Davie P. Farley


A Tribute to My Dad

by Carole S. Farley Eklund


              He was a mountain of a man; handsome, with a tanned face and sturdy arms, and quite tall in comparison to a three-foot ninny, which was me. His name was Davie Preston and he was my dad.

            He fathered 11 children, so we all knew that he and Mother did something besides sit on the old porch swing in the summer and chop and haul firewood in the winter. Each of we "Original Eleven," as we were so dubbed by our sister Tina, was about a year-and-a-half to two years apart. For twenty years, Mother and Daddy's linoleum floors were continually graced with the pitty-patter of little feet and the clompity-clomp of bigger ones.

            Life was hard as we grew up in the 1960s in rural Ohio. Daddy was a car repairman for the Norfolk & Western Railroad. For 35 years, he rebuilt and repaired train cars, traversing long country roads in the heat of summer and dead of winter; when the snow was heavy, sometimes he didn't make it home until bedtime. He rarely ever missed a day's work--come rain or shine. His friends at the railroad called him Yogi.

            Daddy was a rock to me-he was the first man in my life, and the first man I ever loved.

On and off as far back as I can remember, Daddy would get a few snorts under his belt and sit on the porch and strum his old folk guitar. I don't think we ever had a house without a porch. He'd go off on some Hank Williams or Hank Snow tangent, or else sing a song about "a cabbage head under my pillow," which always came out "piller," especially when he got to strumming fast.

            That cabbage head held a morbid fascination for we children, because it was our first introduction to the birds and the bees, and reproduction. Daddy said we were found under the cabbage leaves. For years, I took it upon myself to look for new brothers and sisters in our massive garden, and would never have been surprised to find a baby in the cabbage patch.

            I was the only one of all 11 kids that Daddy named. Yet, in his sweet, hillbilly twang, he called me "Carl Sue;" my name is Carole. He said that when I was a baby, I was the quietest, most perfect baby he'd ever seen. Then he said he didn't know what happened to change it all so drastically….

            When I was 17, Daddy decided to let me get my driver's license. I had a five-day-a-week job taking care of a family of five, so Daddy took me to work early Monday mornings and picked me up on Friday evenings. One particular Friday, he let me drive. It was a silver '62 Chevy, standard shift on the column. I did all right for a while--we traveled a straight and narrow country road. Then we came upon the small town of Galena and the Chevy needed gasoline. Well, somehow, I pulled in too close and hit one of the gas pumps. Daddy almost wrung my neck, and my driver’s license blew out the window with the exhaust fumes.

            We were poor, but times were not all bad when I was growing up. Christmases were fun, although we didn't get fancy, expensive presents. Today, I marvel that we got anything at all when there were so many of us to provide for. For many years, we lived in a brown shingled house on Africa Road in Delaware County, Ohio. The little niche dubbed "the boy's room" had a heat vent with an iron covering over it that we could peep down through. Every Christmas Eve, several of us would crowd around that vent and see Daddy, standing in his boxer shorts, stokin' and pokin' the fire in the woodstove just beneath the vent. Then he and Mother would proceed to eat the munchies and drink the milk or coffee that we had left out for the non-existent Santa Claus.

            If we waited long enough, we would see Daddy and Mother unloading bags and boxes of presents and Christmas miscellany. Dad didn't make what would be considered a lot of money at the railroad, especially for a family of 13, but he always managed to give us a good Christmas. I think Christmas for his kids held special meaning for Daddy, because when he was a child, only once in his life did he ever receive a Christmas present. It was a toy truck; later, some of his brothers became jealous that he'd gotten a gift when they did not (Daddy was the "baby" of his family.), and destroyed the truck. Nevertheless, when Christmas mornings rolled around, we were hellions--which we need not discuss here….

            Daddy's leisure time was spent watching Bonanza, Andy Griffith and "Big Time Wrestling, or "wrasslin,'" on television. He particularly favored a wrestler named "Bo-Bo Brazil." I remember liking Bo-Bo just because Daddy did, and rooting for anyone else that Daddy did. He liked boxing, too. He'd get excited and sit slumped on the edge of the couch with his fists all clenched up, swinging a punch at the same time his favorite boxer did.

            Other times, he would get a wee bit bottle-happy and say “Ooooeeee” at the top of his lungs. It was a comical attribute to an otherwise quiet and fairly shy man. Usually just before or immediately following the “Ooooeeee,” Daddy would proceed to pinch Mother on the behind, listening to her squeal, then laughing like crazy.

            He is gone now, this most special of all men. For me, his memory will outlast eternity. I remember his hands, and whenever I hear the country song, "Daddy's Hands," it makes me cry. Daddy had the strongest hands, and they were always tanned. Always, when I was with him driving someplace, I would stare at his hands, and see a special strength in them. He used them a lot, too, those hands. He cut and hauled firewood, repaired every vehicle he ever owned, which were many in number; he shoveled coal into buckets from beside the railroad for use in our old pot bellied coal stove; he mended porches, tilled gardens, drove a tractor, fed the hogs, beheaded chickens and made the best batter bread ever eaten.

            I would like to write something special as a tribute to him, but words have not the sentiment that my heart does. Alas, he knew. But just in case he faintly whispers with the wind that steals beneath the door and window at night, or sits on the side of the bed sometimes when I am sleeping, I love you, Daddy.