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[at-l] hardly trail related

This is long and just possibly, but most likely, not trail related so
feel free to delete.

I was cleaning my boots and decided to check the condition of an older
pair I have. I'm a pack rat I guess. I got to wondering how many pair of
boots I've owned and why I get (in the words of my wife) emotionally
attached to them.

There is a larger connection represented by my boots, a connection to a
world within a world, one that I do dearly love. Some time back the
question was asked as to why we love to hike, how we came to love the
woods.  I was introduced to the "woods" by my Dad. We used to walk over
our fields and pasture and woods, just to walk over them. He imparted so
much to me that as my years unfold, I am still discovering that I
developed this attitude or that one because of my father's influence.

When I was in fourth grade, my Dad got me a pair of "combat boots." We
bought many of our work clothes at a dry goods / hardware / feed /
military surplus store in our community. The boots he got me were just
like the ones he wore, some he had brought home from WW2. Mercy how I
loved those boots, I was crushed when I finally out grew them. 

On one of our walks along the creek on our place, I asked him if he wore
those boots in the war. After a pause, he just quietly answered no and
let the subject drop. Most of what I learned about my father's
experiences in WW2 I learned from my mother. Dad would tell funny stories
from his army days but nothing else. My Dad was a combat engineer.
Putting  a pontoon bridge across a river, they came under fire. Many of
them went into the frozen river, Dad was one of them. He suffered
terrible frost bite, among other things. It hurt his circulation in his
legs for the rest of his life. Dad told my mother that his rescuers cut
his clothes and boots off of him to keep him from freezing to death
before he was taken to an aid station.

I'm 52 years old and I wonder if there are enough years left to me in
which to grow into the man that my father was. He was best man at my
wedding. I asked him to be best man simply because he was the greatest
man I had ever known. I am very aware of Dad's shortcomings but the love
he had for his family made us love him back. Love covers a multitude of
sins and shortcomings. I learned so much from his life about how real men
should act. He was honest and forthright. I hear what he said and I
watched him make good on his commitments. He was physically strong. He
would toss us all about when he wrestled with us boys but when his arm
was around my shoulders, I felt tenderness.  He couldn't sing worth a
flip, I know because I sat beside him in church. He was dedicated to his
family and his financial responsibilities. I saw him go to work even when
he was ill. We were not rich by any stretch but we had enough. Dad farmed
and worked a job and every week he gave his whole check to Mom. She gave
some money back to him for his weekly expenses. My father's manliness was
bigger than his pride. Concerning money, Dad taught us that if we
couldn't be happy with little then we couldn't be happy with the whole
world. He once told us, "Don't worry about how you're gonna make ends
meet, worry about where you want'm to meet." 

Dad taught us about ecology years before I even knew there was such a
word. He pointed out a snake in the corner of our tool crib and told me
to leave him alone. He said old Mr. snake was the best rat trap we had on
the place. Once I was helping him peg down the chicken wire fence. I
asked if it wouldn't be easier to kill the fox. "Nope," he replied, "it's
easier to fix the fence. I wont give him any chickens but he can have all
the rabbits in the garden." We had chickens and pigs and calves, we had
varmints like the fox and snake and rabbit. About all these he told us to
take life judiciously because we could take it, but we could never give
life back. Before we reached our teenage years all us boys were excellent
marksmen. Dad not only taught us these skills but he taught us the
responsibilities that we had every time we picked up a gun. I learned to
take responsibility for all my actions because I watched my father take
ownership of all his actions.

All my boots are cleaned up and put away now. They make me think of so
many lessons for life and bring back many memories. Dad has been gone
since 1970 but I still think of him often. I still remember a pair of
boots I wore to follow his over fields and woods. Thanks Dad.


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