Want to be adored? He was.

By | February 21, 2009

By Dale Smith  (GrandpaDale) © 2009 Philip Dale Smith

“Daddy, did Pa really shoot up the poolroom at Beech Creek?”

Lisa asked me that when she was perhaps 13 years old. 

“Yep. Sure did,” was my reply.

A few years later: “Daddy, did Pa really shoot the Muhlenberg County Sheriff off a ladder?”

My response: “Yep, he sure did!”

I told the truth.

A couple of decades passed and Lisa, by then a published and recorded song writer, wrote a song about her Pa: “Gentle Heart, Gentle Soul, Gentle Man.” You’ll see it soon.

Hard to believe, but what she wrote in that song was true. He was a gentle heart, gentle soul, and gentle man!

In the decade after the song came out, “Pa” became the inspiration basis for the male protagonist in Lisa’s historical fiction novel, Turn Back Time, which won the national Benjamin Franklin Award for fiction and became a featured Doubleday book club offering. (BTW, I coauthored it). In it, and its sequel, Sunshine & Shadow, he was a good guy–mostly.

Debby, another of Pa’s granddaughters, a school teacher, wrote the essay, “Pa.” In it she tells of the delightful relationship she and another granddaughter had with him. She describes what he was and what he did that made those little girls adoring fans.

They couldn’t have imagined that he was the man who shot up the pool room and shot the sheriff off the ladder. Knowing how he honored “Ma,” his wife, they couldn’t have conceived that there was a time when his best friends hoped no woman would be so foolish as to marry this “fast-fisted, short-fused, bad-news bachelor.”

But let’s go back and glimpse the story behind the story.

“A man can change, cain’t he?” John Orville Smith asked his cousin, Maude. He was back from carousing around the country and wanted to get to know her friend, the “young widow Rhoads.” His question was a plea in response to Maude’s unwillingness to cooperate.

“Yes, Orville,” Maude replied, “a man can change. But you ain’t likely to.”  She refused to introduce him to the genteel and highly respected young widow with two small children.

But she relented.

The man who became my dad spent the next half-century proving that, yes, a man can change. And can become the adored patriarch of a passel of children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and their spouses.

So the premise of this blog is that  a man (woman, and child) can change, can improve, can make a difference. Fortunately we won’t likely have make changes of the magnitude that “Pa” did. We can make little differences as we adjust, tweak, and upgrade our attitudes, skills and behavior. As we do, marvelous benefits will accrue in our lives and in the lives of our loved ones. Perhaps for generations to come. 

Now, I’m honored to include his nickname in mine. He was my dad and was “Pa” to following generations. Now I’m “GrandpaDale.” If only I could be as “Grand.”

I’ll try. 


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