Remembering Daddy: The Denim Jacket

Mother and Daddy at home on the farm
Mother and Daddy at home on the farm

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.


The Bull That Sat Up

Photo by Fir0002
Daddy raised a few beef cows on our small farm in Tennessee, never more than 20 or so.  He sold the calves to feed lots when they were several months old, and kept a few to sell as yearlings for beef.  The cows were all Herefords, but the bull was an Aberdeen Angus, always a short, black, thick, shiny bull with no horns and a prodigious amount of muscle (i.e., nicely marbled beef).

Daddy named his bull after whomever he bought it from.  The first one I remember was Charlie, after Uncle Charlie, Aunt Maud’s husband.  Charlie was a beautiful bull and did his job well, producing pretty hybrid calves, but he liked to eat.  He got so fat that Daddy was afraid he would fall and break a leg, which would be the end of him, so he sold him.

I was in college when Daddy sold him and bought Little Charlie, also from Uncle Charlie.  Little Charlie also was efficient with his herd, but he had a couple of quirks.  He insisted that Daddy greet him and pet him whenever he came to the stable to be fed.  If Daddy pretended to ignore him, Little Charlie would push Daddy with his head and nearly knock him over until he got attention.

The other quirk involved the way he got up and down from lying in the field.  Have you ever seen a cow get up?  Normally, a cow lies on its chest and stomach with its legs tucked under.  When it rises, the back end comes up first, and the front end follows.  Little Charlie got up like a dog–front end first.  And sometimes he would pause in transit and sit like a dog for a few minutes as well.

Daddy told me about this on the phone.  I refused to believe him.  “It’s the truth, baby doll,” he said.  “You wait, he’ll do it when you come home next time.”

When I came home, I still thought Daddy was joking, but I took my old Instamatic with me out to the field where the cows were lying on their chests, chewing their cud.  Daddy called, “Come here, babies.  Come here, Little Charlie.”

Little Charlie raised his front, legs straight.  He sat for a few moments contemplating Daddy, then finished rising to his feet and walked over to nudge Daddy with his nose.  I snapped pictures as fast as the Instamatic would go.

Somewhere in the boxes and boxes of old photos in my basement there’s a picture of a stocky black bull sitting like a dog in a green field.

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