Points of Light

The gleam in a father’s eye is waiting for each of us as we emerge from darkness into the brightness of life. In fact, the eyes of new dads get a little misty as they witness the miracle of birth!

As days go by, the initial excitement dovetails into the responsibilities of fatherhood. Oh, how grand are the visions of being the perfect dad. Then, we encounter the reality of how messy relationships really are!

Although, literally, tongue-tied upon entry into this world, once that little member was set free, my insatiable curiosity was the driving force behind the questions in my mind. It was the beginning of my twenty-question routine, which later morphed into the Cowboy Poet & Philadelphia Lawyer shtick!

Around ten years of age and in the 4th Grade, I started to notice girls. The one with blond hair, blue eyes and straight A’s had captured my full attention. At that age, boys will be boys, and we were learning cockiness, which naturally included the art of swearing. In the course of our classroom studies of spelling and vocabulary, we never seemed to get around to the definitions of what some of those four letter words meant.

One word, in particular, was especially mysterious to our adolescent group. Since this was before the day of Google Searches and the conversation around the dinner table one evening seemed conducive to a question, I asked my parents. Swivel-neck is the best visual I can offer to explain their response. In a millisecond, their facial expressions and body language spoke volumes. Only problem: I didn’t understand the language!

Hand in HandNext day, I received a book from Mom. The following weekend, during Christmas Vacation, Dad and I were on foot behind a small group of cows as they were following the pickup to a new pasture. There was a skift of snow and all the grasses were dry, with heads full of grain. Dad reached down and pulled a handful of needle-grass. As he rubbed the seed into the palm of his hand the name was obvious: a thin strand was attached to each seed of grain, which gave it the appearance of a needle and thread.

I knew something was up because he gave a nervous sniff and cough before beginning what he had to share. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, he wanted the needle-grass seeds in the palm of his hand to emphasize the point. All I remember of what he said was something about swimming, wiggling and eggs. Then he paused, literally; we stopped walking. He turned, with relief in his face, and assured me that the only intimate relationship I was going to have to worry about until high-school graduation was the one with my horse!

Daddy’s Hands
Artist: Holly Dunn

Daddy’s hands were soft and kind when I was cryin’.
Daddy’s hands were hard as steel when I’d done wrong.
Daddy’s hands weren’t always gentle,
But I’ve come to understand.
There was always love in Daddy’s hands.

True to Dad’s word, I developed a special relationship with that horse. In fact, the very next summer found the two of us engaged in a “mind meld” experience as we convinced a bunch of bulls to do it our way. Dad was nowhere in sight, ours anyway. With hindsight and a son of my own, I have a sneaking suspicion that Dad was on top of a hill enjoying the rodeo!

He had this crooked grin on his face as we pushed a dozen bulls through the pasture gate and then he turned back, stepped off his horse and closed the gate between us. As he stood safely on his side of the gate, his hand was gesturing towards the west; where I and the bulls were to go. Just a few miles through the hills and he would bring the stock-truck (olden days: before horse-trailers were invented) to haul my horse back home. That was the plan.

Note to self: “What the heck is he thinking?! I’m just a kid. Is he serious?! The odds aren’t quite fair: one of me and a dozen bulls!” As he swung back up onto his horse and rode away, I had my answer.

Dad’s brother, my uncle John Foard, tells a story about their dad. He would line out his sons (four of them) on a project, by explaining what he wanted done, omitting most of the details of how to do it. Before he left, though, he would turn and ask, “Now you boys can do that, right?” In John’s words, “There was no way in hell we were going to tell him, No!”

Because of the anxiety of the journey ahead with those bulls, I have no memory of what, surely, must have been the same question of me. The answer, though, was a given! Now, all I had to do was figure out how to get from Point A to B.

Cows, being of the feminine gender, generally, tend to be fairly social. They stick together. Where one goes, they all go. Bulls, on the other hand, must strut their stuff, separate and apart from anyone else: twelve bulls; twelve different directions. Unless, they’re on the run. Typical male approach to the world: one thing at a time.

One of me, one direction to go. So, I gathered up the corners of what seemed like a herd of cats and off we went, at a jog. Once they tired a little, the pace slowed. Then, in the middle of the whole dang show were shade trees and a waterhole, wouldn’t you know. Bogged-down is inadequate to describe the revenge taken by the bulls. As they stood belly deep in mud, peeking out from behind what had quickly become their favorite thicket, the unspoken jeers were worthy of a solution.

My horse almost put a kink in his neck turning back to look at me. We were thinking the same thing: this was ugly and it was going to get messy. There was only one way to do it, though. Pry out one bull at a time; and, make a good example out of that first one. So, we picked the one giving us the dirtiest look and went to work on him.

By then, I had uncoiled several loops of lariat to just the right length, to pop that knot on the end like a whip. That old bull winced a little and stood his ground. Just what we thought: no easy way to do this. So, into the mud we went with my horse leaning into him, while I shortened the length of the rope whip. The combination resulted in the bull, grudgingly, taking a few steps.

My horse and I were of the same mind to enhance one of the laws of physics: what is in motion stays in motion. In fact, we wanted that bull to catch a gear! Once we had him on dry ground, up and over a small knoll into some green grass was where we took him. As we headed back for Number 2, my choice of words to describe our frustration included a few of those four-letter ones; admittedly, even some directed at Dad. After a few more trips to that spot of green, the mud-hole bulls began to wonder what they were missing and volunteered to follow their peers.

I’ll never forget the smile on his face and the twinkle in his eye as Dad stood there by the open gate as a dozen bulls paraded past. Whether he had been watching, or not, he knew what was required to pass his test. He asked how it went. I said, “Good.”

Lessons Learned
Artist: Tracy Lawrence

I was ten years old the day I got caught,
With some dime store candy that I never bought.
I hung my head and I faced the wall,
as Daddy showed me wrong from right.
He said this hurts me more than it does you;
There’s just some things son that you just don’t do.
Is anything I’m sayin’ getting through? Daddy I can see the light.
Oh lessons learned; man they sure run deep.
They don’t go away and they don’t come cheap.
Oh there’s no way around it, this world turns on lessons learned.

A few years ago, there was occasion for me to say to my son and daughter, “Now, I want you to watch me.” They cocked their heads and gave me the Scooby Doo, “Huh?!”

The intent was pure: rather than listen to words, which are cheaper by the dozen; I wanted them to watch the actions and results. Recently, I’ve had to laugh at how funny “we” can be. Sure enough, they have watched me: fall down, make mistakes, be humbled, admit frailties, and, generally, be a perfectly normal dad. Even funnier is the realization that they have watched all of that from the very beginning. Why I thought they, as teenagers, needed to be reminded is still a mystery. Guess it explains the Scooby Doo response from them, though!

I watched my Dad give all. Late in his life was an occasion to defend his honor. A couple of clowns wanted to take issue with his silent creed: “I am bound to live up to the light I have. I must stand with anyone who stands right, stand with him while he is right and part with him when he goes wrong.”

While true to his core, those other two guys needed to understand a little more about my Dad. Known to be verbose, I thought a better approach was to use a song, recently released at the time, to make my point. So, the four of us listened together.

Point of Light
Artist: Randy Travis

There is a point when you cannot walk away,
When you have to stand up straight and tall and mean the words you say.
There is a point you must decide just to do it ’cause it’s right.
That’s when you become a point of light.

There is a darkness that everyone must face.
It wants to take what’s good and fair and lay it all to waste.
And that darkness covers everything in sight
Until it meets a single point of light.

All it takes is a point of light,
A ray of hope in the darkest night.
If you see what’s wrong and you try to make it right,
You will be a point of light.

There are heroes whose names we never hear,
A dedicated army of quiet volunteers
Reaching out to feed the hungry,
Reaching out to save the land,
Reaching out to help their fellow man.

There are dreamers who are making dreams come true,
Taking time to teach the children
There’s nothing they can’t do,
Giving shelter to the homeless,
Giving hope to those without.
Isn’t that what this land’s all about?

One by one, from the mountains to the sea
Points of light are calling out to you and me.

All it takes is a point of light,
A ray of hope in the darkest night.
If you see what’s wrong and you try to make it right,
You will be a point of light.

If you see what’s wrong and you try and make it right,
you will be a point of light.

At the end of 3 minutes and 34 seconds, two heads were bowed in disgrace. Dad and I, with heads held high, were looking at each other remembering an open gate and a dozen bulls. My hope is that Lindsey and Ryan, each, have a special memory of me to be their point of light.

www.kimfoard.com

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