A Tribute to My Father (and all Fathers)

June 20, 2011

This is my first Father’s Day after my Dad’s death last Oct. 5.  I miss him.  He was a great, wise confident. He was a man of conviction and a man of action.  He served his fellow man like no one I have ever known.

He enlisted for the Navy Dec. 8, 1941, but was not called up until late 1942; there wasn’t enough training space for all the men that enlisted after Pearl Harbor.  After extensive training on every kind of vessel the US had at the time, he and a crew were preparing to leave San Diego harbor.  A telegram was sent across the country to his captain and seaman Pickle.  Dad had applied for an appointment to Annapolis, the Naval Academy, and the telegram was informing him of his appointment.  With nothing but a stroke of the pen by his captain, he would be on his way to become an officer.  His dilemma was whether to accept the appointment and sit out the war in classrooms or to refuse the appointment and go to war with men he had been training with for more than a year.  Rather than choosing the best thing for himself, he chose to sail into war with the men of his training squadron.  He chose to remain shoulder to shoulder with his fellows; in my childhood eyes (as his son today), it was an enormous choice.

After the war, Dad returned to school to follow in the steps of his father and be the second man in the Pickle family to graduate from college and then complete an advanced degree, in medicine.  He completed medical school began practice in the 1950’s with literally nothing but a wife and a child.  After a year or two, he decided to return to medical school and study surgery.  His senior year he was chosen to be the senior resident at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, TX which was the University of Texas medical school, but a lack of funds forced him to return to Miss. to complete his residency.  He received degrees from both schools and was still recognized as senior resident even though he transferred to another school.  Here is another example of his attitude of service.  After graduation, he was offered a fellowship with the American College of Surgeons.  He was told that all he had to do was live in a city of a certain size with a hospital with a certain capacity.  He turned down this notable offer to go to a county seat town in rural Mississippi and practice surgery in a location that often saw citizens die in transport to hospitals 1-3 hrs. away.  Funny thing is, many of his patience(s) believe he saved their lives.  I have no idea if that is true, but for them it was a personal matter and quite true in the mind of each one.

Dad and I had some specific talks about specific questions I had, but he taught by living out the example of manhood before me and with me.  He provided for his family.  He cooked for his family-he was the grill master (this is how I learned to use a grill, by watching him.)  He made wise decisions for his family even if those were hard decisions such as postponing building Mom’s dream house.  He made sure we had fun as a family-the Florida coast became our personal playground once or twice a year.  He knew how to have fun in the winter also, duck ponds and harvested fields were always sought and known for our winter hunting; that also provided a wonderful variety of wild meat for our family.  He was one of the best shots with a shotgun or rifle I have ever seen, and I think I have seen some fairly good ones.

One time we were duck hunting and I had chosen to move quite a ways out in the beaver lake we were hunting; I could see ducks coming for over a mile.  He on the other hand had moved to the far end with head high brush to camouflage his position.  We waited, and waited, and waited, and waited.  The only ducks we heard, that’s right, did not see a one flying that day.  There was one lonely mallard on the far side of the lake so Dad began calling to him, begging him to come to this lonely Susie (a female mallard for those of you that don’t know your ducks) on our side of the lake.  I have no idea how long he called but it seemed like an hour.  Finally, that drake took to wing and started flying around the lake seeking company.  On his second or third circuit around the lake, he was coming almost directly over my position.  I was ready knowing I would get only one shot to claim this prize or he would be off and gone.  My shot would have been over 40 yards at best.  As I readied for this one shot, one duck day, Dad fired from his out of range position.  The duck’s head fell and he crumpled falling not 20 yards from my position.  Boy was I hot.  However, his shot must have been at least 60 yards.  I would never have attempted such a shot.  It just seemed incredible that day, and we were both using Browning Auto 5 16 gauge shotguns.

Dad was a heart patient.  Stay with me it is related to shooting.  He was told not to shoot any gun at all after his heart surgery-he had two bi-pass surgeries 11 yrs. apart.  At any rate, he had not fired a rifle or a shotgun of any kind for close to twenty years.  When he retired, his partners gave him a new rifle complete with scope and the trimmings.  I made and added a sling and some handloads.  So, we went to the farm to shoot this fine new rifle with the custom loads I made for him.  I take a couple of shots and do ok.  Now here is my dad, not having fire a rifle in 20 years, and using a scope for the first time I can remember since he nailed a running squirrel in about 1966 with a 22 rifle with a scope.  Offhand mind you, that’s standing, he shoots at a 3×4 inch block of wood with a hole drilled through the middle.  He is aiming at the hole, probably 1/2″ diameter; he shoots and I walk over to check the block since it jumped from being hit.  I look at the block stunned, no he hadn’t shot through the hole but perhaps hit the block 1/2″ to one side of the hole and that after 20 years.  I told him there ought to be a law against that, not shooting for so long and then hitting a 1/2″ from dead center.

I learned a lot of everyday lessons from him—when the horse throws you, get back on or you will never ride again.  There are times when you don’t say “it can’t be done”, like I did one day while we were working on our lawn mower.  He responded, “there’s no can’t to it, got to.”  We did eventually conquer the frozen nut and repair the mower.  He taught me about horticulture with his little greenhouse, and today my kids joke about me and the plants we have around the house.  He taught me about Bible study because when I was in seminary, I was his lexicon, encyclopedia, dictionary, and general resource as he continued digging daily in his favorite book.  He could ask the most questions or the deepest questions of almost anyone I have ever known.

Here are a few of the many things I learned from my Dad:

  1. How to enjoy life.
  2. How to love someone and particularly a woman, a wife.
  3. That MEN take care of the women in their family.
  4. That women are special, men are well men.
  5. That race didn’t make much difference in life.
  6. That hard work won’t kill you even when you think it will.
  7. How to work on a car—change the oil, spark plugs, points and condenser [for those of you that remember those parts], set the spark gap, set the timing, replace an alternator and a water pump, replace hoses and belts, and the worst change a flat tire.
  8. How to shoot a handgun, a rifle, and a shotgun; how to clean them meticulously as well. He taught me firearms safety!
  9. How to hunt and the sheer joy of being out in creation.
  10. How to fish with rod and reel, polls, trolling, or setting trotlines or jugs.
  11. How to dress game—birds, fish, squirrels.
  12. He taught me how to do basic electrical wiring, basic plumbing, and building skills.
  13. He taught me about horses and the responsibility it takes to own one and to love them.
  14. He taught me about dogs and their care and a love for them.
  15. That history was to be loved and not dreaded.
  16. That the Bible was and always will be the best rule for life.
  17. That Jesus Christ is indeed the Savior and King of this world.
  18. To love reading
  19. Responsibility, loyalty, love of family, honesty, integrity, diligence, courage, determination,
  20. How to give my best at whatever I did
  21. He taught me how to overcome—obstacles, challenges, others, myself, and the mountains of life.
  22. That it is alright to struggle with your faith, to ask questions and ponder things you don’t understand or don’t make sense spiritually, that ultimately the answer is in God’s Word.
  23. How to listen and learn.
  24. How drive and maintain a boat—runabout or ski boat.
  25. How to camp, build a fire (several different kinds), cook on open fire, stay dry and warm, to enjoy the change.
  26. How to cook on a charcoal grill.

Dad, I miss you and sure wish you were here to give me a bit more wisdom in this journey called life.

 

Proud to be the son of Dr. Arthur Coleman Pickle,

 

 

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