I have Daddy’s denim jacket hanging in my hall closet. It is an old, faded Wrangler’s denim, lined with red plaid flannel, in the classic style worn by farmers and cowboys. When I came home from college in the fall or winter, I would borrow that jacket from him and wear it every time I went out while I was at home, unless he needed it to wear on the farm.
Daddy always seemed the right size to me, not too big and not too small. He would be considered barely medium height now, barrel-chested, with strong shoulders and muscular arms and legs. He wore khaki work pants and shirts when he worked at Clarksville Base, and he wore them to work on the farm. They were heavy cotton and were a pain to iron, but I learned to iron on those work clothes.
When the weather was colder he put on heavy, lined coveralls which zipped up the front and were dark green or dark grey. All these clothes were meant for hard outdoor work, mending fences, herding cows, digging postholes, the work that couldn’t be done from a tractor or a truck.
When it wasn’t cold enough for the coveralls, he wore that jacket. Many times I saw him put it on as he headed out to drive the school bus (when he had that job) or feed the cows just as the winter sun was coming up.
So after Daddy died, when Mother was cleaning out the house, that jacket was the only thing of his I wanted, and the only thing I brought home to New York with me. I have never worn it again. I guess I was afraid it would wear out. It is quite frayed, and, I just realized, more than 30 years old. But it is a last bit of him, and of frosty mornings when the cows patiently waited for him, lining up at the barbed-wire fence nearest our house, their breath making clouds. “Hello, babies,” he would say, and they followed him at a stately pace to the stable, to be fed.
Happy Father’s Day to all fathers, and to all of us who love and remember them.