Monday, October 19, 2009
My father was a railroad man. Born in 1900 in Terry, Mississippi, he was the oldest by 11 months of two boys. When he was 16 his father died and his mother and the two boys survived by truck farming for a couple of years. Then shortly before he was 20, he went to telegraph school and became a telegraph operator. He went to work for a major railroad in 1920 and had over 50 years service with them before his retirement.
He loved the railroad--everything about it. He loved the big steam engines and worked many out of the way places just so he could be around them although he could have worked in a larger office.
In 1931 he married my mother, Kathie. This was the tail end of the great depression and jobs were scarce, yet he managed to keep his seniority by getting a friend to let him work the required one day out of 6 months to hold onto it. He gave the money back to his friend and that was a well kept secret as it was against the rules. He bid in the agency in Eden, Mississippi and we moved there. Then oil was discovered in Yazoo County and the agency came open in Anding, Mississippi and he bid that in. My mother and I were already there as my grandmother had passed away and we had to go and take care of my grandfather, who was alone.
We were allowed to ride anywhere we wanted free on a pass and my mother and I used to ride the train a lot.
Dad was a rather short, slender man and full of life and energy. He always had something new going on. Once he decided to plant gladiola as he loved flowers. But unlike most people who would have simply planted a couple of dozen, he planted an acre of them. They were the most beautiful I have ever seen with each stalk blooming up to 20 blossoms. The only problem was that we had trouble finding homes for all the beautiful flowers as he cut them! Then the next year he changed from flowers to garlic. And planted the whole acre in it. It surely was a difference in the smell of the place that year. Garlic is very pretty when it is growing and blooming though so we all enjoyed seeing it. The problem with that was that no one else, at all, wanted any of it.
In a way, he was a strange man. He was friendly to everyone but hard to really know. I knew he loved me but he never once told me he did. When my mother would ask did he love her, his answer was always "I married you, didn't I?" My mother told me he used to take me when I was a baby down to an old tree on the property and sing to me in the evening. I was the only child they had. When I got a little older, he took me to work with him every day. At that time he was working about 15 miles away and I would spend the whole time with him and he played with me when he had time.
The way my parents met was when he was sent to Anding to work and he boarded at my grandmother's house. He was 8 years older than she was and she immediately loved this young man, who at that time looked a bit like Clark Gable. She was engaged to another young man but soon broke that engagement to be with Dad.
I grew up with his love for the railroad and followed in his footsteps as a telegraph operator. Once you work for a railroad it never gets out of your blood. He missed it after his retirement and all these years later, I still miss it too.
These were just some random thoughts about my life with my father, who I loved dearly, but never quite understood.
He was a good man and I miss him although he has been gone 40 years this month of October 2009.