My dad and me on a once upon a time Father’s Day
Two of us called him Dad. The other two called him Pa. Eleven called him Grandpa and one special lady called him Lee, or “LeRoy,” if she really wanted his attention. That was his wife, Freda. They were together 58 years.
But, to all, including the great grandchildren who were blessed to know him, LeRoy Hall will always hold a special place in our hearts.
I am the baby of four siblings (two boys and two girls) and I liked that position in the line-up. There were advantages to being the youngest. You got to go along with Dad to meetings while everyone else was in school. One, from my childhood, I have never forgotten. It was the day Dad and I went to Bottineau, N.D., to a Farmers Union meeting.
I was not yet school age 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 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 good so I asked for some. I got it. But after drinking it, I became sick and we had to stop on the way home alongside the road so I could upchuck. Whenever I smell the aroma of sweetened, creamed coffee, I again think of that day.
Consequently, 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 so beautiful.
That other farm had a tree-lined driveway. You would turn off the gravel road and enter its 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. To his dying day, Dad remained thankful for the man’s patience. I remember him saying, “We had a landlord who didn’t foreclose. He patted me on the back and say, ‘stay with it and you’ll be alright.’ “
And stay with it they did. Through faith and frugality they had the land paid for by 1945.
When I stop to think about it, I sometimes wonder if we really know what hard work is. Dad never forgot how much hard work farming was. But he loved working hard. He told us several times, “I wouldn’t have ever wanted to do anything else.” The hardest part of all, though, was having to slow down as he got older.
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 now but will forever share a special bond for one another because of Grandpa and Grandma and the earth.
Dad died on that farm, in the home they built in 1950, just three weeks after his 85th birthday. The house which has been beautifully remodeled by my nephew, Tom, and his wife, Jodi, now is filled with the laughter and love of three great grandchildren, Alena, Anna and Luke. Tom, and Mike, another of my nephews, continue to farm the land my dad had paid for by 1945.
To this day, Grandpa Lee and Grandma Freda, along with the home place we all love to return to, are the tie that binds us all. When I visit and turn into the lane that has since been replanted, I know what John Denver meant when he sang, “Sometimes, this ol’ farm feels like a long last friend. Hey, it’s good to be back home again.”