I think from the time I was able to walk I had one desire that was so much greater than anything else I can recall. I felt this to be my treat, pleasure and obligation to carry out. For the majority of my childhood I was most always seen three steps behind my dad. You heard correctly. I was my father’s shadow morning noon and night.
It was safe to say it then and I will say it to this day. My dad was my idol. The man seemed to do no wrong and was always right. (Even when he was telling me I was wrong.) As I have said several times before activity for little boys clear out on Fruit Ridge road were scarce in those days. So when dad headed for the door to go somewhere I was three steps on his heals asking him if I could go along. Even though I had little to no idea where he was going, or how long he would be there or if what he was going to do was going to interest me. It just didn’t matter as my dad was concerned and if he was involved how could I go wrong tagging along. Since I was the third and last child dad probably had been worn done by my sister and brother before me as to if they could go and when it became my turn dad was too tired to say no to me. That is at least what Peg and Ben told me for the rest of their lives. I felt they were just jealous of me and I would always reply with “dad always did like me best!” I would answer back “ and why wouldn’t he?”
Along with him being a farmer and owning two farms he also rented or share cropped on many farms to supply the acreage he desired. He also would trade labor with some of the neighbors. Ed and Chris Maus being the ones I remember the most. He also was an electrician and when he had time he went to a lot of homes. Many had kids my age for me to visit with. But on top of this dad was a township trustee and Washington Township is a large township acreage and road wise and it seemed he was called out to look at road washouts or other duties required by trustees of that time. So as one can understand my dad wore many hats and always put one on as he would head for the door. I learned to keep my ball cap near me during the waking hours. (You snooze you lose.)
It seems most trips were in our old pickup truck and that was just fine with me. I think on long trips he liked having me along as I was someone he could talk to and really what he was doing was going over what he had to do or where to go or what he should or shouldn’t do and being his shadow who was I to disagree with him. Heck yeah! You are right dad! It also seemed that we would have to drive into Moscow and stop at Harolds’ store a lot. He might need some seed or tobacco bed cotton and if his mood was good and I ask correctly I could maybe get a small coke and a Milk Way candy bar. (It was hard work being his shadow.
When he headed to the fields he let me ride along on the tractor with him and this I felt honored getting to do. Every boy who grew up on a farm knows nobody could operate a tractor and equipment better than their dad! He let me watch and ride with him but when it came to training me he didn’t say no but he never really got around to teaching. I had to wait for Ben to teach me how and even though he did so he could get a break from the tractor I was thrilled to learn so I could farm like my father. I would go to barns and the different farms we were leasing and observe how a newly rented farm would lay differently and how dad would stake off the fields so as to his thinking the field would be used to its optimum best and suffer the least erosion. Erosion is a large concern on rolling land. The improper way could ruin the land for now and generations to come. He was very mindful of this and I guess we discussed this topic way, more than I had recalled as it just now popped out of me, and of course I agreed with him totally.
One of the most interesting trips would be when he had to go to a person’s house and work on their wiring, if this was a rewiring job I didn’t get to go but if he was going to give a quote or a minor repair I was riding shot gun. Every home and family of course is different in many ways and similar in several also. I would find it interesting to see the differences and then I would tell dad what I had seen and sometimes he would give a good reason for the difference. You see he had noticed also of course.
Lately I have come to the conclusion that mom and dad worked together on me getting to be his shadow. With my absence from the house mom had me out of the way so she could clean and do her chores without me there to help her. For some reason she didn’t seem to need my help and supervision as much as dad did. Also I think dad realized that my being with him and helping mom was a payment for all the help she gave him in the fields and stripping room. (What goes round comes round you know?)
I’ve said it before and I will say it again. I loved my parents and always did and I’m certain with a lot of patience they loved me also. I was a very fortunate boy. I got to see the farms and buildings. I saw the stores and I feel almost every inch of Washington Township and learned about so many men and women that are or were lasting friends. I got all that just for the price of being dads’ shadow. Everyone needs a shadow I guess but I can tell you dad was shadowed to the max and getting to be with him all that time I got paid so fully to the max! You might say it was a job well done.
Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. He may be reached at email@example.com.