My grandfather was a cowboy with an eighth-grade education. Grandma was a waitress. A few years before Dad was born, they homesteaded in Montana, near the Canadian border. In the typically quirky style of my family, they went east to homestead. They were not the kind of family to own modern consumer luxuries like a radio or a camers, so I have very few pictures of Dad before he was in his teens.
Most depression era kids are pretty good at geezering, but none could match Dad who owned the tactical nuke of geezer stories: he really did walk three miles to school when it was fifty below. He only did it once and he was one of only two kids at his school who did. Even the teacher stayed home. Fortunately, the superintendent made a pass by all the schools in the county to round up the kids who were dumb enough to go out in that weather.
Dad's about fourteen in this picture. The bathing beauties are some cousins of his. Like most rural families, Dad had cousins and distant relations all over the place. No, not that kind of cousins. Keep your mind out of the gutter.
More than anything, Dad wanted to learn how to fly. He joined the Army Air Corps (later to become the Air Force) six months before Pearl Harbor. By the time the shooting started, he had been told that he couldn't be a pilot because of his eyesight. Still, he did his bit to defeat Fascism by running the ground crew for bombers departing for Europe. Dad's bombers blew the crap out of the Ploeşti oil fields.
After the war, Dad met the love of his life...
...and became a dad. He always liked number one sister best, but I'm not bitter. Nope. Not even a little. Can we talk about something else?
The fifties were the Atomic Age. Dad was on the leading age of this exciting new frontier, building and breaking reactors faster than you could say, "is it supposed to be making that noise?"
Did I mention we liked camping? We liked camping. Dad took us to some great obscure places, sometimes driving up dry creekbeds to get there, and gave us lessons in Western history while doing it. Sometimes we wished he would have paid more attention to the road and less to the stories.
Dad retired early afer losing half of one of his lungs. In my family, the correct follow up to that information is "think carefully, Dad. Where did you have it last?" We never get tired of that joke. Mom and Dad moved into the woods where Dad built a house for Mom using only his grit, determination, and free labor from his son-in-law, his nephew, my sisters, and his two brothers.
This is the last formal portrait I have of Dad with the love of his life.