My Dad was a cowboy. Not the Hollywood type, but a real cowboy – a man who tended cattle. A hardworking man of integrity, loyalty and determination; he would always be seen in his signature cowboy hat and boots, jeans and western shirt. He lived the code of the cowboy where a man’s word was a man’s word and you never broke a promise once made. He believed you should do what has to be done without complaint, take pride in your work and always finish what you start. He was a man of principle; tough but fair. I learned so much from him.
His education included grade seven. Responsibilities on his father’s farm in the spring and fall took him out of school, which put him behind. By the time he turned fifteen he didn’t bother going back to school being so much older than the rest of the class. In spite of his limited schooling, he was the smartest man I knew. A curious man, Dad believed in continuous learning. His gift of the gab enabled him to start a conversation with almost anyone and he always came away wiser. “You can learn at least one thing from everyone you meet,” became a lesson I never forgot.
Dad read the newspapers and kept up to date on current events, but his busy schedule didn’t permit him to read much else. At age seventy-five, he finally retired and moved into the city. His love of the outdoors and fresh air, took him on walks to the local library on a regular basis. Once there, he chose about half a dozen books on a subject he had always wanted to learn more about. He took the books home, read them front to back and returned with a new subject in mind. At seventy-five he educated himself and expanded his world. I found this to be most admirable.
There wasn’t much I couldn’t discuss with him. He taught me the art of conversation, negotiation and debate; valuable lessons that have served me well over the years. He served as my confidant, financial advisor, political guru, mentor, and he was my hero. He always had time to listen to my woes and to provide encouraging words. I didn’t make many major decisions without discussing with him first. But he wouldn’t tell me what to do; he just helped me look at all sides of the situation. He encouraged me to be an independent thinker, creative problem solver and not to always look for the easy way. He claimed, “You make your own luck in this world.” I believe that to be true for the most part, but I sure was lucky to get him for a Dad. His confidence in me and my abilities enabled me to reach higher and not give up on my dreams.
Always a perfect gentleman, he could also swear a blue streak if the occasion called for it. Like the time he hit his thumb with a hammer while fixing a piece of farm machinery. He forgot I was in hearing distance.
Life wasn’t always easy for a cowboy but Dad’s amazing sense of humour and positive attitude got him through the tough times. He loved a good practical joke and April Fool’s was his favourite day. I can still see the twinkle in his eyes when he knew he got one over on us. He didn’t mind laughing at himself as well. There were many times he would tell a story and have everyone in stitches. From him, I learned the value of a good laugh and how to look on the bright side. He often said, “Others have it worse.”
A tough cowboy on the surface, he was really a big softy. Dad always found the best in everyone, was a helpful neighbour and a good friend to many. His love for his animals was evident as was his unfailing devotion to his family. A generous, loving father, grandfather and great-grandfather, he made an impact on everyone. When I see traits of him in my children and grandchildren, I am comforted knowing his legacy lives on.
It’s been five years since we lost Dad. There isn’t a day I don’t think of him, quote him or seek his advice. He was a true cowboy to the last.
Darlene Foster is a writer, employment counsellor, ESL teacher, wife, mother and grandmother. Brought up on a ranch in Southern Alberta, she dreamt of traveling the world and meeting interesting people. She lives with her husband and their black cat, Monkey on the west coast of BC. She believes that everyone is capable of reaching their dreams.
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Opening photo – Myshellyroo, Photobucket