Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Lessons from my Father - part 2

     Last week I opined on some life lessons that were passed on to me from my father, now deceased for 20 years.  I continue those here......

Lessons from my Father - part 2

Keep your food sources close - It's tough to talk about my Dad without making him sound kind of super hero-ish, and this paragraph won't help to dispel that kind of thinking, but the fact is, as I think back, it was amazing how much my father knew about how to make food.  He had a farmer's
A Hobart grinder similar to the one we had
background, so you won't be surprised to learn that we kept a root cellar at our house and we had a 6 foot long bin, filled with sand, where we would store our potatoes and carrots through the fall and winter, but where did he learn how to butcher?  Our garage was set up as an amateur butcher shop complete with a commercial band saw and meat grinder.  I always remember this happening in the winter, but a farmer would call, late at night, and say that he had lost a cow on the ice.  An hour later, the farmer would arrive and back up to the garage, and the whole family would be put to work butchering the animal.  The ladies mostly stayed inside and wrapped the steaks, cuts and hamburger that came in on long enamel coated trays, and the men and boys cut, trimmed and ground.  In a matter of a few hours, the cow would be taken down to the bone, and we'd get to keep half of the meat for supplying the labor and the butcher shop.  Dad would use that same grinder to make our own sausages sometimes. With the leftover pork trimmings (everything but the squeal), he'd make pon hoss or scrapple. I wasn't a fan back then, anything that you had to put on the inside porch to help "set up" just wasn't
How pon hoss is made
appetizing to me as a kid, but I miss it now.   This was just the start of the stuff that I remember making as a kid.  We canned spaghetti sauce, corn, jellies and jams, peaches, pickles, and more.  We made applesauce and homemade ice cream.  We would help my Uncle Charlie out at his "garden" (several acres makes me call it a farm, but they called it his garden), and we'd share in the proceeds.  I helped butcher chickens out there one time, and yes, it's true that they still twitch after their heads are cut off.  My Dad had me swing the chicken in the air first, he said it made the feathers come off easier, and then chop the head off, and to this day, I'm still not sure if he was
Our vat was 3x this size, but you get the picture
pranking me or if I learned a valuable butchering lesson that day.  Dad and Charlie had even built a small contraption that helped shull black walnuts, I think it was a modified corn sheller.  We had a vat in our basement where the homemade sauerkraut lived, we'd remove the wooden cover, reach through the brine and put what we needed in a strainer, rinse it several times, and it would be ready for consumption.  I don't remember my dad making beer, but I know he helped make some elderberry wine one time.  I never lived in a farmhouse with my mom and dad, so I'd appreciate hearing from my older siblings on other foods that he made that I may not have know about or remembered.  Point is, anything my dad could do for himself, food related, he did, and we were better off for it. 

Work what you need to, to take care of your own -  My dad worked two jobs for much of my adolescence.  He would go from work at a factory, to working the counter at a heating supply store and then back home.  His day never ended after his first 8 hour shift, and sometimes not even after his second.  An unexpected expense would sometimes have dad picking up a short time 3rd job, because he felt simply, that you had the obligation to work 
A lunchbox like my Dad used to take to Garlock
as much as you needed to, to support the family that you had.  I missed my dad, as he walked out the door carrying his black metal lunchbox, to one of his jobs, but I understood what a valuable lesson that he was teaching me, when I became a father.  That's not to say that my dad wouldn't accept assistance, we did participate in the free and reduced meal program at school for instance, but he never did this easily, or without first doing everything humanly possible to provide for his own first.  To do less than that, would never have occurred to him.  My household runs differently, as my wife has always worked as well, and I've never needed to take a second job, but if my salary was cut and one job wouldn't support my family, you bet your bippy, I'd be
Shout out to brother Aquaman
looking for a second one.  I'd be remiss in my duties as a blogger, if I didn't mention the sibling that took this lesson to heart and epitomizes my dad's work ethic, more than any other one, and that's my brother Aquaman.  For a decade he worked back to back factory jobs, 8 hours a piece each day, and then found time to help out a Chinese restaurant too.  I've never known him to have a single job and he juggles 3 more times than he juggles 2. 

Marry well and keep dating your spouse - I've told you that my dad basically stalked my mom to get her to pay attention to him, but it worked.  Maybe he realized that she was the perfect fit for him and knowing that,  he fully committed to pursuing her.  It was only after I left the house that I realized how aligned they were in their parenting and how they balanced each other out so perfectly.  To my recollection, I never remember my mom questioning his decisions in front of the family, however, there were times when she would take him aside later, they'd have a brief conversation and dad would come back and at an opportune time, announce that his decision had changed.  I've had this happen in my marriage too and Char will approach me with something like, 
"Honey, you really can't ground her until she's 30 you know..." and I of course acquiesce (Ok, til she's 21 then).   My dad could go off to work his many jobs assured that his household was well taken care 
Mom and Dad
of.  The respect my father earned each day, was given to him by my mother, because he married well. There is nothing sadder to me than to see a couple denigrate each other to their children or others, and because of the example my father set, I try each day to give my wife the respect she deserves, and I get the same in kind.  Another lesson that my dad taught me was the importance of continuing to date your wife.  In spite of the number of kids he had, the financial situation the family was in, and his hectic work schedule, my dad tried and set aside Friday night each week for a date night with my mom.  Most week's it was just a trip to a local diner for a fish fry or they'd host another couple for a euchre game, but dad understood that you should date your wife after you marry her too.  I have friends in Canandaigua that I love to see out because the way that they interact remind me of my folks.  It might surprise you to know that they are a same sex couple, but every time I see them out or read their Facebook statuses, it seems like they are still honeymooners (Shout out to Val and Janine).  It's a hard thing to do, and it's work sometimes, but they make it look easy.  I mentioned 
Me and my better half
that Aquaman was the epitome of my Dad's hard work ethic, but I'll actually point to my own relationship as a prime example of marrying well.  Char accepts and supports me, warts and all, and I can travel each week knowing that my household is in good hands.  We'll choose to miss one of our kid's activities sometimes, because we need a date night more.  After our kids leave, we won't be one of those couples that find themselves sitting across from each other, with nothing in common, because over the last 30 years, we've invested in our relationship equally to investing in our kids.  Dad taught me that.  I have a younger sister, "She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named", who likes to say that in the best marriages, each spouse is convinced that they got the better half of the deal.  In my marriage each of us feels that way. 

Final part next week.


Anonymous said...

Wow, Part I & II was wonderful...memory lane. I still have the solid Hobart grinder, meat trays, and some of the knives. So if anyone want to improve their skills, Meter Maid can plan a winter fest butchering party and of course the entire family is welcome. Work 1st and Beer battered steak afterwards!!Nostalgia warms the heart and the stomach!!

cdyarger said...

I agree with "she-who-shall-not-be-named" - I got the better half of this deal!!!