The more I thought about my dad this past Fathers Day the more stories of his life flooding my thoughts. I must not let them go unrecorded, because I have two great-grand children and another little guy due in August, and these stories are for them. I would love to have these kinds of memories recorded about my ancestors. If much is written about dad, maybe morsels will survive.
Dad was a fire fighter for over 30 years in Dallas Texas, retiring as a Captain, (meaning he was in charge of his company during his shift of 24 hours or more). He was a Master Gardner, designed, built and re-finished furniture, was an accomplished carpenter and house builder, and all around genius in my eyes. His entire life was spent in Texas. He was born in Kerens, and lived in Mt. Pleasant, Dallas, Allen, an Mineola. The following stories are life events and stories scattered throughout his long and meaningful life.
After Dad retired he and mom moved to a small rural town, and bought a sizable lot with a comfortable two bedroom home ,which he remodeled before they moved in. He also built a shop to accommodate his love of building things and wood working. He later turned a porch into a third bedroom. Dad planted a huge garden, and lots of fruit trees, and their yard was always well manicured.
Dad was never someone to offer uninvited opinions or advice unless asked. Their lot was on a corner of a busy thoroughfare. After living there for a number of years dad noticed that someone from the water department kept passing by showing some interest in their property. One day someone showed up to check their water meter. A few days later someone showed up to replace it. Dad thought nothing of it. A few months passed then someone else from the water district showed up and started poking around the wiring and installation of the newest meter. Dad’s curiosity got the best of him, so he walked over and asked what the problem was. The worker said “Mr. Dickson we have noticed that you water a lot, have that big garden, and all of those fruit trees that take a lot of water, and your water bill seems to be extremely low.” Dad smiled and said, “Reckon it could be because I have a well over there”, pointing to a small shed next to the garage?” Dad said the water district employee almost fainted. They had apparently overlooked the purpose of the small shed next to the house, thinking it was a storage unit. Dad got the biggest kick out of telling that story.
My grandmother saw some of dad’s potential talents early on. On his 10th birthday she gave him a straight-edge, a right angle ruler, a hammer and a hand saw. He promptly built his first project, a shelf for his mother. He turned out to be a self-taught genius. (Dad is lower left in picture with two siblings, Mildred & Athol. There were 9 kids all together.)
Because of dad’s schedule over the years he had blocks of time off. During the war in the 1940’s he was home for 24 hours and worked 48. Later the hours changed to, on 24 off 24, and much later his schedule was, on 24 off 48. These hours allowed him to take odd jobs to do remodeling projects. He was always trying to use his talents to help provide for our family. Having a talented dad paid off for my brother and me as well. We were the only kids on the block who had wooden stilts. When we mastered six inches off the ground he crafted us 12 inch ones. It was very cool in our eyes.
Dad’s garden was the talk of the town. If he was in the garden and someone passing by saw him, waved, and said, “Beautiful garden Mr. Dickson”, dad would usually say, “Wait a minute”, disappear and return with a paper sack, then fill it with produce for the admirer to take home. This used to make mom mad, because the local radio station had a segment where listeners could call in to sell items, and mom loved to try to sell some of their produce, and thought dad was getting in the way of her customer base. Every year I got a letter from her, listing how much their seeds and other related garden expenses were, and the income from her radio sales. I wondered how she always knew the figures, until I helped her sell and close up her house before she moved to WA to live with me a few years after dad passed. Neatly taped inside one of her kitchen cabinets was a sheet of paper with years of expenses and returns neatly listed. I wish I had saved that sheet. A treasure like that would have gone nicely in my family album with an accompanying explanation.
While I was visiting, towards the end, dad came in with a funny look on his face. He said “Come out to the shop with me”. It was assumed that my brother would get dads table saw and tools. Dad said that mom fussed at him for not offering me any of his “stuff”, because she knew I had started refinishing furniture after taking some classes. Dad pointed to his work bench. He had placed several items in a neat row, and asked if I was interested in having any of the items. There was a skill saw, right angle, drill and bits, a miter board and saw, and a finishing sander. I chose what I thought I could use, and he spent the next hour patiently telling me how to best use each item and how to care for my new treasures. It was a touching moment for me. We then packed up all of my choices and had them in the post the next day.
Dad had a heart of gold when it came his friends in need. Once when I was visiting from WA he said, “Let’s go for a walk. I want you to meet someone,”. We stopped by his friend’s house who was on dialysis three times a week. I found out later that dad visited with him at least twice a week, and stayed during the entire treatment just to help his friend pass the time with distracting conservation.
Dad was looking out for mom up until his last week on earth. He made sure everything was in tip-top shape knowing he was running out of time. He had the house re-roofed three days before he died, and was still writing down instructions that he thought mom needed to know almost to the very end. Dad was an amazing and caring son, husband, father, brother, and friend to many, and was our champion until the very end. I hope my grandkids and beyond will enjoy reading these stories as much I have enjoyed remembering and recording them.