Friday, October 23, 2009

My Father's Passion

My grandmother kept a diary of her children’s early days. About my father, she wrote of how “things” fascinated him at a very young age. He was tenacious, even then, at trying to figure out how these things fit together and worked. He could entertain himself for long periods when it involved his curiosity.

My father was also a leader and very sure of himself. As a child, he helped look out for his younger siblings. When he became old enough to work, he moved away and got a job. Feeling a strong sense of responsibility, he sent part of the money he earned home to his family to help make ends meet during the Depression years.

Growing up, I remember my father being very passionate about work. He worked three jobs at a time. One of them included a side business of his. He built up a name for himself as “The Tree Man." He painted his logo, the best tree fellers around on the side of his truck. Dad kept adding to his clientele; he rarely lost any of his existing customers. Word about town was that he knew his stuff. Our Sunday routine after church consisted of making a couple of stops where dad would look over new jobs and chat with the owner. He always headed back to the car with a smile, which let us know he’d gotten the job.

Dad's business started out small with an old rickety dump truck, where we kids had to sit on the brush in the back of the truck to keep it from flying off. One of the tree fellers would drive it through town to dump it when it got full. Some of his strong and able-bodied friends, the McDonald brothers, served as tree fellers along with my dad. Even old Uncle Roy McDonald worked for a time.

My brothers, my sister and I all thought summers were the greatest working for dad. It was hard work but he always started with a break early in the day. For us kids, we gobbled down doughnuts and of course, for the climbers, there was always coffee, too. Depending on the customer, we’d have cookies and lemonade or coke on some blazing hot afternoons. We also made pretty good money working for dad. My brother never cared about that, though. He remembers when he made a quarter an hour along with Kirk, the neighborhood kid, who swears he worked for dad since he was seven. They'd spend their money at McCartney's, a local drug store with root beer floats, after work. Whether the money was a little or a lot, my dad made working for him worth our while.

As Dad’s business grew, the design of his trucks improved. He boxed them in and bought a wood chipper to make cutting brush easier. He designed his own trailer with compartments all around to hold better quality tools. He purchased specialty instruments to calculate where a tree would land, and at which angle it should be cut to land in the right direction. Dad learned more and more about his profession. His easygoing ways won customers over from subdivisions in nicer areas with names like Whitehall Village and Lawerence Park.

My father never lost any of his passion; he just added to it. For example, his love for trees grew to include specialty trees called arborvitae, and that branched into a very unique display of bushes in our front, side and back yard. In fact, the local news station often used our property as a backdrop for the local weather forecast.

My father used to go out every day and work with his creations. He would patiently train his bushes to grow in a specific manner and direction. Suddenly, there would be a lush, green archway with flowers hanging down from the center. He’d split up a bush and tease tiny segments of it to look like an oriental piece of art. On other days, he’d stand up on a step ladder and quietly trim the many bushes to look their best. He always had a wave and a smile, or tale to tell about his creations. People often stopped to compliment him or ask his advice. They’d end up talking about local life, and catch an earful of one of dad's many stories.

Life felt very good as I observed my father live out his passions. He taught me if a dream is important enough to you, then you have to be willing to invest yourself in it to succeed.

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