If there was one thing Dad could do well, it was to weave together a good story. There probably isn’t a person here today that wasn’t. .at one time or another. .held captive by the telling and RE-telling of some colorful situation that he had found himself in the middle of. Those of us closest to him were lucky enough to hear most of these stories told over and over again to new audiences. .getting a little more grandiose and humorous each time. And though this story may not be told the way HE would have told it. .it is HIS story. .the story of who he was.
Don was born March 31, 1949 to Raymond and Rita. Ray and Rita moved to the farm in 1951 from the Wichita area. The 2nd of 6 children, Don was the oldest boy and the second in command of the farm he grew up on. He has an older sister Alice, and younger siblings Dennis, Paul, Leroy, and Lori. Life on the farm was certainly colorful, judging by the stories we have heard. .and no doubt helped shape the personality of the man whose life we have all come to honor today.
After graduating from high school in 1967, Don enlisted in the army and did his basic training at Fort Dix, NJ. He was never called to serve in Vietnam but served in the Army Reserves for 6 years. Donald A., as my mom called him, married Vickie Kay. .or Victoria Kay, as he often called her. .June 5, 1971. They moved a farmhouse onto his land about a mile from where he was raised, and began a family farm of their own. They had 4 children, Melanie, Kristi, Brendan, and Nick, and one by one added 4 more children. .Jeremy, Chris, Tina, and Steph.
Farm life in those early days were tough. .Difficult manual labor, long days, and usually more bills than paychecks. To be successful meant hard work, and work he did. Having his wife at home raising the kids was important to him. .and he took his role as the breadwinner seriously. He often came home after the sun went down to collapse on the floor or couch for a rest. .only to have his kids playing on him like a jungle gym. He never seemed too tired to give rides. .on his back or with the kids huddled together in a sheet slung over his back like Santa. .or to throw the kids up in the air. And that was great by him. .as long as the shrieks and giggles ceased the second the weather report for tomorrow came over the news!! No 7 day weather forecast available on the internet or cell phone in those days!!
Don was a stern father. .we kids had a reverent fear of him. . and he was an affectionate husband. Public displays of affection to his wife were common and he often told her “I don’t care what my friends say, you’re alright.” He taught his children the things he knew best; respect, discipline, and the value of hard work. And he NEVER let us forget that. .Listen here. .insert your name. .I brought you into this world..and I can take you out. He even told me that within the last few years!!
He loved his work. .but he also loved to play! There were countless farm pond fishing trips. . in which very few fish were actually caught and evenings in the yard spent practicing baseball, volleyball, and basketball. Basketball was never a sport that his kids could excel at. Dribbling was difficult to master when your court was full of gravel and learning to do a layup is virtually impossible when the goal is mounted to the side of grain bin. I had never thought about that before until Brendan wrote it the other night. .it really explained some things to me.
There were occasional family vacations in the summer. .although a long car ride with 4 young kids in the backseat was probably no vacation. As a result, there is a standing family joke about being forced to get up before the sun so we could stand at the locked front door of the restaurant waiting for them to open so we eat breakfast! We even took a couple of vacations over the last 10 years in which the ENTIRE family. .and their families went on a vacation. .but it was decided early on to eat breakfast in!
He and mom enjoyed riding to check the crops or cattle. If they weren’t working the farm together, they would be found together at every school activity. And after the kids were grown, they might hit the casinos and enjoyed playing pinochle with their card group. They also got to take their dream vacation last summer! They celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary by taking an Alaskan cruise with their good friends Chuck and Gloria. He loved EVERY minute of it. .especially when he found out that the ship had ALL YOU CAN EAT dessert!! He surely thought he was in heaven!
He loved God and worshiped 7 days a week by stewarding His land and sat in the pew every weekend. Although there were many washcloth showers while his family waited in the car, Mom would NEVER allow them to be late to church. And EVERY week, we would listen to her tell him to “hurry up” and then listen to him tell her that. . “It doesn’t matter WHEN you get to church. . everyone gets out at the same time!” That was dad!
Dad was most known around the community for his charismatic personality. He was a thinker, cultivated over years spent on farm machinery with only the thoughts in his head to keep him company. He had strong opinions on most any topic, and was never bashful about sharing them with you in conversation. He was a spirited debater, armed with a quick wit and a stubborn streak. He could talk to anyone. .at anytime. .about anything. .whether they wanted to or not. .he could even dial the wrong number and still have an hour long conversation. He sometimes seemed a mathematical wizard. .unleashing a barrage of calculations and number crunching into his arguments that would make your head spin. .accurate or otherwise. In all of his roles on boards and committees, he could be controversial. .but he always brought to the table a wisdom fueled by common sense. .unconcerned about what people would think. These qualities made him respected by some and disliked by others. .but he was ALWAYS listened to.
He also had an incredible memory, which seemed inherent in his family. A search of his cell phone contacts revealed nothing saved. He kept his entire personal and business directory in his head. His head was also where he kept much of his business records. .which could prove to be a little frustrating in the future. He could tell you exactly how many cattle where shipped to a given feedlot on a certain day and constantly mentally juggled dozens of these inventories.
Don was a mentor to many. He had a soft spot for young people that were just starting out. He employed many young men over the years and always made time to get to know them and to offer advice. .He was always good to offer advice, whether you needed it or not! He taught them the same lessons he taught his own kids, show up on time, work hard to the end, and be proud of doing a good job.
Don enjoyed his time away from work. He was a sportsmen and a conservationalist. Someone had to control the prairie dog population, and if had to be up to him and Chuck, then so be it. Seriously, how often does one really need to drive all the way to Eastern Colorado to “check the cattle.” Don also enjoyed bird hunting and playing cards. And let it be known that anytime you heard on the radios on a rainy day this phrase . .”we’re going to go over to the Jbar to sort cattle. .reds from the blacks” meant. .see ya for a 4 point pitch playing party. .and occasionally he would come home with 3 bucks. While he liked playing any kind of card game, he was PASSIONATE about Texas Hold ‘em. He enjoyed getting together with his male buddies and play. .and every once in a while he would win and we would hear about it for weeks. Over the years, our family gatherings went from playing pitch, to playing games. .and finally to HIM teaching the grandsons . .how to play Texas Hold ‘em. .even 3 year old Teegan sat with the guys the last time they played. .at least for a moment!! He also enjoyed reading and watching western movies. He is loved and adored by 13 grandchildren. .Tristan, Grant, Colton, Devin, Braedon, Haley, Taryn, Kadon, Camille, Teegan, Dylan, Ryder, and Trey. They loved wrestling on the floor with Papa or going on a ranger ride. The man who sternly dealt with his own kids. .tolerated a lot from those grandbabies. .and since he could no longer say. .”Listen, I brought you into this world”. .he just egged them on and sent them home!
My dad had a strong impact on us all. .and he would have been so proud of all the people that gave up their time to help us celebrate his life today!! He was a fighter to the end, and has taught something to most everyone who knew him. Our time with him was shorter than we had hoped. But Psalm 139:16 says “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” God has always known when Dad’s last breath would be. Psalm 56:8 reminds us that God has collected all our tears in His bottle, He has recorded each one in His Books. And I know our bottles have gotten fuller since Friday. He has left behind a strong family and too many friends to count. We will miss him terribly, but we have a lot of memories to get us by. And right now we are taking the advice of Psalm 50:15 “Trust me in your times of trouble and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory.”
A little quote that my mom wanted read because it was SO my dad. .altered just a little. .
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather, skid in sideways, ice cream in one hand, beer in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming, WOO HOO! What a Ride!
Heaven only knows the conversation that took place between he and St Peter at the gates that evening. Hope no one else was in a hurry to get in.
Good night Papa. .We love you!!