;

My Daddy

May
5

Ross W. Dye was born on January 9, 1925 in a little house on a hill across the river and about a quarter mile up the road from Stringtown Rising Farm. My dad spoke of his childhood in Stringtown this way: “The wood were full of squirrels, the fields were well supplied with rabbits, the streams abounded in fish, and the countryside was populated with foxes, weasels, minks, skunks, opossums, raccoons, muskrats, and other animals. We never lacked for something to do. We had chickens, cows, geese, ducks, guineas, turkeys, sheep, and hogs. We raised a garden and canned a cellarful of fruit and vegetables every summer. With hogs to kill every fall and all of the eggs and milk we could use, we never wanted for anything. I grew up working on the four farms which Grandma and Grandpa owned in the area. When I was six, Grandpa said it was time for me to learn to work, so he started taking me to the fields and I worked. We all learned to work, and before and after school we had chores to do. The milking had to be done twice a day, and other things required attention daily. But we had fun and really did not have to work every day for there were seasons when only the men were needed. Also, some things we were never expected to do for Grandpa kept a man working for him all of the time.


“The age of the pioneers had passed by my time, but in our remote community vestiges of its aura still were to be found. The old-timers could tell the tales of the Civil War period, and our family, with its roots going back to Colonial Virginia, kept alive the lore and traditions of the earlier days. Most of the country roads were dirt. There was no electricity except along the main highway and life partook of the spirit of the frontier.

“The home I knew was more than a house. It was the land, the people, the swimming hole, the hunting grounds, our Pony called Major, the molasses-making in the fall, the popcorn on winter evenings, the Christmas holidays, sleighing in the snows, the fishing, the work, the school, stopping in to see Grandma and Grandpa going to and from school, the fodder shocks in the cornfield with ripe pumpkins on frosty mornings, the snows which closed school, the family reunions, Saturdays in town, walking barefoot in the mud, and all the adventures of growing up in a rural community with enough outside influence due to the oil fields to lend a special excitement. These are my memories, but so many changes have come now that the memories are all that remain of those days.”

You can read my dad’s full account of his childhood in Stringtown here.

My father often said of West Virginia that he left as soon as he could, yet he loved West Virginia despite those words, and shared that love with me repeatedly throughout my childhood as he took me to West Virginia. Over and over, he told me the stories of our ancestors here, going back over 200 years in Roane County. He took us to the farms, to the places they hid horses from Confederate soldiers, to the cemeteries where they were buried. He didn’t know he would inspire me to move here one day, and he wasn’t thrilled when I did. He left West Virginia looking for opportunity and a better life, and worried about what I was doing with mine by moving back here. It took him a while to understand that opportunity and a better life, for me, was the place he’d left. But it was, and for me, West Virginia is one of the greatest gifts my father gave me.

From the time my own kids were little, I took them to West Virginia, too. By then, my parents were retired and they would come spend a couple months every summer in the Slanted Little House. I’d bring the kids and come out for a week or two and stay with them. We’d go on the “old family tour” and my dad would tell my children the same stories he’d told me as a child.

My dad, with Ross, Weston, and Morgan at my great-grandparents graves at the little cemetery in Stringtown.
johnfloall
Here, he was showing the kids a little waterfall on my great-grandfather’s farm where he used to play.
dadwaterfall
In 1944, my dad was a tailgunner in the 456th Bomb Group, 745th Squadron, 15th Air Force, based out of Italy (near Foggia). He flew missions over Germany (Munich), Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Greece, Hungary. In this photo, he’s the second man from the right in the front row.

At the time, the Air Corps was actually part of the Army, but is what later became the Air Force. After the war, he was sent to a base in Oklahoma where he met my mother, a 16-year-old dust bowl farm girl. She was young, and they eloped, which sounds a tad naughty, and when he was released from the Army, he took her to West Virginia where he milked cows twice a day to work his way through college at West Virginia University. After college, he left the hills and hollers behind for good, except for summer trips, bound for the ease of life in the suburbs and cities. No more milkin’ cows. He got a degree in agriculture, but he became a successful Church of Christ minister. He preached at churches all across the country, and we moved several times during my childhood. He wrote books and magazine articles and sermons. He spoke at Congressional prayer breakfasts and dined with senators and ambassadors. He came a long way from the molasses-making fires. To me, he was just my daddy.

On the porch at the Slanted Little House:
dadporch
I was his youngest child. He was nearly 40 when I was born, and his hair was already turning silver. I was born after his oldest son, my brother Stanley, died in a tragic accident involving a tractor. My childhood was sheltered and very religious. My father was strict, but loving.

I wrote this poem, below, in 1988, and had it printed and framed as a gift for Father’s Day that year. I was taking a creative writing class in college at the time. The professor loved the poem but marked a note in the margins that the father of a young girl wouldn’t have silver hair. He didn’t know MY father. The poem expresses, exactly, what happened every day after my father came home from work when I was a little girl, down to the exact words he must have said to me a million times.

Echoes of Daddy and Me

Wintry air blustered in with the slam,
behind the silver-haired man
who grabbed at the whirl
of a brown-haired girl
as she rushed by
with a little girl gust.

“How much do you love me?” he said,
kissing the tousled head
as he sat in his chair,
putting her there,
where she cried,
“Daddy, I want to play.”

Her short, stubby arms stopped flailing,
her lips upward sailing,
as she joined in the game,
always the same,
and giggled and
hugged her daddy.

“I love you this much,” she tried,
flinging her arms out wide,
But daddy shook no,
groaning out low,
“Tell me how much
you love me.”

“A bushel,” she cried, “and a peck,
and a hug ’round daddy’s neck.”
Then with a smug little grin
and a slide down his shin
she leapt up
and danced away.

For my daddy with love from your baby Suzanne, 1988

I took that framed poem home with me from Texas this weekend.

My dad had a sense of humor, too. He wasn’t always serious. He loved to tell stories, and play pranks, mostly on my mother, who took it all in stride. He loved jokes and apple butter and Gunsmoke, and most of all, my mother.

I never had an argument with my father in my entire life. I respected him. I didn’t always agree with him, and sometimes he didn’t agree with me or my choices, but he always loved me and made sure I knew it. He wasn’t one of those “buddy” kind of fathers like they make today–he was more of a 1950s-style daddy though he was raising me in the 1970s. As their youngest, my parents were always older than anybody else’s at school. Sometimes that made me feel different, but I always felt fortunate that they were my parents. I had good parents, and that is the best start in life any person can ask for. My father was one of those men from “the Greatest Generation” as Tom Brokaw put it, and they don’t make ’em like that anymore.
He was a good grandfather, and he was particularly close to Morgan. She was his only granddaughter. She sat by his bedside in the hospital and read the Bible to him as he died. By the time I got to Texas, he was gone, but to me, this was all right. I got to spend some time alone with him the night before the funeral. I’m not a fan of open caskets, and would not have thought I would want to do that, but I did. I talked to him, and he knew I was there just the same as if he was still alive. I said everything I needed to say, and I told him I was a terrible milkmaid and he would be ashamed. And I told him that I loved him a bushel and a peck and hug around the neck.
porch2
And I said goodbye to my daddy.

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Posted by Suzanne McMinn on May 5, 2014  

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  1. 5-5
    9:34
    am

    I’m so sorry for your family’s loss. Thankful you have such beautiful memories of a man who lived a life well spent.Hugs

  2. 5-5
    9:42
    am

    What a beautiful tribute to your father! My godfather, to whom I was very close, and I had that same routine of “bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.” I had to cry when I read your poem. I know those same feelings. You’re Dad was a remarkable man and I know you are very proud of him. Keeping you in my prayers.

  3. 5-5
    9:44
    am

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful tribute to a good man.

  4. 5-5
    9:54
    am

    What a thoughtful, loved filled tribute. Thank you for sharing.

  5. 5-5
    9:59
    am

    So very sorry for your family’s loss.

  6. 5-5
    10:04
    am

    So sorry for your loss. I can not imagine loosing my Father. He is the person I am closest to in the world.

  7. 5-5
    10:05
    am

    Thanks for sharing, wish I could say the same about my own father; you are blessed to have had him…out of all the father’s in the world God chose you to have him…Hugs going out to all of you.

    Rejoice in his memory….
    Sandy :hug:

  8. 5-5
    10:14
    am

    This is beautiful Suzanne. Brought tears to my eyes. Your father was a gem! Such a treasure of history that you come from! Healing graces to you in your grief.
    Hugs,
    Joy (from Michigan)

  9. 5-5
    10:31
    am

    That was a lovely tribute. Thanks for sharing it with us. I’ve had you in my thoughts this past week and hope you are hanging in there. Glad you have these memories.

  10. 5-5
    10:40
    am

    Beautiful! Love you!
    :snuggle:

  11. 5-5
    10:50
    am

    Many hugs to you. I lost my dad 12 years ago as of last Friday. It’s hard to say goodbye to our dads–the men who could fix and do anything in our eyes.

  12. 5-5
    10:59
    am

    Beautiful sentiments and obviously well deserved. May he rest in peace with your mother.

  13. 5-5
    11:03
    am

    Deepest condolences for your loss. What wonderful memories he gifted you with through the years.

  14. 5-5
    11:11
    am

    Suzanne, I am so sorry for your loss. My heart and prayers go out to you and your family. It’s very hard to say good bye to such love. He will always be in your hearts and watching over you with your Mom again at his side.
    I still al raw from losing my father last December. It’s not easy. Much love to you.

  15. 5-5
    11:12
    am

    Sorry to hear Suzanne, my Granddad on moms side was a Summerfield and raised his big family off Laurel branch off Flat Fork road. My aunts and uncles told of the Dyes that some of them went to school with when growing up, mostly in the one room school house at Laurel Branch cutoff and Vandal Fork at the top of the hill. My Granddad would tote me all over the country including Stringtown where he would check gas wellS and pumps while raising his Herford cattle. His old home was built around 1863 and burnt to the ground in 2010. The Garnets of old built it and the Log barn we would stack hay in. These people were no doubt the greatest generation of all time. I do miss the hard work and closeness one cannot find these days. Again I am sorry for your lose. J.J.

  16. 5-5
    11:21
    am

    Oh, dear girl!!! You were indeed blessed to have that man for your father. My heart goes out to you, having been there and done that myself many years ago.

  17. 5-5
    11:28
    am

    What a lucky girl you were to have such a loving father. Thanks for sharing this tribute with us. I read it with tears in my eyes and thoughts of you and your family. May all those precious memories give you much comfort.

  18. 5-5
    11:30
    am

    Thank you, and bless you. Take care.

  19. 5-5
    11:44
    am

    I’m so sorry you had to say good-bye. My son was born when we were 40; I hope we are at least half the parents your daddy was!

  20. 5-5
    12:24
    pm

    What a beautiful tribute. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  21. 5-5
    1:02
    pm

    A beautiful obituary. In the few months since my daddy’s passing, I have felt his presence in a way that I never expected. I bet that will happen for you, too, and probably for your children. And it is a lovely thing to live in the land of your ancestors. Rest in peace, Rev. Dye.

  22. 5-5
    1:22
    pm

    Such a lovely tribute to your Father, how proud he must be as he looks down on you on the land that he knew so well, and I am sure that he is aware of the of the gift that he gave you that inspired you and the children to move to his birth home.

  23. 5-5
    1:27
    pm

    I am deeply touched by your wonderful tribute to your Dad. My own father was 40 when I was born and will be 96 on the first of June. I have the great blessing of him living here with me. Our story is similar to your wonderful story. I am so very happy for you and the relationship you had with your own wonderful Dad. May God continue to bless you and your family.

  24. 5-5
    1:32
    pm

    What a beautiful tribute to your father. It made me laugh and cry. Reading his words about growing up in West Virginia, I can understand why it was the place you wanted to “come home” to.

    You are a lucky woman to have had two such wonderful parents who loved and supported you. Thank you for sharing them with us.

    My thoughts will be with you and your family as you heal.

  25. 5-5
    2:01
    pm

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful tribute to your Father. May you and your family find comfort and healing as the days pass.

  26. 5-5
    2:10
    pm

    Beautiful….

  27. 5-5
    2:13
    pm

    Suzanne, you and I are so similar, in so many ways. My father was 42 when I was born. He was born in 1916, a dirt poor farm boy from Indiana, but he made his way out of it and ended up a professor at Alabama, which is where he met my mom. He died in 2002, a very successful man with four grandchildren (three boys and one girl). His stories of growing up during the depression and being on the farm were priceless. I am so glad your daddy told you stories too, and that your children were able to know him and learn from him. You and I had older fathers, but their maturity made them better fathers in many ways. I am so glad you decided to go back to your father’s roots. Deep down I know he must have been so proud of his little West Virginia farm girl. Hugs and tears. Eve

  28. 5-5
    2:47
    pm

    Suzanne,

    What a beautiful tribute to your father. He has to be smiling down from heaven right now. Wow…it made me cry.

    ((Hugs))) to you, my friend.

  29. 5-5
    3:03
    pm

    Love and hugs to you and your family :snuggle:

  30. 5-5
    3:25
    pm

    What a warm and wonderful man he must have been. You seem to have inherited your writing talents from your father. You did a wonderful job with both of your parent’s tributes. It brought me to tears. I’m sure those words have been a blessing and a comfort to your whole family in this difficult time. Hugs and prayers for you and the kids. :hug:

  31. 5-5
    3:43
    pm

    Beautiful words spoken from heart. Your Daddy was a special man. You and your family are in my prayers. :hug:

  32. 5-5
    5:09
    pm

    Thanks so much for posting this tribute…my father had a lot of things in common with yours. A child of the hills,a WWII vet,a fill in Church of Christ preacher,a keeper of the family stories,prematurely gray and a wonderful(but strict)Daddy.He left this world 12 years ago and I miss him greatly.
    Suzanne, your father gave you the hunger for those West Virginia hills and for this I am thankful. You’ll never know how much your web site has given me. Praying for you and yours.

  33. 5-5
    7:18
    pm

    So sorry for your loss, Suzanne. What a beautiful tribute to a wonderful father. Your Daddy was like mine in that once Mama was gone, he wanted to be with her so bad. So it is sad to let them go, but there is comfort in knowing they are together again. Sending you a virtual hug. And hug that sweet Morgan for me too.
    Charlene

  34. 5-5
    7:26
    pm

    Suzanne, what a beautiful tribute to your father. I know he is in heaven smiling down at you. Thank you for sharing. Keeping you in prayer.
    Karen H.

  35. 5-5
    7:27
    pm

    I’m so sorry for your loss. :(

    My dad was also a tailgunner during world war 2. And I grew up never realizing how many other people had an older father like I did. My dad was 50 when I was born.

    Warm thoughts and prayers to you and your family.

  36. 5-5
    7:37
    pm

    I am so sorry for your loss, Suzanne. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful tribute to your Father, an exceptional man who raised a remarkable daughter. Love and hugs to you. :hug:

  37. 5-5
    8:08
    pm

    You wrote a beautiful tribute to both of your parents. So sorry for your loss. :heart:

  38. 5-5
    8:30
    pm

    I am so tearful right now from reading you lovely tribute of your father. I wrote a similar tribute about my father just a little under two years ago. I too was away from my father when he passed, but I feel this was part of God’s plan. The same thing happened when my mom died. We have since lost two animals that were very close to my parents mysteriously. I understand your pain and your closeness to your father. Our childhoods were similar in so many ways that I dearly miss seeing in families today. Count your blessings that you had such a good family foundation and you are sharing that foundation with your children.

  39. 5-5
    8:52
    pm

    Oh Suzanne! What a beautiful tribute! (Crying here.) Hugs to you and your kids. So sorry for your loss.

  40. 5-5
    11:54
    pm

    Oh Suzanne, my heart is grieving with you–it is so hard to lose our parents. WHat a beautiful tribute and story– thank you for sharing your Dad’s history with us.We don’t have many like him left in this world.. I hope some of the “young un’s” will learn to live up to these mighty standards and values!! Hugs to you!!

  41. 5-6
    1:35
    am

    What a beautiful, heartfelt tribute to your father. Praying comfort and peace to you.

  42. 5-6
    6:21
    am

    Dar Suzanne,
    So vey sorry for your loss. It is plain to see that you will keep your father and mother very close in your heart always. What a gift that is.

  43. 5-6
    12:03
    pm

    Beautifully written, as always, Suzanne. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  44. 5-6
    3:27
    pm

    I too am a WV girl who loves her dad beyond compare…I knew I would cry when I read your wonderful tribute so I had to choose the right time to read it. May your sweet memories bring comfort to you and yours

  45. 5-7
    8:39
    pm

    We are sorry to hear of the loss of Cousin Ross. I will share a story.

    ADVENTURE DRIVE AT PERCH ROCK INSPECTION TOUR

    One summer when Ross and Norma were setting up house keeping at the Slanted Little House for their month long visit, Ross wanted to inspect the Perch Rock( a rock about the size of a rail road box car) sitting in the Pocatalico River which at Stringtown is really a thirty foot wide creek with some three foot pools of water. I had a 1977 Jeep pickup truck and we decided to travel over Rocky Branch Road to the Sergent farm “Pokey” which was part of the Dye lands and across the road from Ross’s childhood home. The farm had been timbered and reseeded in grass and we drove around the old pastures while Ross spun yarns of days gone by UNTILL THE JEEP AXLE NOSED INTO A WATER CUT RUT AND HIGH CENTERED THE TRUCK WITH ONLY TWO OPPOSITE CORNER WHEELS TOUCHING THE GROUND. When the dust settled, I helped Ross out of the cab and we had a discussion of our options.Walk miles to the nearest house or try to get the truck back on four wheels?
    I asked Ross, Can you find and carry to me flat rocks the size of dinner plates? Yes he thought he could and he disappeared and returned with an arm load of rock. I was not sure Ross in his golden years could keep this up but he did not complain, he set out and did his part.
    With rock piles under the Jeep jack and the front tire , we finally got the Jeep on all four wheel and returned home without further incident. I do not remember the yarn he spun at the front porch when everyone wondered where we had been for so long. I would go anywhere with Cousin Ross riding shotgun. Cousin Mark

  46. 5-7
    11:52
    pm

    Suzanne, you wrote a loving tribute to the man you held so dear in your life. It touched me deeply. Sadly, all of our little candles must one day flicker and fade. So sorry for your loss.

  47. 5-8
    10:15
    am

    I am so very sorry for your loss. There aren’t words that are of any comfort during such a time as this. I lost my daddy in 2010. I was daddy’s girl as well and I am in tears reading this post.I miss him so very much. My daddy sang that song to me when I was little too. Just seeing it written I can hear it in my head ” I love you a bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck, a hug around the neck a barrel and a heap, a barrel and a heap talking in my sleep about you”

  48. 5-9
    9:15
    pm

    That was a beautiful story lady. Such a wonderful childhood relationship, heartfelt & longed for the same. Thank you for sharing that vision. Love

  49. 5-9
    11:16
    pm

    Oh Suzanne, My heart is breaking for you. I was Daddy’s little girl too but I lost my Daddy 2 months before I turned 8, in 1970. It doesn’t matter how old you are, or how old your Daddy is, when you lose them. Your heart hurts for the memories you didn’t get to make with them or from knowing how lucky you were that you got to make those memories together. Your father sounds like a wonderful man, and you a wonderful daughter. My deepest sympathies to you and your family. Thank you for sharing your memories with us.
    Much love,
    Amy

  50. 5-12
    9:12
    pm

    God bless you Suzanne. And thank you so much for opening up your heart to us. That isn’t easy. But we can all understand so well. We’ve all been there, or will be there.

  51. 5-19
    1:01
    pm

    That’s a sweet story about you Dad. I know you’ll miss him until you see him again in the sweet by and by. :hug:

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The Slanted Little House

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