Sunday, June 18, 2017

Daddy, a complex man, honest and fair

Coy Lee Council in early 1920s
Father’s Day was always a day of consternation for my sister, Gay, and me. We had no idea what to give Daddy, and many times what we chose, he didn’t want. He did not take gifts generously. He didn’t know how to receive.

I remember that Gay and Stu gave him a seat with wheels for use in the garden. He said take it back because he would never use it. He was not trying to hurt their feelings. He was simply being honest. Most of us know that if we receive a gift we don’t want, we can take it back ourselves not hand it back to the person who took the time to find something they thought would be perfect.

Tact was not Daddy’s long suite. Neither is it one of my brother’s best traits. Some people don’t come into this world with filters, I believe. But you would think they would learn, wouldn’t you?

One Father’s Day I decided not to purchase a gift for Daddy. I wrote a poem for him. I handed him the poem and then tried to  give him a hug. But he stood like a tree, tall and strong, his arms down by his sides. Mother said he liked the poem, but he never said a word about it to me. 

He was afraid to show his emotions. Maybe it was generational or maybe the way he was brought up without a father. He learned to be tough and hide his feelings when he was ten years old and had to go to work for mean uncaring men who were quick to punish the kids they supervised.

My father was a complex man. His sense of responsibility and his  honesty made him a highly respected man by those who knew him. He believed in fairness, and sometimes that did not set well with society or those who lived on farms nearby.

One example of that was when a neighbor let his hogs roam over on our farm after my father had plowed and planted his crop. When the neighbor did not come and get his hogs, my father shut  them in our barn. The neighbor came over after a few days to get his hogs.

My father said, “Not until you pay me for feeding them the past week.”

The neighbor went to see the sheriff who came out and told my father he had to give up the hogs. Although Daddy felt he was doing the fair thing, the law said he could not hold the hogs. The neighbor did not pay for feeding them, either. But the neighbor learned a lesson. He never again let his hogs ruin my Daddy’s planting.  

I have written a story, The Day My Father was a Hero. My father was the only man on the jury who believed the defendants were guilty. They left a woman alone way out in the country with no clothes or anything to cover her. It was the coldest night of the year. She died curled up on the ground.

At the time, in the fifties, no women were allowed to serve on a jury in Dougherty County. The other men on the jury said the woman who died was no good, and they did not want to ruin the lives of these young men by finding them guilty.

But my father stood his ground even though he was berated by the others. He could not change anyone’s mind, so the judge declared a mistrial. Daddy’s sense of fairness and justice would not let him excuse these men who did not have any compassion for another human being. They left her there to die.
Daddy's first car

If Daddy was still with us, I would find a Hallmark card for him, one that was not mushy or embarrassing. I would sign it, Love, Glenda.


Elephant's Child said...

Some of this could have been written about my father. He was a difficult man, a damaged man. A man with integrity, ethics and principles.
We never celebrated either Father's or Mother's Day since my parents said that one day was 'insufficient to make up for a year of neglect' but I remember them both. Often. And am grateful for the lessons they taught - both the positives and the negatives.

DJan said...

Good for your father for his honesty, and for standing up for that woman in the trial. Thinking of the Cosby trial now and the mistrial. I wonder what happened in there. :-(

Abbie Taylor said...

Glenda, your dad sounds like an interesting person. I hope you have more fond memories of him as well.

Glenda Council Beall said...

When I think about having no woman on the jury, I remember how far women have come, but how far we still have to go to have the same respect and opportunities of men.
My father was a fan of the underdog, in most cases, and he stood up for the woman who had no voice. Makes me proud of him.