This is my dad.
You may have met him here before in various circumstances. I talk about him a lot, you know, cause I’m his side kick. I guess I always have been. He’s been the harmonica to my guitar, the harmony to my solo, the encouragement behind the uncertainty, the swat on my horse’s rump when is time to get going and pretty much the one person in this world who understands what it’s like to have a nose that seems to keep growing, despite the fact that neither one of us has successfully pulled off a lie.
We share some of the same qualities, my pops and I. I think it drives my family crazy. I mean the big nose and curly hair are a few of the obvious, but the lame jokes and over enthusiasm for the little things (like a field of wildflowers, deliciously ripe tomatoes, a perfectly placed breeze and a song that warrants discussion and repeat plays) are sometimes annoyingly perky and overly positive for members of the Veeder clan who have heard enough already and really don’t care for tomatoes, thanks very much.
We have a tendency to go on and on.
Anyway, yes, pops and I are cut from the same cloth, that’s for sure. But there is one important quality I didn’t inherit from him, or if I did, it’s hidden somewhere down deep and I’m waiting for it to come forth and show itself.
Pops is cool.
Here he is riding a bronc with a broken arm. Seriously. See the cast?
Yup, he’s cool like that.
I mean, the man spent most of his life on the back of horses he worked to get to stop bucking only to willingly get on the back of broncs he hoped would buck like hell.
And bulls. I think he might have done the same with bulls.
Cool like the lead singer of a traveling band who drove around the countryside playing dances and events in this really sweet bus.
In high school.
Give me a break.
I mean, the guy’s got stories, and sometimes, when his brother’s in town or his best bud comes down for coffee or a beer, I get to hear them. I just stay quiet and listen, laugh and can’t believe it.
I can’t believe this man who has been singing Neil Young songs for swaying audiences since he was fifteen years old understood the importance of teaching those songs to his daughters, giving them a guitar of their own and letting them tag along if they wanted to.
I always wanted to.
Come to think of it, I can’t believe a man who’s been thrown from the backs of countless horses gets all up in arms, pissed actually, when one of his own hits the dirt in the same fashion. Shit happens, yes. But he can’t stand it.
Which brings me to the daughters thing. He has three. Yup. He was pops to three little girls with grass stained knees who somewhere along the line became three grown women.
And he has found himself the only man of the house for the last 28 years.
The only man.
I have always wondered about this, wondered what the good Lord was thinking granting a man like this, a man who could teach a son a few things about being a cowboy, hunter, fisherman, tractor driver and all things some little boys are made of, three wild-haired daughters with wills like the wind.
I always wondered if a son would have made his life easier, more fulfilling, although I never wondered if he wished for one. He never made us feel that way. He just took us along.
And riding shotgun in the pickup or sitting beside him as he played his guitar I worked to learn as much as possible from him about ranching and cattle and music and what it means to truly love a place and love your family beyond measure.
I continue to learn from him every day.
It took me a while to understand this, but as we celebrated Father’s Day yesterday and pops’ three daughters were scattered across the prairie raising a baby, visiting a boyfriend and rolling in late with a pickup full of kayaks and chicken for dinner, it became very clear to me the type of man it takes to raise daughters.
As I looked at the lines on my pop’s face I realized that his whiskey voice, silver hair and disjointed nose may have emerged during his time on the back of bulls, driving too fast or singing in bar bands–but that was just practice, a workout, training so he could build himself some muscles.
Muscles to lift his girls up on the back of horses, into pickups, and off the ground when a fall broke their bones or a boy broke their heart–muscles to lift bags and beds and boxes into their cars…
…and guts to watch them kick up dust on the road as they drove up on over the horizon and out on their own.
Guts to walk them down the aisle only to leave the light on, just in case they ever need to come home…
Because it’s men whose heart and mind have always been open to adventure, surprise, opportunity and wild rides; men with gentle hands and expectations who stay up late at night without complaint waiting for the car to pull into the drive, no matter the hour; men with enough hair to hold a colorful array of barretts and enough security in their manhood to show up to work with remnants of pink nail-polish on their fingernails; it’s only the strongest men, only the manliest men, the most composed, most tender- hearted, most exceptional men…
…the coolest men who are blessed and charged with making sure little girls understand that they have muscles of their own.
Happy Father’s Day Pops. Thanks to you I get stronger every day.