Have you ever noticed that time tends to evaporate much like the morning dew? Come back with me, if you will, to 1987. I was a staff writer at the Grand Forks Herald at the time and that year, for Father’s Day, I didn’t go to my dad, he came to me. At age 83, he climbed the stairs to the Herald’s second floor news room where photographer Vickie Kettlewell captured us in this precious moment. I had ready a column to go with that picture.
I’d like to share that feature with you again, these 27 years later. At the end, watch for an addition and another photo.
NEWBURG, N.D. – Two of us call him Dad. The other two call him Pa. Eleven call him Grandpa and one special lady calls him Lee, or “LeRoy,” if she really wants his attention. That’s his wife, Freda. They’ve been together 56 years.
But, to all, including two great-grandchildren, LeRoy Hall holds a special place in our hearts, more so than ever in this, the 83rd year of his life. I don’t know how it’s possible, but he grows dearer and more appreciated each Father’s Day. We all want him to know that.
I was the baby, and I liked that position in the lineup. There were advantages to being the youngest. You got to go along with Dad to meetings while everyone else was in school. One, in particular, I have never forgotten. It was the day we went to Bottineau, N.D., to a Farmer’s Union meeting.
I must have been about 5 years old when we made the 30-mile trip in the red 1947 Chevrolet truck. It was the day I had my first spelling lesson: C-H-E-V-R-O-L-E-T. Dad would say the letters and I would repeat them. I remember sitting on the floor, under the dash, looking up at him as he taught me to spell that big word. It was a cozy little spot to sit.
But there’s another reason to remember that day. At the meeting, Dad was having coffee with cream and sugar. It smelled rather good so I asked for some. I got it. But after drinking it, I got sick and we had to stop alongside the road on the way home. To this day, whenever I smell the aroma of sweetened, creamed coffee, I think of that day 40 years ago.
I drink my coffee black.
My dad had a dream when he was a young man. He grew up on a farm near Russell, N.D., about four miles from another farm he thought was beautiful. The other farm had a tree-lined driveway. You would turn in off the road and enter the yard through a tunnel of trees. He could picture himself living there one day.
That dream came true in 1928 when he, then a bachelor, bought the farm. It included five quarters of land. He and my mother were married in 1930.
Dad remembers well 1932 when there was no crop. The man he bought the farm from came to collect a payment. They had no money to give him. Dad is still thankful for the man’s patience.
“We had a landlord who didn’t foreclose,” Dad said. “He patted me on the back and said, “Stay with it and you’ll be all right.”
And stay with it they did. Through faith and frugality, they had the land paid for by 1945.
When I stop to think, I sometimes wonder if we really know what hard work is. Today, Dad remembers how much hard work farming was. But he loved working hard. “I wouldn’t have ever wanted to do anything else,” he says. The hardest part for him has been slowing down.
On that same land, in the coal black dirt of the garden along the tree-lined driveway, is where all 11 grandchildren gathered every summer when they were small. Not only were they cousins, they became wonderful friends. We parents would see them only when they were hungry and came in the house with dirt-smudged faces.
The seven grandsons and four granddaughters are all grown up, but have a special bond with each other that began with Grandpa, Grandma and the earth.
Mom and Dad still live on the farm in the home they built in 1950. It sits at the end of the lane. There were times after they retired when they wondered if they should move to town. But I don’t think they ever could have left the place they loved. They were too firmly attached to all they had built together.
My brothers and their spouses, David and Margaret Hall and Myrlin and Shirley Hall, live nearby. My sister and her husband, Lori and Bob Duesenberg, live in St. Louis, Mo.
Mom and Dad along with the home place are the ties that bind us all. When I visit and turn in the lane that has since been replanted, I know what John Denver meant when he sang, “Sometimes this ol’ farm feels like a long-lost friend. Hey, it’s good to be back home again.”
Now the addendum:
Dad and Mom have been gone for years, but the home place is alive and well right down to the tree lined driveway. The yard always has been beautiful and with the addition of playground equipment it resembles a park. My favorite nephew, Thomas “Tom” LeRoy Hall, his wife Jodi and their three children, Alayna, Anna and Luke are living life to the fullest not only in the house but on the very spot my dad fell in love with in 1928. Tom farms the land with another of my favorite nephew’s, Mike Hall, who is Tom’s cousin. Here Tom and his family are perched on a restored 1950s Super M Farmall tractor.
Blest be the cycle of life.