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MARILYN HAGERTY: Dads grow more precious as years go by

Marilyn Hagerty

He was lanky and lean. And he walked with a limp when he went out in the evening to bring the cow back home from grazing.

My dad would sit on the back porch on hot nights in Pierre, S.D., during the Great Depression. And he would talk about the home he left in Denmark.

My father, Mads Hansen, has been gone for decades. But he lives on in my heart, and I think of him today on Father’s Day. I see him in my own son still.

He admired people who told the truth. His role models were people who were “honest as the day is long.”

He insisted we tell the truth. Beyond that, we should not say “shut up.” In fact, he would line the five of us Hansen kids up on Saturday evenings and ask if we had said “shut up” during the week. If not, we got a nickel.

We know on Father’s Day of the love we feel for our fathers. We also remember some of the things they used to say.

  • Robin Hadlich remembers his father R.C. Hadlich saying, “I would rather be a big frog in a small pond than a small frog in a big pond.” His father was president of the former Aaker’s Business College in Grand Forks.
  • Tom Gabrielsen remembers his Lutheran minister father who always said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
  • Lolly Wohfeil remembers her father’s insistence that a deal was completed with a handshake. Her father, Carl Guttormson, was janitor and rang the bell for what seems like forever in Nordland Lutheran Church near Bottineau, N.D.
  • Darrell Dallum says his dad, Orville, used to embarrass him with quips and funny sayings when friends came over. The friends would really laugh. And in the years since his father, Orville Dallum, died in 1969, Darrell Dallum has come to appreciate and enjoy remembering his dad’s sense of humor.
  • Tammy Hickel Zola remembers her father, Gary Sukut, saying, “The customer is always right.” He owned and operated the former Sukut Office Equipment store in Williston.
  • Mayor Mike Brown of Grand Forks grins as he thinks of some of his father’s favorite sayings. These included, “Just us chickens” and something about “a fox in the hen house.” And his father would shake his head and say, “Women. You can’t live with them and you can’t live without them.”

My own dad wore blue work clothes and drove a pickup truck. He used rotten cheese as bait when fishing for catfish in the Missouri River. He made his own beer in the basement.

He would sometimes “saucer” his coffee so it would be cool enough to drink. He knew more than anyone else about Rhode Island Red chickens.

Sometimes it takes decades to realize how wonderful was the dad you had.

I guess the words of others say it best.

Mark Twain: “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. When I got to be 21, I was astounded at how much he had learned in seven years.”

And best of all are the words of Clarence Budington Kelland who wrote of his father: “He didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.”