Dad would been 94 today — June 17, 2020.
Though he died nearly 15 years ago, on Dec. 1, 2005, at age 79, I still think of him often. I still wish he were around for me to talk with, to go fishing with, to share his wisdom with me. He left before I learned all I wanted to know.
I would like to hear, for example, his perspective on the social distancing imposed on us by COVID-19, but I think I have a pretty good idea what it would be.
In fact, I could argue Harold E. Hamilton was the father of social distancing — maybe not for the whole world, but for my world when I was a boy. I’m confident he would have no qualms at all with the distancing rules imposed today by COVID 19 — none at all unless they applied to cattle, dogs and horses.
When I was a boy social distancing was not a rule or recommendation. It was the way I and my three brothers were raised. Other than attending school, we boys had little social life. The exception was Sunday School at Elkland United Methodist Church, but that was a Mom deal. Dad never went or discouraged us, but he did sometimes persuade us to go fishing, instead. I never heard what Mom had to say about that.
Unlike my classmates at Fair Grove, I never went to a basketball game or any other school function, other than the one year I was in the Christmas program, our FFA father-son banquets and graduation. Dad had other priorities — farming, fishing and coon hunting — and what was important to Dad became important to us. Still is. Dad was not a “hugger" or comfortable displaying affection, but he was not hesitant to involve his boys in the center of everything he loved. Besides, men didn’t often hug one another back then.
Some of my friends’ dads were in the Lions Club, American Legion or similar organizations. Dad was not. It was not until years after I was grown and away from home Dad became involved in Webster County Farm Bureau and the Belgian Blue Breeders Association. The only other somewhat social exception I can recall was the Elkland Saddle Club, but that involved horses and kids the ages of my younger brother. I don’t know if Dad ever went to a club meeting.
Mom was the social animal. She liked to attend social gatherings with her peers from the Lester E. Cox hospital (formerly Burge Protestant), but managed to drag Dad there only once.
Dad was content to stray no farther from home than the feed store, the Marshfield Chevy garage where he lettered trucks, and area lakes, streams and woods. Oh, yeah, better include horse show arenas, too. And no matter where he went, it was only between morning and evening milkings. Dairy farmers know nothing of distancing from the cows.
So, as I reflect on Dad this 94th anniversary of his birth and the week before Father's Day, I’m certain he would have no trouble adapting to the “new normal” of social distancing. He was already happily there, as I’m sure were many of his generation.
As a boy and through my early teens, it was not uncommon for me to go for weeks on end in summer without going farther from home than Jim Andrews’ store in Elkland for dairy feed, sliced bologna and maybe a bottle of pop.
We were effectively “sheltered at home” through most of the late 1950s and early 1960s. So, you see this COVID-19 social distancing thing hasn’t been much of a challenge.
Heck, it’s almost nostalgic, a reminder of simpler times when I was a boy on the farm, and I don’t at all mind going there.
Jim Hamilton is a freelance writer and former editor of the Buffalo Reflex. Copyright James E. Hamilton, 2020.