Tribute to My Father (1920-2003)
By Jeff Salter
So many things to say about my father, but probably the framework for everything is that his own dad died about two months before he was born … and his mom never re-married. So my dad never had a father figure growing up. Instead of using that as an excuse, however, my dad viewed it as incentive to BE everything (in a father) that he’d never had ANY of.
So many aspects of Dad’s life give me great pride. including: his Army service during World War Two, his work as a Protestant minister, and his second career as an employment counselor. [The youngest of seven surviving siblings, my dad was the only one to graduate from high school. He went on to college and grad school and used education to pull himself out of the grinding poverty in which he was born and raised.]
Here are two of his accomplishments which stood out in his own mind … and still capture my amazement.
Hitch-hiked to Scout Jamboree
The first Boy Scouts of America national jamboree was held in Washington, D.C., in 1937. The only way my Dad, an Eagle Scout (not yet 17 years old), could attend was to hitch-hike from Biloxi MS to D.C. … and back. On today’s interstate highways, it’s about 1050 miles each way. But on the roads of 1937 – with America still in the Great Depression – it was a lot longer. He went much of the way on foot … and often slept under the stars.
Placed two ‘Displaced Persons’
Among the millions of casualties of WW2 were those uncountable civilians in Europe who had lost their possessions, their homes, or even their cities. A few years after my dad returned home from occupation duty in Europe, there were still some 850,000 ‘Displaced Persons’ who had no place to go and no means to get there.
On the urging of my dad, the members of a Baptist Student Union on the campus of Mississippi State University agreed to try to raise enough money to ‘place’ ONE of these unfortunate European D.P.s. In 1949 $800 was a lot of money and that only covered transportation of one D.P. to America. But with my dad’s organization and encouragement, that BSU group actually raised enough funds to bring over TWO D.P.s … AND to find them lodging and jobs on or near campus.
Without my dad’s efforts, those two displaced Estonians may likely have perished in the dismal conditions of D.P. camps somewhere in Europe.
Encouraged all my creative efforts
No matter what medium I used or how childish the quality, all my creative efforts were encouraged by both my parents. But especially my writing … and especially my dad. From my earliest ‘poetic’ efforts at age nine, all the way through my moderate success in two non-fiction monographs (with a royalty publisher).
My dad wrote family history, sermons, poetry, skits, plays, short stories, and novels. Very little was ever published — but that never dimmed his enthusiasm for, and encouragement of, my writing.
I wrote the following poem – in a much longer version – for my dad’s 51st birthday in 1971. This overhauled version won 2nd Honorable Mention in the 1982 National Writer’s Club Poetry Contest.
By Jeffrey L. Salter
I can recall a squat on cold haunches
as close to the fire as we could,
cooking the food and warming our hands
as smoke curled grey from the wood.
We skewered spuds and chunks of meat
on the blade of a hunting knife
not needing to state that what tasted best
were the simple things in life.
With an old pup tent and homemade bags
we set up our camp for the dark.
A camper pulled onto a concrete slab
(announced by a sissy dog’s bark).
They parked, leveled, connected the rig,
put lawn chairs under the awning;
their empty chatter and dreary TV
soon had all of them yawning.
Every convenience was hauled in that camper,
they “roughed it” for all they were worth;
they brought to woods a portable house
and hardly touched actual earth.
Their whole life seemed plastic and metal:
every gadget with tangled wire.
We had good food and some level ground
and warmth from our crackling fire.
We were resourceful and eager to live,
you less a father than brother,
joined by our pleasure for simple things
and our simple love for each other.
If your dad is still living, I hope you are able to celebrate a great Father’s Day with him. If he’s already deceased, I hope you have many of the types of fond memories which I have.
Jeff, you have the most wonderful poems! I’m sure your father loved reading your words and verses. I bet you are a great dad and grandfather!!!
Thanks, Tonya. You are very kind.
And thanks for being such a regular visitor to this site.
Jeff, this was an amazing tribute. Your father seems to have been a wonderful man and you have great stories to share with your children and grandchildren about him. I think he would be very honored by this post!
Thanks, Danica. He was a great dad. Fortunately both of my children had a lot of exposure to both my dad and my wife’s dad. That’s something I missed in my childhood … because my dad’s father died before HE was born and my mom’s father died a couple months before I was born. So, having no experiences with my own grandfathers, I guess I came to view a favorite uncle as something like a granddad.
Your dad sounds like an amazing person. Great admiration for him for that trek across the East to D.C. – My father in law was born in 1908 and he made his way from rural Alabama to Washington State in the 1930s to work the apple harvest. These guys were very brave to take that kind of stuff on- scary, dark, lonely landscape. It must have been so different and strange. Love the poem.
So many of that generation were so hard-working and sacrificial that it truly humbles me.
When my fav. uncle (mentioned above) was newly married, he and my aunt lived on his pay of $9 per week! Furthermore, for much of my paternal grandmother’s later life, this uncle and aunt paid for ALL of grandmother’s medicine. It’s difficult for me to imagine that kind of sacrifice.
Beautiful poem, Jeff. Just beautiful.
I’m going to hug my dad tighter this weekend. 🙂
Happy Father’s Day to you.
Thank you, Jenn. Glad you could visit here again.
Jeff..you are a wonderful writer. Your words flow so easily, making pictures that are vivid and colorful. What an awesome tribute to your dad…and all of our dads. You made me stop and think of mine…which I don’t do as often as I used to. thank you so much. Judy
Judy, thanks for visiting the blog today and for your very kind words.
Sorry about your father’s death. My mom’s dad died in 2004 and it’s still tough on her.
My father is still living (Thank you, God) and his father is living too (his father is 90). My dad is a pretty awesome man with quite the sense of humor. He tries to sometimes act tough, but he’ll get this look in his eye and you know he’s kidding. He cracks groaners of jokes (I blame him for part of my sense of humor, by the way), but he’s one of the nicest, smartest, most humble men I know. His deep faith has been example to me all my life and the way he loves my mother has always been an example to me of how women should be treated by their husbands/boyfriends/fiances.
And your comments are a wonderful tribute to your father. Give him a big hug on Sunday.
LOL I forgot to mention I won’t be celebrating Father’s Day with him…I think he’s going to be with one of my brothers that day and that’s a bit of a drive (and we weren’t invited to tagalong). But I’m seeing him tonight to bring him and my mom’s anniversary gift (late–it was June 10th) and I can give him a hug then. (We’re a hugging family, we often hug in greeting and when we say goodbye/farewell).
hugs are good for everybody involved
That is a most excellent tribute, Jeff. I’m so happy you had that relationship. And the strength of your father to persevere shines through in this blog. I’m lucky. I still have my Dad here, although dementia is claiming him in bits and pieces. Still, this golden time of his life has brought us closer together and I treasure that.
Thanks, Laurie, for your kind words.
Dementia is one of the things my father feared most. When he was diagnosed with colon cancer, I believe he was actually relieved … because (as he often said) he didn’t want his body to outlast his mind.
Your father is a good example of what made our country great! Nice, Jeff, and a good reminder of the power and comfort of simple things. I was thinking of the bonfire you mentioned earlier this week, and the imprint that probably left on your grandchildren. Thank you so much for sharing this, and happy father’s day to you.
Glad to have you visit again, Dianne. And thanks for your comment.
Wonderful poem and even more wonderful tribute to your dad. Thanks for inviting me to visit.
Thanks, Linda. Glad you could visit today.
I couldn’t recall if you ever met my dad.
I loved the poem, Jeff. Too many parents try to give their children grand things, when it’s the close intimate moments, the instances and memories of shared self that are most precious and carry the greatest worth.
Your father sounds one of those rare individuals who sees with the eagle’s eye; able to see the greater scheme of things. Please give him a hug from me since my Dad is no longer here to squeeze. I’d consider it an honor. The two of them sound so much alike.
Thank for sharing your father today! I miss mine so badly.
Thanks, Runere, for your kind words. I’d love to hug my dad again, but he’s been gone for nearly eight years now. But even though he’s deceased, I often feel like he’s near.
I just realized I missed the dates at the top of your post! Here’s to angels giving them both hugs for us!
You know, my Dad feels closest when I’m struggling with something. And it’s usually then get a mental picture of that cocked brow and hear that dry, patient voice echo, “If you have to ask, you already know the answer. You’re just looking for someone to make it feel right, and it won’t.” LOL
Love the post, Jeff!
Sounds like your Dad encouraged you to be an independent thinker, Runere.
That’s great development skills.
Jeff, your dad sounds like he was a wonderful man – you were lucky to have such a great father and he was lucky to have a son that truly appreciated him. I bet he had a huge effect on the type of father you became – your children are lucky as well! I wish you a wonderful father’s day.
Thanks, Meredith, for visiting and for your kind remarks. Yes, I’m sure I’ve modeled some of my fatherly behavior on what I observed with my dad. Of course, I’ve been far from perfect as a dad. I love watching the generation of dads which followed my generation. Typically they’re a lot more involved in the kid-raising than I was as a young father.
Jeff, I should know that the words in your poem would form pictures in my mind as your writing does that. Your father must have been a wonderful man. I love your writing. I love to read about your family’s life at Possum Hollow and I think that your life reflects the teachings of your father. Your tenderness and gentleness and pride always stand out.
My Grandfather Glass died when Dad was 22 years old before he and my mom met. My Grandfather Bond died when Mom was 33 years old. As I was a late in life child for them, I consequently never knew either of my grandparents. My dad had a drinking problem which I recognize is an illness, but he was still a good man with a 6th grade education. He died when Autumn was 13 months old. He taught me the value of hard work. and the importance of family. Education meant very much to both of my parents and I am sorry that neither lived long enough to see me graduate from college as I was the only one of my siblings to do so.
Please continue to share your writing with we as I always enjoy it.
Your comments are very moving, Sug, and I appreciate your kind words about my writing. I guess that’s why I keep writing.
Glad you could join us today.
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