My dad was a good man. To make ends meet, he worked two jobs most of the first seventeen years of my life. He was a policeman, working day shift, swing shift and grave yard, so even when he was home during the day, he was sleeping much of that time. He was also a good friend. When someone needed his help, he was there for them offering his skills and talents to help them with their projects. He was a skilled builder, sharing his talents by helping family, friends, neighbors and acquaintances design and build homes, barns, shops, and sheds. Rarely did he accept money for his work.
Between being a cop, moonlighting, sleeping during the day and helping other people, the time he was able to spend with my brothers and I was limited. The time we spent with him was precious and he made it quality time.
I loved my dad. My dad was a man. He was a man not because of his age, not because he sired three sons, not because he was a cop, not because he could shoot a gun better than most, not because he was tougher than rawhide and stronger than an ox. My dad was a man because of all those things and because he was a good citizen and took that responsibility seriously.
Robert Duvall, one of the greatest actor of all time, starred in a movie in 2003 titled Secondhand Lions with another great actor Michael Caine. In the movie, Duvall’s character found opportunities to help young men, who were being delinquents, get onto the right track to becoming men by giving them the “Man Speech”. During the movie I waited with great anticipation, wanting to hear this life changing speech, but each time Duvall started to give the speech the director would cut to another scene.
It was a good movie, but it left me disappointed that we never got to hear this profound speech that seemed to change the lives of the young men who were privileged to hear it.
My dad never gave me the man speech, he lived it, his life was an example of it. Most of the profound lessons I have learned during my life were lessons taught by him. Sometimes those lessons were voiced, but most of the time they were taught by example.
I wrote a series of western books, “Where the River Bends”. In the last book Justus, the main character in the series. was asked by his new bride, Gracie, to briefly describe his dad. The character of Justus’s dad is based on my dad. (You write what you know.) Justus thought about his dad for a few minutes and then started to describe him and the lessons he had taught Justus. When I was done describing Justus’s dad, I realized that I had written the “Man Speech” that Duvall must have been giving those young men in the movie. The following Man Speech is based on my dad’s life and the lessons he tried to teach his sons.
THE MAN SPEECH
Being a true man is a responsibility that some grown boys choose never to accept. To be a true man you may have to choose to take the more difficult road. To be a man you must believe that courage, honor and virtue mean everything and when faced with the choice, honesty is what you will always choose. A man can live without contract because his word is as good as his bond. A man believes that there are more good people in the world than there are bad and that good will always triumph over evil. A man will always leave things better than when he found them and when borrowing something, he will return it in better condition than when he received it. A man knows that taking care of what he has is more important than having more. A man helps his neighbor because he wants to help and for no other reason. When a man agrees to do a job, he agrees to do his best even if he is working for free or for very little money. He knows that what he does will not be perfect, but that what he does will be closer to perfection if he tries to make it so. He will treat everyone as individuals, trusting and respecting all races, religions and gender until they prove to him that his trust and respect is ill placed. He knows that loving his family is more important than what they do wrong and he always love them unconditionally. A man will strive to always do better and be better and in this pursuit, he will never falter. These are the qualities a man should do and believe in because these are the things worth doing and believing in.
I’m 58 and still question my manhood, because I know that the things I have accomplished in my life does not make me a man. What will make me a man is taking responsibility for my life, living the lessons my dad taught me and becoming a good citizen of my community and this world.