My dad came into this world 93 years ago today. He was the oldest of four children that arrived just in time for The Great Depression. He was not yet ten years old when the stock market crashed, but since few people around here owned stocks or bonds back then it took a while for folks to realize that hard times were getting even more difficult.
My dad must have evolved from the hunter-gatherers DNA because he always had his eye on the horizon - watching and listening . Each evening after he came home from work, he'd sit on the front porch of our old tarpaper camp house and listen for passing trains.
The sound of trains as they traveled through hills and hollows was deceiving. That lonesome whistle that blew for train crossings sounded as if you could throw a rock from the porch and ping the engineer. But an experienced porch listener knew better. "That whistle was for the Praco Crossing," he would say. If you could fight off the mosquitos and sit on the porch swing for a while, you'd hear it blow for the Burnwell and Bergin Crossings. Understanding local geography, I could close my eyes and follow the chugging train as is snaked its way westward hauling mountains of coal and coke.
My dad romanticized about trains and riding them west to places he'd never seen. But aside from a few trips to Panama City, Florida on family vacations and a couple of trips to New Orleans, Louisiana to do welding repair work on fans his company had built, he rarely traveled further than Birmingham.
I wish I had advanced faster at MaBell so that I could have afforded to fly him to Montana, or Alaska trout fishing in a mountain stream. But that wasn't the way it played out. He died in 1986 at the age of 63. Rarely does a day go by that I don't think of him.
Happy Birthday, Daddy.