When I lived in Patrick County, Va. several years ago, I was having a conversation with a neighbor, a man in his late 20s who was a logger as well as farmer, basically doing what he was raised to do.
We were having a casual conversation when he looked at me and said, out of the blue sky, that he didn’t think he was very smart or had any talents at all.
His comment surprised me because I knew him well enough to know that he was smart and very talented.
No, he was not educated in the traditional sense, but only because education was simply not emphasized in his environment and going to college or anywhere else was simply not in the cards.
When I started telling him all of the things he knew how to do that most people don’t have a clue about, he said he had never thought about it that way.
And I also I told him that, which is true for everyone, if he had been born and raised in a different environment, his life could easily have taken a different course.
I also reminded him of what a good daddy he was to his children. It was always fun to see them together because he was one of them and they obviously loved him.
I knew so many people when I was growing up who had talents, but never the opportunity, or sometimes the ambition, to act on them.
And being isolated in the mountains back then precluded for most those chances of pursuing talents and dreams. Or at least it seemed so overwhelming to even try.
It was a matter of just surviving for most, falling into the fate that was at hand, not hundreds or thousands of miles away.
My gosh, even a trip to Roanoke was a big deal.
Of course, I have also learned over the years that having college degrees may or may not mean much as far as common sense or sanity is concerned. It may not mean much as far as being a good father.
Some things just can’t be taught.
My father left us when I was young but I was fortunate enough to have Aunt Ebb, who stepped in to fulfill that role.
That is why I always think of her when talking about talent and common sense, and fathers.
She could do about anything and usually had a way of cutting to the chase about any issue that popped up.
Okay, yes, her raw honesty could sometimes be hard to handle, but that was who she was.
From outdoor sports to mechanics to about anything, well, except cooking, if she didn’t know how to do it she would quickly learn.
She had that certain self-confidence that is enviable.
Aunt Ebb was always the groundbreaker in the family, and since she was not married and never wanted a “frazzlin” man to take care of, she could save a little extra money for things.
She took pride to be the first woman in the family to have a motorcycle and get a home movie camera. Her collection of hunting and fishing gear was something to behold.
At the time, no one thought much about what she did. We just took her for granted, not appreciating that she was indeed one of a kind.
Those now priceless home movies that Aunt Ebb took are grainy and crude by today’s high definition and instantaneous home movies on cell phones standards. But it doesn’t matter. They are a valuable piece of family history.
I guess I’m wrong if I say she was a “father” to me.
She was a “daddy,” and that is a big difference.
A daddy relates to children and truly enjoys their company, taking them places, playing with them, knowing and understanding who they are.
Aunt Ebb was great at that.
A daddy should be a kid, too, and she was.
All of the college degrees in the world cannot make a good daddy.
That comes from the heart.
And, of course, it is based in love, understanding and communication.
Happy Father’s Day, Aunt Ebb.
Charles Boothe is a reporter for the Daily Telegraph and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org