About 10 years ago my niece Tiffany organized a Christmas gift for my parents, a scrapbook for which family members contributed essays and/or photos.
I have condensed my contribution slightly to publish here as a Father's Day remembrance.
Larry D. 1941
photo taken by my Mother on their honeymoon.
Photos of my Dad and me when I was 18 months old.
Don’t Want to Hear the Frogs!
Memories of Daddy
This is my first clear memory of interaction with my father: I suppose that I was about three years old. We lived in three rooms of Grampa Mac's farmhouse at the time. I can picture the “living” room--sofa on the long wall, the Sears Silvertone radio on a nearby stand. The kerosene stove for cooking and heating loomed against the north wall; the maple table and chairs stood under the west windows, giving a view of the old maple tree on the lawn and the apricot tree nearer the house, the rambler rose, peonies and lily of the valley scattered around it.
On this spring evening one of the west windows was propped open to the fresh, green-scented air. Darkness was falling, blotting out my little daytime world ; the dusk seemed alive with strange small sounds and the movements of dimly imagined creatures. Daddy announced that the “peepers” were singing and suggested that I come outside with him, the better to appreciate their voices. As I hung back, he scooped me up and headed for the hall door. Struggling, I insisted on being put down. Daddy coaxed, I was adamant. The only explanation I could verbalize was, “Don’t want to hear the frogs, don’t want to see the frogs!”
As I grew older I delighted in Daddy’s sensitivity to the changes of the seasons; from him I began to learn awareness for the voices of birds; for the joys of mayflowering; when to look for the first pussywillows. I remember waking on a spring morning to find the galvanized washtub reposing in the middle of the kitchen floor, filled with cold water and the pickerel he had speared the night before. I remember the Sunday he brought home a handful of ladyslippers, both pink and yellow, and the time he discovered a beaver dam deep in the woods. He and Ed B. took my younger sister C. and me to the dam—having to lug us over the muddy places and across several brooks. I remember later summer nights, after we had moved along the road to 'the new house' when we were puzzled by the “Ta-chunk, Ta-chunk” coming up from a moist corner of the pasture. Daddy decided it was a “mud hen." It was over thirty years later that I learned the proper name of the night bird, a Great Bittern.
Daddy always enjoyed his vehicles. The first one I recall was a sky-blue Terraplane car. I remember standing behind the driver's seat gripping the prickly velour back rest while he did “do-nuts” on the ice in the driveway. I loved riding with him in his red Dodge dump truck, kneeling up on the seat so I could see the windmills that dotted the farmyards in Whiting. I also loved going with him to Huntley’s crushed stone pit in Leicester Junction, huddling in the truck while the crushed rock thundered down the chute into the dump body. I thought it quite remarkable that Daddy could stand on the running board, looking behind him as he backed up. When the new Rte 73 was under construction I was so proud that my Dad was one of the men building the road. During the summer that work went forward on the section of road nearest our home I often rode toward the corner on my bike to watch for his red truck lumbering by.
I remember the time my Dad decided to construct a better version of the TV antenna. This required various lengths of metal tubing laid out on the dining room floor, ribbons of wire and numerous trips up a ladder to the roof to test the reception. C. and I were positioned in front of the television [a black and white Emerson] while Daddy turned the new roof antenna from side to side—as the reception altered, we were to run to the door and shout that it was “better” or “worse”. The contraption had been trimmed and refined to the point that we could actually view something other than channel 6, but Daddy figured one more snip of the crosspieces might bring perfection. He snipped. It was the “point of no return:” absolutely no reception! His language, as he removed his invention, was of the sort we were strictly forbidden to emmulate.
Photo by C.
Daddy was Road Commissioner of our small town for many years and took his work very seriously. During the great winter snowstorms of the 1950’s he was often out several nights in a row, urging the old plow truck along the back roads, usually with Del F. as his “wing man”. I woke in the wee hours to hear the parked plow rig growling below my bedroom window while Daddy and Del sat in the kitchen stoking up on sandwiches, tomato soup and hot coffee. The road commissioner’s job was not always a matter of personalities that worked well together. Many a time Daddy stopped for his lunch or came home to supper grumbling about the dictates of the Select Men. One time, in discussing something John B. had decreed, he used the phrase, “hell-and- damnation”. I understood this as “Helen Damnation” and wondered for some time what woman of our acquaintance he meant!
The last photo of my Dad and me, taken August, 2006.
When I moved so far from Vermont in 1998, I didn’t know how much I would miss the phone calls from Daddy to tell me, “I’m afraid its going to frost tonight, you'd better cover your flowers.” or, like an echo from many years before, “Go out on your front porch and hear the peepers.”
Whenever—and wherever-- I see the first robins of spring I will hear Daddy’s voice sharing with me his news, “I saw a robin red-breast today!”
Thank you, Daddy!Love,