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Mother gave me a small box of old pocket watches and a book entitled “A Practical Course in Horology.” It was a Christmas gift. A family heirloom, of sorts.
“I don’t know if you’ve got anything of your father’s,” she said. “Fixing watches was his hobby. I thought you might enjoy these.”
A wave of emotion swept through me. Although the sensation lasted only seconds, I felt the complete awareness of how much of me was him.
“Did I get anything of my father’s?” I should say so.
Agriculture, for lack of a more glamorous word; cowboy, livestock veterinarian, horseman, meats man, cattle feeder, animal scientist. This that I am, he gave to me. I don’t mean specifically my first horse, ol’ Maggie when I was in the 3rd grade. Nor even the evening milking chores I started at age 9. But the whole encompassing gift of the world of soil and sky and grass and animals and manual labor.
I grew up speaking the language of agriculture. It was his language and that of his family. Over the years, I became absorbed in and by his farming heritage. His father was a horseman, as well as some of his siblings, my cousins and now my children. They were livestock people, cowmen, small farmers, cotton, grain, row crops, big gardens, chicken yards, pig pens, milk cows, draft horses, tractors, combines, pickup trucks, windmills, coon dogs, barn cats, big Sunday dinners, fishin’ in the tank and goin’ to church.
His family was musical. They all played instruments. It was literally in their blood. Grandpa, aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, sisters, children and grandchildren. They play...we play, I should say, as easily as some people swing a bat, bake a pie or shoe a horse.
He wrote songs. I have a box full of his old songs, lyrics only. The notes are not written. The melodies all died with him. I have a notebook full of living room hits of my own. Only the words are written down. I don’t read music either.
They say he was a raconteur, an entertaining public speaker and could tell a funny story. That’s how I make my living today.
So to my sweet mother who raised us, I say thanks for the watches and the book on horology. But even without them I can say with gratitude and fondness that, yes, I have something of his...I am my father’s son.
Baxter Black is a cowboy poet, former large-animal veterinarian and entertainer of the agricultural masses. Learn more at www.baxterblack.com.