Browse Categories
Search

Tribute To Dad

 

Dad - My Kind of Hero

A Personal Tribute

Dad's life on earth completed its course June 11, 1993. He was 88 years old. As far as I know, he didn't receive any medals or awards in his lifetime. Certainly none of major significance. He wasn't a sports hero or a media star. But he was my hero - and perhaps a hero to a few other people who knew him well.

It's too bad our society doesn't choose people like my father as their hero's. I guess I'll never understand why some people become the center of such widespread adoration just because they possess one unique talent or because they can garner a lot of media attention. So many of today's heroes have deplorable personality traits. We can all think of some recent examples, can't we?

Now take my dad. He lived his life in a quiet, unassuming way. But he lived it so well! I've often thought how much better this world would be if everyone were more like him.

Society would be quite different if everyone possessed his honesty, his even temperament, and his concern for "doing the job right".

There would be very little need for courts or lawyers if everyone were like Dad. Honesty was central to his character. If he was picking out a lumber order, the crooked 2x4's were thrown out into the cull pile -- whether or not the customer was watching. I am sure he never intentionally cheated anyone. In fact, I doubt he ever unintentionally cheated anyone because he tried so hard to not "short change" the people with whom he did business. That is probably one of the reasons the lumber business that he and his brother started in 1942 never needed to advertise. Satisfied customers did the advertising by word-of-mouth.

There would probably be less need for unions if all employers were like Dad and his brother. Employees at Johnson Brothers Lumber Company were always treated with respect and consideration. There was very little turnover. Several employees worked for Dad and his brother for 25 years or more. Many worked at the "yard" until they retired. Dad worked hard and lived frugally. I don't think employees ever felt they were being exploited. Dad worked as hard or harder than anyone. He wasn't "above" doing any job around the lumberyard. He would feed 2x12-14's into the planner all day long if needed - even shortly before he retired at age 67. All the employees respected his ability to keep the planer and resaw in perfect working order. Nobody was more meticulous or precise in setting up the planer to run knotty pine paneling, V-joint siding or Dolly Varden siding. A newly milled piece of V-joint would match perfectly with a piece he had made ten years earlier. (This wasn't always the case with some of the small mills around the area.) And Dad's patience never wore thin, even when employees made the inevitable mistakes.

It would even be hard to imagine a war if everyone was like Dad. I can never remember him expressing hate. Occasionally disappointment or disapproval, but never hate. Only once or twice in his 88 years do I recall seeing him angry.

Our government would be better respected if politicians were as honest as Dad. Dad's moral code went beyond honesty. He believed in not taking more than "his fair share" even if it was legal to do so. (Wouldn't it be nice to see some lawyers with this attitude!) Ed Davis, who rented a small house from Mom and Dad many years ago, tells of the time Dad came to their door and said he could lower their rent. The taxes on the property weren't as high as expected, so he didn't need to charge as much rent.

There wouldn't be very many erasers sold if everyone was like Dad. He worked very carefully, slowly, and methodically. Everything had to be done just right. And it was always done right the first time because he planned everything very carefully before beginning. When I was young, he used to frustrate me sometimes when we had a project underway. I was impatient to get started, but Dad would first sit down and draw out the plans, figure out precisely how much material would be needed and how to cut it with the minimum amount of waste. Then we would have to assemble all the tools needed (which were always in their place and carefully maintained). It wasn't until later in life that I realized how efficient it was to work in this seemingly slow, methodical way. He never had to go back for more material, he never had to stop work to find a missing tool, and he seldom had to correct a mistake. And when the job was done, it was done right and made to last.

Dad didn't change the world, but he did make his community a better place. He came by covered wagon to Pine River, Minnesota in 1914 when he was nine years old and left in 1992 when he and Mom decided to live in an apartment in Brainerd. His career in the lumber business began at nine years old when he started hauling slabs away from his father's steam powered sawmill.

He never lectured to us, but he taught my sister and I more than he ever realized by the example he set.

He moved slowly, but he got a tremendous amount of work accomplished in his lifetime -- hundreds of thousands of board feet of lumber cut, hauled, sawed, dried, resawed, planed, and sold. He did his logging in the early days with a two man saw and double bit axe. He worked countless hours on equipment maintenance and repair, not to mention the office work and waiting on customers. The list could go on.

Dad developed many skills during his early years in the lumber business. Even in later years, I can remember watching in awe as he cut down a tree. Each smooth, effortless swing of his axe sent huge chips of wood flying from the undercut. As a youngster, I can remember watching in fascination as he poured molten babbitt to make a new bearing for the huge drive wheel of the resaw - a skill he probably learned from his dad.

He talked slowly, but he didn't need to say much. His actions spoke louder than words.

I 'm sure my father wasn't all that unique. There are many individuals out there who live by similar standards - although, there don't seem to be as many of them as there once was and most of those I know are "old-timers".

The real heroes of our society are around. But they aren't going to stand out in the crowd. Let's search them out in our own communities. And then let's make them our hero's. They are setting the examples our children should be following. We don't need more O.J.'s and Madonna's. We need more Arvid Oliver Johnsons. That was Dad's name, in case you didn't know.

 

 

Shopping Cart
Your cart is empty.