Happy Father’s Day. First I’ll tell you about the three images on this post and then I’m going to talk about the greatest man I have ever met. First the images. I had read in the Telegraph Herald that there were pelicans at Lock and Dam 11 in Dubuque. My Friend Andreas had also posted about the Dubuque pelicans so Jeanne and I headed down to the river after running a few errands and having one of the best meals I can remember for lunch at the Copper Kettle. More about that in a later post.
All images were shot with: Nikon D4 | Nikon AF-S 80-400 mm f/4.5-5.6 G VR lens | ISO 200 1/800 sec @f8. I had the burst rate set for high and at 11-12 fps the D4 has an amazingly high buffer so I ripped off about 70 shots of the birds taking off after being disturbed by a fishing boat.
Now about the most amazing man I have ever met. He was born in 1910 with a birth defect to his left leg. As can be imagined the medical skill and technology were not what they are today and so after a couple of botched surgical procedures he ended up with a left leg that was about 6 inches shorter than his right leg and arthritis developed in it at a relatively young age. So he walked with a noticeable limp, couldn’t play sports and was rejected by the army for WWII because of his leg. He was devastated because he wanted to fight.
He was the manager of a lumber yard chain and assigned to Minneapolis Kansas. Even though he dropped out of school at the 8th grade he was a wiz at math and could figure the building materials for any size house and generally the left over material wouldn’t fill a wheel barrow. One day while cross cutting some lumber with a radial arm saw he cut off all his fingers on his dominate right hand. This was before worker’s compensation so his company didn’t pay any of the medical bills because they said it was his fault. They also fired him because they said he could no longer do the job.
So out of a job and no money to pay the bills (which he eventually did pay them all off) he and his young wife with two young children, moved back to their home town and from his father-in-law he learned to work on cars. He had a semi successful auto repair shop for several years but times were hard and farmers were struggling. He wouldn’t charge some people for his work because he knew they couldn’t pay. He went broke. By the way he learned to use his right hand quite well and in later years when you would meet him he would extend that hand for a shake with no hesitation.
He at one time (during his deepest depression) had thought about how useless he was and what was the point. Then he saw a man with no hand standing on a street corner smoking a big cigar with an even bigger smile on his face. He looked at his still bandaged hand and said to himself; “you have nothing to be depressed about, now get on with it.” And he did!
After his business failed he went to work for a rock quarry company and ended up driving a gravel truck. Because there was no Americans With Disability law at that time they were going to lay him off when his leg got so bad that he had to walk with crutches. He designed, built and installed a hand clutching system and then showed the owners that he could be an effective employee. They kept him on. When the state passed a law that all rock trucks had to cover their loads while on the highway, he designed, built and installed a spring-loaded pulley system that he could crank a tarp to cover his load and then release it when empty.
When he finally retired he was manager of their second largest quarry. At 50 years of age after smoking for 35 years he quit cold turkey and never had another cigarette. He never took a drink his entire life and once when I asked him how difficult it must be for him to get up and go to work at 5:30 a.m. every day (6) days a week he just smiled and said “Davey, I’m so thankful that I can.”
One of the saddest days of his life and mine was when he had to go to the rest home. But in typical fashion he made the best of it. He did exercises religiously and was able to come home for a brief time until his heart started acting up and he had to go back. About the only time I ever heard him complain was when his leg was hurting so bad it would make him want to scream. But he never did. I could write for the next two hours and talk about the daily challenges he over came but I won’t. Of course I am talking about my Father, Melvin Charles “Bud” Updegraff. He hated the name Melvin and so he had his legal name changed to Bud, which was his childhood nickname.
He loved to hunt and fish but because of his handicap he wasn’t able to do much of that in his later years. So he bought an old riding lawnmower and mowed all the lawns in the neighborhood for a little spending money. Dad always had dogs his entire life. His last dog was a little poodle he named Tippy. He and Tippy were the best of friends and Tippy would wait patiently as my Dad would walk to the back yard on his crutches to sit on a bench. Tippy would carefully avoid getting his leash tangled in Dad’s crutches. When Tippy died a little of Dad died too. He was never the same after that and you could tell his last few years were not happy as they were when his beloved Tippy was with him.
Dad would spend his summer afternoons in the back yard with Tippy and he noticed a squirrel that appeared to have a one blind eye. For weeks Dad would bring a cookie out and leave it on the table each day “Rocky” would come a little closer to the point that he would finally climb on Dad’s shoulder and get the cookie out of his shirt pocket. I have several prints of Rocky. Jeanne once took a picture of Rocky climbing up my leg to get a cookie from me. He would sit and watch Dad while he ate his cookie and then scamper back up the tree. Dad taught Tippy to not bark when Rocky was near by.
I never paid the amount of attention to him that he deserved. I was too wrapped up in myself to think about all the mountains he had to climb just to be on the same level as the rest of us. I never paid much attention to all the sacrifices he made for me and my sister, it was just expected. We didn’t have the money but he knew I loved airplanes and so about every other Sunday we would drive to KC municipal airport and watch the big commercial (prop) airlines land and take off. Mom would make some fried chicken and we would eat that and watch the planes.
Later when Jeanne and I would go home for a visit he would ask me if I wanted to go fishing. I was always too busy and would say no. Now there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t regret that. So I say to my Dad, “I’m sorry all the times I disappointed you. You were and are my hero that I have tried to live my life with the same integrity you had. I have fallen far short, which has only deepened the pride in you I have. I love you Dad.
Thanks for stopping by. Happy Father’s Day. Be careful.