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Pony Express: He never stopped pulling weeds

On these warm summer evenings there is always something that needs to be done in your yard: rotting timbers to be taken up and replaced, ant hills to be powdered, a tree, planted just a week ago (exactly as the instructions dictated) that has died and needs to be replaced, dead spots on the lawn that need to be patched and, always, weeds to be pulled.

Whenever I bend over to pull a weed, I think of my dad -- gone for the last 27 plus years. He was an enemy of weeds, relentless in the war against them. He had a hoe at his bulk warehouse and if gas was pumping into his truck, he was going around his gas tanks picking, pulling and chopping weeds. If he was standing talking to you and there were any weeds around his feet or yours, he would be bending over pulling them out of the ground. If he was on your property, not his, he would still pull weeds if he was just standing there. I'm not nearly as tenacious, but when I bend over to pull one now, I say "here's to you dad." I know he'd be proud, but he'd see the ones I hadn't picked too.

Whenever I watch the Twins for a few innings on tv and see somebody really hustle, like stretching a double into a triple or a fielder who wasted no time getting the ball to second to nail a runner, I think of my dad, "Mr. Hustle" as I labeled him. He loved baseball, coached kids and played catch with his own three sons all the time and urged us to throw harder and harder. "More mustard" he'd say, "more mustard." We could never throw too hard for him to catch the ball even when we got to be big boys. He always urged us to hustle, but he was the hustler.

He hauled gas and oil all day every day. In the morning he'd get up early and go down to the warehouse to load up for his first delivery. Then he'd come home and have breakfast with his family. I never noticed that he didn't get gas and oil on his clothes and never smelled gassy until I started working with him and driving a second truck. I was always gassy, oily, greasy and smelly -- if somebody had put a match to me, I'd have been a torch. How did he stay clean? I never figured it out.

He always had chores and jobs for us. He said "hard work never hurt anybody." One summer evening, just after supper, a few of us were still sitting around the table. Dad was outside already organizing something. We were watching him through the kitchen window. My brother Gary looked at him and said "I wonder what he's dreaming up for me to do this time."

When I started high school he said "I want to make one thing clear -- if you get into any trouble in school, I'm on there side, not yours. Don't come running to me for help." I had a few misunderstandings at school, nothing too serious, but certainly nothing worth mentioning to him.

He knew what he wanted you to do and you did it. When I was a teenager, dad sang tenor in the church choir. He told me "I want you to sing in the church choir too." Our basketball team couldn't get into the auditorium to practice until 5:00 p.m. and practice wasn't over until almost 7:00. I said "Dad, I'll have to go straight from the shower to choir after practice without getting home for supper." "That's right," he said "and you will do it." End of discussion -- I did it.

Dad loved to hunt ducks and pheasants with his boys. He always hunted like he had only one shell. When a bird came over him you kept waiting for him to shoot but he waited and waited. Then finally one shot and down came the bird. When you asked him why he waited so long he'd say something like "I wanted it to drop in a good spot." It seemed like he never missed.

Dad's educational opportunities ran out after the 9th grade and he knew what he'd missed. I wouldn't exactly say he encouraged his four kids to get educated, I'd say he insisted.

Dad might sound like he was a hard case, but he wasn't. He wasn't a hugs and kisses guy, he was strong and firm. He showed us by example: hard work, hustle, integrity, faith, love of sport, respect for authority, support of community and schools, love for our mother and total love and devotion to his children. We never doubted his love for us.

All this started when I pulled a weed earlier this evening. I know Father's Day was a couple of weeks ago. Doesn't matter. Father's remember this: your kids will remember you forever. Show them something worth remembering.