Sunday, June 18, 2017

Father's Day, East and West



I got a Father’s Day email today from Elizabeth Warren. Now, I certainly am not Warren’s father. I am not even a constituent, since she represents the people of Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate and I live in Arizona. I greatly admire the work she does, however, and if I lived in Massachusetts, I’d vote for her re-election in 2018. And for president, if she ever decides to do that.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.
The ignorant tweeter in the White House calls her “Pocohantas.” I call her “Wonder Woman.”
Which brings me back to the email Warren sent me today. Most of the political stuff I get goes into the deleted file. But Elizabeth Warren’s email is a keeper. Oh boy, is it ever a keeper.
In it, she told of a bad time in her life, when she was sixteen. Since childhood, she had wanted to be a teacher, but now found that her family “didn’t have the money for a college application, much less the money to send me off to school.” After a bitter fight with her mother, she decided to leave home.
Her father found her waiting for a bus ride out of town. What he did then is a textbook lesson in fatherhood. He didn’t upbraid her for upsetting her mother or try to talk her out of running away. He just asked if Elizabeth remembered what the family went through after his heart attack.
“I remembered,” Warren wrote. “I’d been 12 years old, and I’d seen how fast a family could be turned upside down.”
In just a short time, her family lost its car, and was threatened with foreclosure on their home.
“Sitting there on the bench in the bus station,” Warren wrote, “ he told me that he had failed and that the shame had nearly killed him. He wanted to die.”
What happened? Elizabeth asked.
“Daddy sat silently for a long time, caught somewhere in his memories of those awful days. He still didn’t look at me. Finally, he took my hand in both of his and held it tightly.”
Things got better, her father said. Her mother found work, they made some payments, and after a while her father went back to work. There was less money, but enough to get by. They caught up on the mortgage. Even surly Elizabeth seemed to do OK.
“Finally he turned and looked at me,” Warren wrote. ‘Life gets better, punkin.’”

Ira Walker
Warren’s story touched a spot in my heart, because I too had a father who went through a special kind of hell. It was in 1963, when he was forced to sell his ranch.
Ira Walker, my dad, was part owner of the Flying W Ranch, a 580-cow outfit in the Mogollon Rim country of central Arizona. He had to give up the ranch, not because of bad health or poor management, but because he couldn’t tolerate his business partner.
Despite constant interference, Daddy succeeded in paying off the $200,000 loan on the ranch in only six years, but at a heavy cost. He had been beaten up, worn down and defeated.
Mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer and had undergone a double mastectomy. She and my sister were living in Globe to be near her doctors. I was staying at the Flying W with Daddy. I had to drop out of college because capital gains taxes from the ranch sale had left my parents flat broke.
So I was staying up at the ranch, working on a team that was punching beryllium prospect holes all over the hills near the Flying W headquarters.
My father was still there, counting cattle for the ranch sale. At one time, Daddy would have been out there protecting his range with his trusty .25-.20 Winchester carbine. But now, he seemed resigned to it all. After all, it would be someone else’s ranch before long. Someone else’s headache.
But he went out every day, working the range, rounding up cattle to be counted and tagged. It was a job, and it was his as long as it lasted. Same with mine, as pointless as it seemed. None of the prospectors I worked with even knew what beryllium was or what it looked like.
Daddy wasn’t big on words, but if he had been he probably would have said something along the lines of Elizabeth Warren’s dad: “Life gets better, punkin.”
So, happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there, in Massachusetts, or Arizona, or all the other places in this great country.
Things will get better, I'm sure. No amount of tweeting can stop that.

3 comments:

Mary Walker Baron said...

Beautiful.

Leslie said...

What a wonderful story, Tom.

Anonymous said...

Exquisite story, thank you.