Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Father's Day 2011

Father’s Day is upon us . . . a time to remember those fathers who played so vital a role in our lives. My father was no different.

Herbert Jackson (Hub) Taylor was born to a poor farm family at Canoe, Alabama, a few miles east of Atmore, Alabama, in Escambia County. The only boy in the family, he left his formal education behind in the 4th grade to help out on the family farm, never to return to the classroom. Daily he attended to his chores with the animals or in the fields, so he would return home in evening too tired to pursue knowledge on his own, and his family had neither the background nor the inclination to motivate him toward educational pursuits. Besides, in 1910, there would have existed in a small Alabama town such limited resources as to make it impossible to improve one’s education on his own.

He and the family lived on a farm in a typical southern “shotgun” house. I remember visiting there as a child and smelling the coal burning fireplace, the wood burning cook stove and the wonderful meals that my grandmother prepared. She seemed “old” when I first met her, and I did not know her for very long because she died. I do not remember the cause.

My grandfather, a stout, time-worn dirt farmer with a bright white mustache, was always a jokester. Even in his latter years when he worked at the stock yards in Atmore, he was always telling jokes, resulting in raucous laughter by him and those around him. As long as I can remember, he walked with a cane, a cane that I still possess to this day.

My Dad met my Mom and married her when he was well into his 30s. By now he had taken up the craft of carpentry and moved to a small house on Blount Street in Pensacola, Florida. He and Mom mortgaged that house in full for $3,000.00. But it was to stand more than 60 years until Hurricane Ivan destroyed it in 2004.

Dad joined the Carpenter’s Union so he could have more opportunity for work and better pay. And each day I would see him, lunch pail in hand, drive off in our old car to labor in the Florida sun. Never a complaint, hardly ever sick, Dad accepted his lot in life and his responsibility to his family with grace and contentment.

My sole sibling, my brother, Jack, died at the age of 10 when I was just 3 years old. I remember the sadness of my father at Jack’s death, so sudden and unexpected. (He had died of leukemia.) So Dad put all his efforts into making the life of his remaining son a happy and content one.

Sometimes he worked two jobs to make sure that the family had what it needed to get by. With income from my mother’s work, the family, although not prosperous by today’s standards, always had food on the table and clothes to wear. I have often said that, as a teenager, I wore blue jeans when they were not at all fashionable and drove an old beat up pickup truck to school when many of my classmates drove fine, sleek cars.

My Dad loved to fish. It was not unusual for him to wake me at 5:00 in the morning on a Saturday, gather the fishing gear and head to the beach for some salt water surf fishing. I don’t remember actually catching many fish on those expeditions, but the fun we shared and the time spent with Dad were worth more than money could ever buy.

His favorite kind of fishing was fresh water. He often took me to “”Yankee’s Pond” in Cantonment to fish for the day. There his carpenter buddy, Yankee, owned some land and had created a lake and stocked it many years before. Dad and I would spend the day at the pond drowning worms and crickets in an attempt to catch blue gill and bream. It would not be unusual for us to bring home 40 or 50 fish from a day’s outing. At lunchtime on those days, we would go up to Yankee’s house, share a sandwich and listen to stories he and Yankee would tell about the times they worked together. Then it was back to fishing. I can see that pond to this day.

I suppose you would call Dad an outdoorsman because next to fishing he enjoyed hunting, especially quail. Our household never wanted for a supply of quail, dove or squirrel. Dad always kept a couple of hound dogs penned in the back yard where he cared for them as though they were family. He also took careful pains to train his dogs to hunt quail, and every Saturday during hunting season, when we were not fishing, we were in the woods with those dogs hunting quail. Sometimes, in the off-season, Dad would take those dogs out and just let them run, hunting quail for the fun of it.

By the standards of today, my Dad would never have been considered to be a success. He never made a lot of money, but he was a man of honesty, integrity, compassion and faith. His word was his bond, and one never needed his “signature” to know that he would keep his word.

For as long as I can remember, he was a man of faith. He saw to it that the family attended church every Sunday and every Wednesday. He could not carry a tune in a paper bag, but he sang in the choir for a period of years, always singing the melody, according to him, even though it likely was only close to the melody.

Each morning the three of us gathered around the table for breakfast. I don’t mean for just toast and coffee, but a breakfast complete with eggs, bacon or sausage, grits and homemade biscuits. At the table Dad made sure that we had a devotional time, reading Scripture, sharing concerns and praying. Although he could not read very well, he would struggle to get the words out on those days when it was his turn to read the Scripture.

Among the humblest of men, my father exemplified the character of the ideal dad. When Jesus speaks about the Heavenly Father, I can remember my Dad as an example of what the Heavenly Father must be like. Never wishing for the limelight, possessing the noblest work ethic, compassionate, unselfish with what little he possessed, poor in worldly goods, my father died in 1970 the richest man in the world.

In November 1969 my father was diagnosed with advanced liver cancer. He lived for only three months before succumbing to the disease. Missed by all who knew him, he had lived a life of faith, and, I am certain, that Jesus was waiting to welcome him to his new home. I can only imagine the smile on his face as he met Jesus and began to stroll those golden streets. He has been sorely missed by those who knew him best, but most of all by me.

Dad would have been 111 years old this year, but my memory of him lives on. Happy Father’s Day, Dad.