Sunday, June 16, 2013

He Will Always Be The Father Of The Year For Me

Riding "Tony" with my father, Glenn Millwee
To us, our father, was one of the last great Okla. cowboys. He loved horses, raising cattle,  family, storytelling, funny quotes, and all things rodeo. His favorite horses were Tony, Old Blue - who really was kind of bluish grey, and Cyclone, who would throw everyone but Daddy... and sometimes he would even throw Daddy. For the sake of time and space, I will leave out the stories related to the horses, except to say that Cyclone deserved his name and since Daddy's death, every time Hollywood releases a new family horse movie I am sad there's another movie he would have loved. He came along after the great cattle drives and probably never slept on the ground in a bedroll around a campfire, although he did have to sleep under a tarp in the daylight during hay baling season and there were times he had to sleep in the stall with his animals at a stock show. None of those experiences were particularly comfortable and were a contributing factor in our family never going on camping trips. 

Daddy had no use for poultry. He not only raised beef, he preferred eating beef. When I was about 9 years old, the rules for dairy farms changed and chickens were no longer allowed on dairy farms, in an attempt to get control over the salmonella outbreaks plaguing Okla. farmers. Being one that hated plucking chicken feathers, this made me happy. I bet  Daddy was even happier, because he didn't like to eat chicken and we probably ate less of it when Mother and Grandie Millwee weren't buying a hundred baby chicks apiece to raise for cooking purposes. 
My Aunt Lena Mae at a family chicken coop
Daddy advertised his feelings for the beef industry by always making sure his pickup truck displayed National Cattleman's Association bumper stickers, such as "Eat More Beef".  Mike's favorite was "Help The Beef Industry, Run Over A Chicken". My personal favorite sticker of all time was "Eat More Beef, The West Wasn't Won On Salads". 

As mentioned, one of his best skills was storytelling. 
On vacation in Texas. My Aunt Billie is holding me. Daddy to right.
I guess my sisters and I thought he had a pretty 
exciting life. He was always coming into the house with a new story, or he would share them while driving us to town. Where to start? Let's see...There was the time he had a pickup wreck with a horse in the back and the horse jumped out over the pickup. I'm not sure, but I think that was the time the person he collided with was his insurance agent. 

Another time, there was a house on the lease across the road that the family had moved from suddenly. The teenage daughter had covered her bedroom walls with movie magazine pictures of Elvis Presley and when they moved, Daddy said that the family went off and left those pictures. We could not imagine this. First of all, why would you want to paper your walls with Elvis, but if you were going to go to that trouble, wouldn't you want to take them with you when you left? Then there was the time he was driving a tractor on the old Hartwell place south of Oney and a tornado touched down across the property line northwest of where he was plowing. Did he go hide, did he get off that tractor? No he did not. He just sat on the tractor and watched the tornado. When Mother asked him why he didn't get off and go somewhere safe, he asked, "What was I supposed to do, hide under the tractor?" 

At one of the many family reunions
He also loved old family stories. At a family get together, a group of his aunts were sitting and talking about some people that he didn't know. Finally his curiosity got the best of him and he asked what branch of the family they were discussing. They explained they weren't talking about family; they were talking about their soap opera that they followed faithfully. He was shocked; he could not believe his aunts even watched soap operas.

He had great common sense and a philosopher's approach to life,
A long ago birthday at the "chicken coop house".
but he could be funny in getting his point across.  If one of us were complaining, his response might be, "You'd probably gripe if we beat you with a brand new rope." Or the other companion statement, "You'd gripe if we beat you with a brand new board." Of course, there were never any beatings. 
Daddy did have a couple of bad habits.  He was always covering every Kleenex box and  paper scrap available with his math figures related to crops and cattle. The other habit was a bit more inconvenient. I think at one time or other he drove off and left every one of us somewhere. I really think he was just so preoccupied with all his farming & ranching obligations, and thinking about everything he needed to get done, that it was hard for him to remember mundane things like picking up various family members.                                           

                                               1975 Oklahoma Farm Family of the Year

It is difficult to sum up someone in a few paragraphs. You have to leave out so much that seems essential and important. Daddy did lots of wonderful things. He was both Oklahoma Farmer Rancher of the Year and the reason we were even in the running for Oklahoma Farm Family of the Year.  He received an OSU award that got his picture on a wall in the College of Agriculture at Stillwater, he was a past president of Rotary, and he was a faithful usher at church for many, many years. He was funny, he was enduring, and he was probably pretty much driven. He was well respected and well loved. He was a friend to many. He hardly said anything negative about anyone, except for one person he always referred to as “the sorriest white man that ever lived”. He had a phenomenal memory for history and dates. Not the kind you learned about in history class, but the dates important to a family, a church, a town. Since his death, there have been so many times someone has said, "I wish your Dad was here, he'd remember such and such."

In closing, I thought I would mention, that in his life between 1926-2005, he only lived in 4 houses, and 3 of them were on the same farm. He was only married to one woman, and he not only supported all 3 children he parented, he also sent them to college without the assistance of student loans or grants, and later paid for 3 nice weddings. His favorite dessert was apple pie. And he still hated chicken at the end of his life, although, he had made the concession to his wife and heart doctor, that he would eat it for the sake of his health. He was immensely proud of the fact that none of his daughters or grandchildren were divorced. 
The 1st house Daddy lived in. It was a small frame house on an Indian Lease, that 3 generations of my family farmed.  
Daddy's 2nd house, at the dairy farm
Towards the end of the depression, my grandfather bought a dairy farm. It eventually became the first electrical dairy in Western Okla. He built the white frame house in the upper left corner of this picture. The house was much larger than this picture shows, but this was the only handy picture of my grandparent's house that I think I have uploaded on my computer at this time. That small porch on the right side of the house led to the kitchen door and the door to my grandfather's office. I can still smell the smells of my grandfather's office in my memory. I figure it was probably some horrible chemical or fertilizer that has since been outlawed, but that smell a deep early childhood memory of standing in my grandfather's office. This picture was taken the first day of 2nd grade. Mother was big on teaching us about having traditions. One was that she always made us one new dress to start the fall semester in and another was that she would take our picture the 1st day of school. I was facing our house, which would have been behind my mother, who was taking my picture. Please note the paper bag of new school supplies. Yes, I'm so old, I went to school before backpacks. Oh, how I wished we'd had backpacks, instead of carrying that stack of books back and forth every day. 

The 3rd house Daddy lived in, also on the dairy farm.
The picture to the right is not my family, it's my Aunt Lena Mae's family, standing with our house in the background. As you can tell, there were 2 large yards, some vegetable gardens, and a road between my grandparent's and my parent's houses. Evidently, we used the houses as backdrops for a lot of our pictures. Although, we also have pictures with dairy barns and hay barns in the backdrop also. Our house was unique because in a previous life, it had been a chicken coop. As you can see, it no longer looked like a chicken coop. The picture taken above with the birthday cake was taken inside the chicken coop house. The year Daddy won Farmer Rancher of the Year at the Okla. State Fair, we knew he was a winner in the first line of the speaker's introduction, because he said, "this man started married life in a chicken coop". I still say, you would never have known it was a chicken coop. We had sheet rock, electricity, and plumbing - all the works. And that house worked, until Daddy decided he could afford to build Mother's dream house. 

Daddy's 4th house,  built in 1967 on the north side of the same section of land as the original dairy farm.

From my father's toddler days.... resting from long days of farming.So, in closing, this Father's Day, 2013, I'd like to say that everyone's life should count for something. Because of the examples and guidance my father gave his family, it has been a wonderful gift for our family that keeps on giving.

                     Elaine, aka, the Red Dirt Cowgirl

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