Friday, October 27, 2006

Life on the Farm

[Note that the majority of the following post is actually half a year old. It had gotten very off-track while I was writing it, and it was a lot more personal than my usual fare, so I left it unfinished, but kept it around in case I was ever inclined to polish it up and post it. Writer's block has today given me that inclination. Hopefully I won't scare everyone away with it-- rest assured that posts like this are very much the exception, not the rule.]

Gone to bed with the sun. Up and dressed before dawn, ready to get an early start on the day's work. Sound like me? You're damn right it doesn't. However, it does describe my father, a man who seems to live his life as if he were a generation removed from his actual age. I sometimes feel like someone should tell him that he's not a farmer, but instead has a rather cushy government job (much like myself), and that he doesn't need to get up that early or work as hard as he does. However, while my career defines my life in many ways, his work seems almost incidental to his.

Although my father has had his current job, that of electrical inspector, for quite some time now (a decade, perhaps?), his jobs before this weren't nearly so cushy. In fact, this job represented a significant departure in many ways from anything he had done before, and I'm pleased that he was able to get it. My knowledge of his previous work is spotty and incomplete, based only on memories from my childhood and old conversations with my mother, but the first job I'm aware of him having involved him working at the mines. I couldn't tell you for certain what mines, or in what capacity, but my best guess would be... coal? For Irving, maybe? My only memories of that are a company jacket that he used to wear, and a container full of fool's gold that he used to keep. After he stopped working there, he began plying the trade that he remained in for most of my childhood, and became an electrician. He worked for several different places around town, to my recollection, and often worked long hours, as I recall him getting home late and being gone much of the time. He also got injured on the job several times, I believe, although the only one I remember well is when he electrocuted himself badly, which resulted in several lost layers of skin and a lengthy stay in the burn ward.

What I said above regarding my knowledge of my father's past work really applies to my father's past in general. I know very little about my father's life before I was born, and what little I do know comes only from conversations with my mother or other family members, and most of those are just funny stories, since everyone just seems to assume that I already know all of the important bits. My favorite of those is of when he and my mother first met. She'd been told by her friends that he was a rebel/bad boy, an image I find impossible to reconcile with the man I know today, and that she shouldn't date him. He introduced himself by saying "I'm Denver, but my friends call me Butch." I think it was Butch. Something equally colourful, at any rate. Anyway, in all of the years since, she's never once heard anyone call him Butch. :-)

So, other than the funny stories, I just know varied interesting bits here and there. The classic one that I like to tell people is of his high school days. In grade 11 (I think, in any case-- it may have been grade 12, or even grade 10), he had his older brother as a teacher, who gave him a failing grade on the year. When he returned to repeat the year and found out that he'd be in my uncle's class again, he quit high school for good, never to return. Fortunately for him, trade school didn't require a GED back then. He also had a pretty broad amateur racing career, from what I can piece together. He used to work on a dragster, and once won a stock car race at a local track. The wall behind the television upstairs is lined with snowmobile racing trophies, along with one black and white photo of him crossing the finish line on one of his old Mercurys.

I gather that my father has a lot of stories that he likes to tell. That's what people keep telling me, at any rate, but I've never heard them. My father and I don't really talk all that much, you see. I really know very little about the man, and especially little about his past. I didn't even find out that this wasn't his first marriage until I was in my teens. In the time-honoured tradition of awkward father-son relationships, we're more comfortable exchanging the occasional grunt than we are actually speaking to each other. Well, unless we're pissed off at each other or just pontificating-- we've got unreasonable yelling down to a science. And that almost contradictory pairing of ranting and reticence is about the only thing we have in common, besides perhaps a stubborn streak and the distressing habit of talking, humming, and singing to ourselves (we share those last two with his father as well).

My father and I are just very different people. Our likes and dislikes in almost all areas (food, recreation, weather, politics, etc.), save music (and that's only if you ignore the video game music), are polar opposites. He likes to go to bed early and get up before the sun, while I like to go to bed just before the sun rises and sleep through as much of the day as I can. He has a wealth of practical skills, from carpentry to cooking and car repair, but can't even read without speaking slowly aloud or operate a TV remote properly, whereas I have a wealth of academic skills, but can't even cook Kraft Dinner or change a flat tire (although I suspect that in an emergency I'd be able to succeed at one or both with a bit of trial and error). He has a very strict work ethic, and isn't comfortable just sitting around, feeling compelled to spend every waking moment doing something productive, whereas I treasure my free time and make a concerted effort to avoid anything even resembling work when at home. He learned to drive a tractor at age 4 and moved into his own house, that he built himself, in his teens, while I still live in that same house in my mid-20s and don't even drive a stick (although, again, I could likely do so in a pinch, since I spent a bit of time driving my father's truck back when I was learning to drive).

I'm often conflicted as to how I should feel about these differences. We're both stubborn, contrary people, so, on that level, I take pride in the fact that I am as I am, despite my upbringing. Because, make no mistake-- I'm not the lazy inept bookworm I am due to any lack of effort on his part. He made every effort to mould me into a "man"-- I spent a lot of time as a child standing in smoky garages, sitting on the back of a snowmobile or ATV, driving our speedboat, playing sports in the backyard, and traipsing through the back woods. I've even been hunting several times, although I've only actually fired a rifle a few times. However, none of it ever really stuck. I couldn't really tell you why, as I'm at a loss myself. I can't remember any nerdy influences in my life, but I just seemed to take to the "lifestyle" very early on before even recognizing it for what it was, which is why I can usually swap stories about old video games with people 1/2 a decade my senior, since I began playing video games at a very young age, and never stopped.

Sometimes I worry that I've failed him in some fundamental way by not assimilating all of his practical knowledge, or local knowledge. It strikes me as very sad that's he's not been able to pass that stuff on, and that it'll go no further than him. It seems that he knows every person living in Maugerville, and the history of every home, and it's fascinating to hear him talk about it on the rare occasion that he's compelled to. It's the sort of thing that I used to find boring as hell, but these days I soak up as much of it as I can when those rare opportunities present themselves. I've been living in Maugerville my entire life, and I can count the number of people living within a two minute drive in either direction whose names I know on one hand. Lots of people know me though, because I'm "Denver's son", and everybody knows Denver. Except me, I guess.

I feel as if I've gotten off track. This post wasn't supposed to be about my father, believe it or not, but rather the expensive new tractor that he bought. I guess this post was never really on track, then, and at this point, I don't feel like forcing it there. Suffice it to say, my father is very much enjoying playing farmer with his new toy, and I find myself wondering why he didn't pursue that as a career in the first place, like my uncle Eldon did (anyone ever have Bramble Potatoes when they were younger?). I bet there's a story there. Maybe someday I'll find someone else that he's told it to and be able to hear it.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Cavernio said...

"but can't even cook Kraft Dinner or change a flat tire", or stop a toilet from running.

Sunday, October 29, 2006 4:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous(New & Improved) said...

My father's the same way...in wrong generation, rather use horses than tractors, etc.

We aren't that close either...maybe just their generation...

I find out stuff from others all the time that floors me about him.

Anyhow...you're not the only one!!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006 8:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous (Vintage) said...

I can relate to this post, but I'm lucky that my dad and I can at least talk. Sometimes we seem to not have a lot in common, though and that does bother me.

He seems to have a different sense of humor from the rest of the family, so that can be a challenge sometimes too. Certainly has a heart of gold and would help me out anytime I need.

I'm trying harder these days to understand him better. To maybe even listen a little better. I find it's hard with: "you know, that guy that you met when you were 6 that had that red cap on when he came by the house looking for his dog, yeah, well, he sold a cow the other day...."

I'm trying, but I've had a few friends that have lost their dad and that just bothers me more. I can't help but feel it is going to be a "gee, I wished I'd asked dad about,.."

Time continues on, but no one knows how much time they've got. So, don't hesitate to ask him stuff while he's still here.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006 1:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous (Vintage) said...

Snow!

That's a little flakey, dude!

Friday, November 03, 2006 10:58:00 AM  
Blogger Jordan said...

*rimshot*

Friday, November 03, 2006 12:39:00 PM  

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