Austin, I Miss You
Austin: A True Jack-Of-All-Trades
Austin Avery, Hamilton, Alabama, passed away September 26, 2006. He had been bedridden for almost two years suffering from diabetes, lack of appetite and just no will to live any longer. I thought to myself that his death was such a waste of life, moral balance and natural talent. I am glad that I don't make decisions of whom to take and whom not to take. That is God's job. And I am glad.
I really don't remember the time which I first met Austin. I believe that some people told me that it was in 1953, but for me at that time, my memories are cloudy and fragmented. But the same people did tell me that he was always around the places that I hung out and visited. Austin was more or less like an unpaid bodyguard of sorts. He cared for the well-being of others. I guess that one trait of traits that Austin had, stood out to me over the years. And let me quit soft-soaping my text now and say it bluntly, "Austin had rather starve himself than to see anyone go hungry."
Over the years and watching my friend, Austin, live out his life, I always found myself in complete amazement at what all he was capable of in his various talents. I saw him, many times, work on automobiles, build homes for people, lay bricks and blocks like a professional brickmason, and could chart a trail in the woods just by studying the trees to find the easiest way to get to the game he was hunting. And these were only a handful of talents that Austin possessed. I know that many of you will disagree vehementhly with this statement, but "I believe that he was given his gifts from God," because he was seldom confused about what to do or when to do it. And yes, he was a God-gifted farmer, a vocation that he dearly loved.
Austin was not one for "sleepin in." From the time he was a young boy living with his dad, mom, and sisters, he was prone to rising at daylight to help with the field work--plowing, planting, and gathering his family's crops in order to make their living. And Austin knew just the right time to plant and when not to plant. Amazing. Austin didn't attend any school to learn his trades. His talents came from God. Had to be that way in my view. I don't know of anyone that I've been around over my life who just woke up one morning and built a house without "some" training. But Austin did. He built many homes in his day for neighbors and friends. And on top of that, he would always charge less than the going rate for that day and time for he wasn't about making money. Austin was about helping his neighbors.
Austin served in the United States Army for a length of time. He was discharged for a policy called a "hardship discharge," because he had a wife and a daughter at home and his wife has no visible means of support. This discharge was fine by Austin. He loved his wife, Mary Dean Lee Avery, of 68 years and his daughter, Doris Avery Pearce with all his heart. And it showed in Austin's eyes when he would see them bringing his lunch to the field where he was working. Little things like eating with his family meant a lot to Austin.
Over his 89 years of life, Austin had been a sharecropper, carpenter, timber cutter, auto mechanic, production machinist (in his latter years), and to top it all off, he was a self-taught musician--to be honest with you, a great fiddle player. I know that needed to say violin player, but to Austin, who had learned the fiddle at age seven, it was fiddle. He was known for entering fiddling contests in the area where he lived before and after he was married and could fiddle with the best. One time in his life, while he and his wife and daughter lived in Adrian, Michigan, he was offered a job in a honky tonk, but after much thought, Austin had to say no because he felt it wasn't a proper place for a father and husband to be when his rightful place was at home with his family. (This segment explains my fiddle and bow artwork. That is, if you are wondering).
Austin Avery, to my knowledge, never had an enemy to speak of. Everyone he met was either his friend or a passing acquaintance. Austin was not one to hold grudges to the people who did give him a wrong turn. Most people, me included, would have harbored resentment for that kind of person, but not Austin. His days of reading the Bible were rooted in his heart to "forgive and you shall be forgiven," and he did that. And did it very well.
Along with his worldy gifts, he was known for his ability to be a terrific listener. He would sit for hours and listen to his wife and daughter, or neighbors who had a problem and never show any impatience. Austin would also stop plowing his field or garden if a neighbor wanted to stop by and "chew the fat" with him. Austin relished in drinking coffee and talking to friends. I guess these two things were his only vices. I should have been so blessed.
I never really knew how to accept the fact that when he died, that Austin was gone from us. I look now in my carport and see a sample of his work in the gadgets he invented to help him in his farming as well as some of his antique tools that I will always treasure. And I can still see Austin in my yard sitting under a shade tree using his straw hat to fan off the sweltry summer heat. Austin loved to work outdoors.
Sharecropper, carpenter, brick mason, mechanic, musician, husband, father, friend and neighbor. Austin was all of these. And more.
How do I know so much about this man, Austin Avery.
Simple. He was my dad.
And with him gone, there is a hole in my life that will never be filled.