Twain knew a little something about dads

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 17, 2006

We&8217;ve all heard the now famous saying long attributed to Mark Twain about his father.

&8220;When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.&8221;

I&8217;m not certain anyone has ever actually proven that Twain said, but it sounds like the homespun wit of the river man, mostly because there&8217;s a lot of truth in that statement.

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Although I don&8217;t think I ever thought my father was ignorant (as Twain suggests), the older I get, the more I appreciate the wisdom and character of my father.

As a child I remember always being at my father&8217;s side on the weekends. If he was outside working on something with the house, I was probably underfoot.

He has an affinity for all things mechanical. He was a mechanical genius to my child&8217;s mind.

Almost anything that broke around the house, he could fix.

Cars, lamps, dishwashers, sinks, if something was broken, my money was on Dad and his toolbox and garage filled with spare parts (duct tape, wire, solder, etc.).

I asked him once how he&8217;d learned how to fix so many things.

He modestly replied something to the effect, &8220;Well, when you don&8217;t have enough money to pay someone to fix it, you&8217;ve got to figure out how to fix it yourself.&8221;

He was partially joking with that statement since later in life &8212; after the three children had stopped eating he and mom out of house and home &8212; he probably could have paid for home repairs and improvements.

But early on, his frugal look on life was probably necessary.

He wasn&8217;t from a wealthy family. His father came to the United States from England, became a citizen and spent his life working in a lumber mill and doing a little farming (for his family&8217;s food) on the side.

Well before I was even a thought, Dad started working at the telephone company, climbing poles.

Eventually, he worked his way into management, but he never considered himself above getting his hands dirty.

He&8217;s much like that today. He&8217;s always looking for ways to help others and is usually the last person to ask for help.

As I&8217;ve grown older, I realize the man who I once thought was invincible, the strongest person in the world and the smartest person in the world isn&8217;t.

But he&8217;s pretty darned close.

He&8217;s not perfect, but he&8217;s certainly better than average. In the top percentile, the academics might say.

He&8217;s human.

He gets sick on occasion.

He might even lose his temper when pushed hard by someone or something.

But he&8217;s been there for me through thick and thin.

He&8217;d give me (or my siblings) the shirt off his back if we needed it, but he&8217;d stop short of spoiling us.

In my life, Dad has taught me lots of things.

He taught me how to bait a hook and how to treat firearms as if they&8217;re always loaded.

He coached me on how to play baseball, but suffice to say we both knew it was all for fun, sports was never going to be a career.

Under his tutelage I learned to change tires, spark plugs, oil and carburetors.

Through watching him interact with my mother, he taught me never to yell at or hit a woman.

He taught me kindness and the importance of having a sense of humor. Dad showed me the importance of patience as he answered at least a million of my questions through the years.

It takes a lot to be a daddy, but most of all; it takes love, kindness and a sense of wanting to teach your son.

As the years pass, Twain&8217;s comments still have a level of truth. I&8217;m constantly astonished at how much Dad has taught me through the years.

Thanks for everything, Dad, and happy Father&8217;s Day.

Kevin Cooper is associate publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or