One of my memories of Dad was of him sitting in his favorite rocking chair, smoking an old corncob pipe, and reading a farm magazine. Even though Dad was in his fifties by the time my own memories of him surfaced, others have shared some of his early life.
As a young man, Dad had a beautiful tenor voice. I never heard about voice lessons so this talent must have come naturally to him. His three sisters also had unusual musical ability. We have pictures of Dad in the choir robes of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Bath, New York. I don’t know how long he sang in that choir.
When our family moved from Bath to a farm in Sonora about 1916, it was too far to go to Bath to sing in the choir. However, there was a small Methodist Church in Sonora that the family attended. Once in a while during a special church service, my father would sing a solo accompanied by my mother at the piano. I remember one time Dad lost his place (he was reading from a hymn book) and my mother had to stop playing the piano and show Dad where to start again. Dad and mother were able to resume their musical selection as though nothing unusual had happened.
In the winter time when the family was apt to be home together on Sunday evening, the whole family would gather ‘round the old “pump” organ and sing hymns and folk songs. Mother played the organ and Dad led the singing. In the summer time, after supper when Dad would collect the milk pails and start for the barn to milk, we would often hear him singing, loud and clear, as he left the house to work in the barn.
Music has been fun for our family over the years and today I have children and grandchildren who sing and play musical instruments in this great old family tradition.
One of the memories that I hold most dear was his ability to see all sides of a problem and it was from him that I learned tolerance -- he was prone to find fault with any who didn’t agree with him and sometimes when mother would be critical of our neighbors, he would say that they have their right to “be” ... “they have their rights, too.”
One year we were in need of a new team of horses and he bought a pair of barely trained colts, Bonnie and Beauty. He and I did the bulk of the training and one incident is especially true of his consistency in the training. It was the beginning of the haying season and one field required the hay wagon to come down quite a steep grade after we had loaded the hay. This was a new experience for the horses. As the wagon moved down the grade the hay moved forward, too, and touched them in the rear. They were frightened and took off. I was on the load and driving. Dad tried to get ahead of them to stop them but couldn’t and they literally ran towards a barbed wire fence at the side of the field. Dad was driven against the fence. I saw it and was frightened and didn’t know what to do. In desperation I tried to turn them to level ground near the highway. I had to make a sharp turn and was scared, but seeing my dad bleeding gave me the courage to make that turn. The horses quieted and we were able to get them to the barn. Dad was badly scratched by the barbed wire, but he would have nothing to do with dressing the wounds. We went back out and got another load of hay-- the theory being that this way we would be teaching the horses that the experience was O.K. We never noticed that the horses seemed scared again.
We, of course, had milk cows and I wanted to help with the milking, but in order for him to let me do that, I had to agree to milk every night. I readily made the promise and he held me to it for a long time -- a good lesson, I finally realized.
One summer was especially tough for him. It was the year that I was twelve. He was not feeling well and could not keep up with the heavy work of harvesting the hay. With his guidance and encouragement, Weston and I got through it. As he grew older he was reluctant to take risks. I would say that I remember him as a “plodder”, seldom in a hurry, but he always got things done.