born in 1890 in a conservative (even for then) home, he was amazingly open-minded about the abilities of women. No - he didn't consider that "equal rights" in the new-age sense was the wave of the future (if he even considered it possible) but he acknowledged and appreciated Mother's abilities and mind as well as those of his three daughters. His advice and imagination were of the going possibilities. Women's careers were set by "roles", of course, but he didn't consider those as second-rate. They were simply, in his mind and ability to imagine based on his background, "different". But valuable nonetheless.
I've mentioned that with the three elder very vocal siblings I grew up around, plus two very vocal parents, I seldom got in a word edgewise. But at least in our one-on-one conversations, I did feel free and encouraged to say my piece. It just didn't get as well honed and polished as those whose ideas were in the air constantly! And I became more of a writer than a speaker. I had the chance to observe and learn from all that, and one of Dad's pet adages was "Learn from the mistakes of others!"
He was also one of my very best friends. I came along so long after the other three, I think he'd exhausted all his tough discipline on them and bestowed much love - both sweet and tough when occasionally I needed it (but that was so seldom! hehe).
What was so special was that he was always INTERESTED in any little thing I had to tell him about. He worked very hard and often it was out at the ranch when the family had to remain in town during the school year.
But when he returned, - and I was always eagerly awaiting his return - he wasted no time getting to me and hearing about what I was doing and how school was going. I marvel at his patience when he would hear me out in rapt attention as I recited my ABCs or multiplication tables I'd learned during his absence. He'd even take time to give me a chance to show off that I knew how to apply my new-found knowledge! Patience of Job, I'd have to say in retrospect!
When I learned to whistle, it was he who was my first audience for "The Band Played On" in my best whistle!
He always took time to explain things too. And one of his favorite teaching tools was the use of poetry - the old-fashioned kind which always had a "moral" and taught a valuable lesson. I'm sure he tailored his choices to fit my need for instruction! haha I know that he had me pegged pretty accurately when I was no more than 4 years old, if that. I overheard him telling Mother that I was "a very determined little girl". At the time I kind of thought it wasn't a good way to be, or why else would it be under discussion? But I cannot tell you how many times his words have reverberated in my head when things seemed difficult or impossible! "I AM a determined little girl!" I'd conclude and go on to face whatever it was!
A Change of Plans
During the oil-rig working years he had an occasion to go on a hunting trip to Mexico with some of his buddies. They ran into an old water-well driller with a Model T drilling rig, a handful of contracts to drill wells in far southwest Texas where none had ever been and the thirsty land was useless without water, and they bought him out. It turned out that Dad was the only frugal one of them and soon bought his buddies out.
He came home to Electra and announced to Mother that their fortune was going to be found in far southwest Texas. By then there were three little kids who would grow up and need educations, you see. He wasn't a big owner in the oil fields, and though hard work was lucrative, he knew he had to do more. Mother was sad to leave their comfortable house in favor of an uncertain life, the five of them camping out in tents on an uncharted wilderness, but she was with him all the way. They sold the house and headed out. Eventually they had enough stake to buy the "headquarters" ranch - with a long term loan, of course. It meant ranching AND drilling to pay the payments. They built an amazing house themselves, where I spent every summer of my childhood from the end of May till the end of August. I was born about the time they acquired a second raw-land ranch whose main improvement even when it became mine was the 712 foot water well my Dad drilled on it in about 1927, even before he'd bought it.
His Own Boss
A.F.Holdeman - July 31, 1890 - June 20, 1976
Elcy Holdeman - December 17, 1892 - January 11, 1974
Married June 15, 1917