Dad’s mother died when he was 4 years old. He and his infant brother were left to the care of four doting half sisters. Susie, Mamie, Edie and Rosie were substitute mothers to the boys; they took Dad and the baby along when they walked to their one-room school in Montgomery County. Later, they coached them through the customary eight grades. The boys were great buddies and liked repairing and creating things.
Dad might never have had manufactured clothing or toys from a store until he was a teen working out on neighboring farms. I knew him as a hard-working dairy farmer who had a "best suit, best shoes," a couple of dress shirts and two or three neckties. He liked fishing. Orlando Denver Meyers was not a tightwad; he was just frugal. In 1963 when my children and I were departing for Europe on our first bicycle trip, he handed me a $50 bill and said, "Don’t you dare buy me one thing!"
It wasn’t easy to make him happy on Father’s Day. He bought what he needed for the farm, his carpentry and blacksmith tools and "toys" such as a shotgun and shells, some steel traps and a seine for creek fishing. But he bought dime-store reading glasses and patched his watchband with wire.
Mother’s Day was easy because Mom played the piano, subscribed to The Etude music magazine and liked receiving new sheet music. In retirement, Dad enjoyed creek fishing often.
"Creeks are more fun than ponds," he’d say, "more sporting because the fish can just take off to parts unknown unless the fisherman is skillful."
We were always searching for the right gift for Father’s Day. In the ’50s, I decided to sculpt a fisherman for him. He’d be sitting on a big rock, pole in hand, can of worms at the side. It was Friday, and there wasn’t time to do this in clay, but I could try it in plaster, which sets up fast. I could paint it on Saturday and deliver it to Dad’s back porch early Sunday while he was asleep.
I assembled buckets, water, plaster, stirring tools and other things on the concrete approach to our garage. I chose a rock the size of a thick sandwich and some short pieces of baling wire. My fisherman had to be holding a pole; I wanted a pipe in his mouth, one leg crossed over the other and a slender twig for a pole. Hat brims pose a problem, so I’d give him a cap.
I was interrupted by a relative who asked disgustedly, "Sue, what in the world do you think you’re trying to do this time?" The tone of the question spurred me on; this would be a successful gift! On Saturday evening, I went to Grindstone Creek and caught several tiny catfish and kept three overnight in a bucket of water.
Early on Father’s Day, I attached pole, line and bobber to a hook, which I put in the lip of a lively little catfish. I drove to Dad’s home, left my motor running and quickly adjusted the line so the live fish caused the flexible pole to bend and the bobber to bob. I mounted the fisherman on Dad’s back step - put the bucket and "catch" on the driveway and left. The phone rang soon after I got home, and sure enough: Dad was having a happy Father’s Day!
By the way, we did bring him a gift from Germany: a hand-carved, miniature pair of oxen pulling a wagonload of manure!