Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Happy Birthday Daddy

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.



  1. A lovely tribute. Thank you.

  2. Your post reminds me of Arlo Guthrie's wonderful song "City of New Orleans," particularly that line about" ...our father's magic carpet made of steel." I love being in bed on a rainy night and hearing the train off in the distance.

  3. Around the same time and same age as my Pop, way too young. Sounds like a hard, but good life.

    Handsome man, to me he looks like William Powell.

  4. You've succeeded in articulating something I've felt for many many years. My compliments, Rick.

  5. This is a beautiful tribute to your dad who passed away way too young. You made me think of my dad who died in 1988 at the age of 75. He loved the rails and during the depression he hopped the rails looking for work. We just don't see their kind any more.

  6. Because my grandfather worked for the railroad my father loved trains too. We used to wait for the train to come by. We would wave at the engineer and they always waved back.It was a special treat when they would blow the whistle. Happy birthday to your father.

  7. We haven’t had trains here in Opp for quite some time, but when we did I love to hear the whistle. Your dad was a handsome guy so sad his lived life was cut short. Happy Birthday to your father.

  8. Great post about your dear Dad. He looks like a sweet hard working man. I bet you are like him in many ways. Joeh is right. Too young.

  9. Anonymous1:48 PM

    Happy birthday to your dad. One of our greatest pleasures was when we flew my parents to Hawaii to vacation with us!!

  10. Our father's have a special place in our hearts, my dad turned 74 a couple of weeks ago and I am so glad I still have him in my life each day.

  11. My dad passed at 69 and that was too young. I love the way you describe your dad. Real dad's are special, So many things I wish I had asked, but I thought he would be here forever.

    I like the picture you chose of your dad. (Dad's and trains! What a trip!)

  12. I feel the love and respect in this post....
    I know you must miss him.


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