Most of the time, I only saw my dad from behind
MY LATE DAD'S NAME WAS Austin Avery. He, like me and my family lived in Hamilton, Alabama, the county seat of Marion County in Northwest Alabama. My family and I along with my daughter and her family still reside in Hamilton.
BUT MY STORY IS NOT ABOUT ME or my family, but respectfully, about my dad. He left us at age 89 from a two-year long fight with an illness that we still do not understand. He never complained once during this two year of suffering, or when he was probably the most-active man I have ever had the honor of knowing.
WHY USE A PHOTO OF A VINTAGE FORD TRACTOR you ask. Well it's simple. When he was a share cropper* this was when he was the happiest. Except when he was playing his fiddle for others' enjoyment. Twice he share cropped for a Mrs. Verdie Dobbs, who was also a widow lady who lived in Hamilton. He and her late husband, Zollie, were great friends. She was thrilled when he approached her to share crop with her, thus the photo of this vintage Ford Tractor.
THIS PHOTO ABOVE DEPICTS how my dad got his start in farming and he art of plowing. As a boy he and his dad (my grandpa), would rise at daylight along with the entire family, to get their day started. This was, as I was told by my dad, at 4 a.m., seven days a week. That was how things were done and how people in his dad lived.
HE AND HIS DAD would, after breakfast, hit the fields where they grew everything from corn to cotton and even a produce garden for their family. But the only way to "turn and till the sod," was by mule power. And my dad knew from the start that plowing a mule was not child's play. But my dad was a tough one. He had such a will to succeed that he rarely gave up on any task that he approached. Mule plowing was not one of those tasks he gave up on. By age nine, he was plowing or rather, out-plowing his dad and how those fields they tilled flourished. Another trait my dad had was pride in what he did. My memories of full of the things he did mostly by hand that turned our beautiful and something to be proud of.
THIS MAN IN THE PHOTO is not my dad. If it were, he wouldn't be wearing a hat. It wasn't until his latter years did my dad wear a head covering and that was a cap. But notice how the man operating the tractor is looking back to check the rows to see if he is plowing them straight enough--which is the mark of a good farmer. What I could say is my dad's back is all I saw of him many times when I was nine. Either riding on the tractor when he gave me permission or in a farm wagon he used to haul hay to feed Mrs. Dobbs' cattle. Either way, I was not that aware or attentive of everything my dad did. Now I am heart-sorry for that. To be totally-honest, I wasn't the brightest nine-year-old in the world. But I did have the honor of being with and knowing (what I could gather) about Austin Avery, who is to me, the "World's Greatest Dad," just like you feel about your dad. Now that I am in my eleventh-year of enduring fibromyalgia and now another life-threating disease of my circulatory system, I spend hours dwelling on my dad and mom and the times I was honored to be with them. If God would only give me an hour of that era in my life, I would burn their ears off telling both of them how much I loved and appreciated them.
THIS IS A MODERN FORD TRACTOR - highly-advanced and has every known device built-into it to make today's farmer more at-ease when he his tilling his hundreds of acreage. I sometimes wonder what my dad would do if he would have been given a tractor (like this) to use in his share cropping years. Well, I only have my imagination to give me that answer and comfort, but I can assure you that he would have "babied" this tractor as he would that vintage Ford he used to share crop for Mrs. Dobbs. This tractor even has a cab to keep the farmer cool and warm depending on the weather. I would have had it made riding with my dad on this machine.
TO BE SHORT AND SWEET - I despise seeing photos like the one to the right of a shut-down factory, such as this Ford Motor Company plant. Do not ask me why it shut down. I do not know. I can only guess it was blamed on the bad economy and shutting it down might have made more economic sense to the C.E.O. and board of Ford Motor Co., than to spend some of their billions to keep it open. My point is made underneath the photo. Although this fixture didn't endure the sometimes-harsh changes that life has, but my dad endured them with the same prideful determination to succeed no matter the task or change he had to implement. I cannot say that about me or most of the men I know.
IN CLOSING - I could have written a hub of appreciation about my dad without any photos, but that might have been lazy and tacky to my way of thinking.
I miss my dad today in 2014. He passed in 2009. But his legacy of hard work, respect for himself, his neighbors, and those he worked for, Uncle Sam included, will never fade.
I hear people talking of their deceased loved ones using the phrase, "I lost my dad or mom, several years ago," and I have to respectfully balk at using that phrase because . . .
I know exactly where my dad and mom are right now.
In the presence of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Do not argue with me. I will not change my stance on this statement.
"Hey, dad! Take a minute from your fiddle-playing for the angels in heaven and listen." "I miss you and love you (and mom) so much."
"I just wish I had told you two this a lot more when I had the chance."
*Share cropping is when a man plants, tills, and harvests a crop for another land owner, but the land owner shares the profits of the harvest with him.