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Month: June 2024

IT’S FATHERS’ DAY – 2023

It wasn’t until I became a father on February 20, 1954, that Fathers’ Day became a part of my yearly recognition as a day to appreciate. Although it wasn’t until 1972 that it became national day on the calendar, it had become a day of celebration as early as 1924. With this bit of historical background I urge you to stay with me. First, this is not an article of complaint or any expression of bad feelings about being neglected by an absentee father. Second, there is a message of value included.

For the first nine years of my life, I had a father. However, I have never had a dad. Nearly any male old enough to know the difference between a boy and a girl, knows but forgets that in a moment of passion it’s easy to become a father. However, it takes years of love, patience, involvement, compassion, etc., etc. to be a dad. After my father abandoned his pregnant wife and only child, me, we went to live with her parents in Goodland, Kansas in August of 1940.

l never missed my father, due to the presence of four boys in my grandparents’ household, one of whom was a year younger than me. Bill became the brother I never had and Don, a year or so older, became something of a mentor. My grandfather, however, made no interest in being a substitute dad. That was Mom’s job in raising me and my sister, Judy. For almost forty years I had no interest or craving to know the details of his absence.

In the late 1980s I began developing an interest in the family’s genealogies and, using the information that my Uncle Lawrence had worked hard for as a base, I spent the first five years of the 1990s writing a book covering the eight genealogical lines of my first wife, Terry, and my own. In so doing I uncovered information that gave considerable light on the circumstances which led to my father, Herman’s, inability to be a dad. The biggest factor, I believe, was that his father, Herman, Sr., was by far the worst father I could ever imagine.

.Herman Sr. was the second eldest of nine surviving children out of sixteen from German immigrants who arrived in March of 1952. He espoused the one typical German expectation of the eldest male ruling the family which figured strongly in my father’s life. Herman, Sr. was working on his father, Peter’s, ranch in Sherman County Kansas when he met Hazel Martin,, who lived on farm south of Burlington, Colorado. After the wedding, he moved with bride to Victor, Colorado, a mining town at 10,000 above sea level and well above Colorado Springs. His intent was to prospect for the gold he knew was there, a goal that was never achieved.

After the birth of two children, a son, my father, and his sister, Mary Jane, it’s clear that the children were an unwanted factor in the goal for riches. Soon after an event occurred that led him to kick his wife out of the house, likely fueled in part out of frustration for his prospecting failures. Realizing that he couldn’t take care of two kids and continue pursuit for gold, he put his children up for adoption but received only one offer from a cousin in Pueblo. However, he only wanted Mary Jane. Herman, Sr, said it was both or neither so the deal fell through. Out of frustration he sent his daughter to his older sister in St. Louis and his son to his father, Peter, to his ranch in Sherman County, Kansas. One can only imagine the emotional impact on my father in learning that in later life.

Family history was about to repeat itself when Herman, Jr. returned to the ranch from a good job in an auto manufacturing plant in Detroit, He and his father both lost their jobs because the Great Depression was well underway. Early in the year1930, he met my mother, Dorothy because of broken date with her sister, Pauline. They were married in the fall of that year but for the next few months jobs were scarce, the couple were forced to move from one apartment to another in Goodland and finally, when a son, me, was born, Herman was forced to move his family to a sod house on the Doerfer ranch. This could have been the end of the marriage but Dorothy was determined to find the love and security for which she yearned.

For the rest of the story please turn to my short story, ‘From Prairie Dust to Mountain Gold.’