When I was a kid, my heroes ranged from Superman and Batman to the Lone Ranger and Tonto. Every Sunday morning after Church, my dad would allow me to go to the local convenience store and pick out a few of the latest comics. I remember how excited I was to get home and read about all the superheroes and how they managed to save the world with their special powers.
Now that I am grown up (well, at least I believe I have grown, my wife might have something else to add) my heroes are a little different. Growing up, I realized that a man doesn’t have to don a red cape and fly just to save the day. I learned that a woman doesn’t have to come from the Amazon to get anywhere in life. Most of all, I learned that heroes don’t live in Bat Caves, Fortress of Solitude, or other hidden locations. My heroes are right here.
When I was a kid, I saw my dad come home from work, his hands bloodied and the skin torn. I seen him wake up at 5 in the morning and come home beat out and tired, and still manage to be there for me when I needed him. At the time, I didn’t see this as being a hero, but he was, and he still is.
My dad, despite being undereducated, was never a lazy man. Education in my dad’s day was a privilege that he was not allowed. In fact, education in his time was set aside for the rich. My dad was never rich. So he used what he was given in his lifetime. Two strong hands and an even stronger work ethic.
Most of the jobs my dad worked were manual labor. Hands on handle of a wheelbarrow brought blisters that bled, but he never complained. His favorite job was that of a janitor position that he had won. When he interviewed for the job, his resume was sparse. A few jobs such as cab driver and logger, he was almost ashamed to enter the room and hand the thing in. When the employer seen that my dad worked the jobs he did, my dad got the job. The employer told my dad that he was looking for an honest, hard worker. He said that my dad’s work experience showed that he was that person. I believe dad worked there for about five years, and only left because the company that ran the building set up shop elsewhere.
So my dad went into the woods and worked as a logger. He worked so hard that we hardly seen him. He would come home at night and head for the bed. By the time I woke up in the morning, he was already half way through his day. He still never complained. In fact, every day he thanked the blessed Lord for giving him the strength to work this job.
Underpaid and unrewarded, my dad worked for pennies. The contractor who ran the operation decided that rather than have the men drive back and forth every day, they would have to stay in a logging camp for the entire week. That way, the greedy bastard could work the men even harder. In a time where work wasn’t plentiful in the province, those cut-throat employers knew how to manipulate the fine Newfoundland men who worked for them. My dad tried the camp thing, but quit after one week.
I still recall the day he came home, his chainsaw swung over one shoulder, his knapsack on the other, and his head down. He felt as if he failed his family by quitting. Mom said that it was about time. The work was so hard that my dad had himself nearly starved to death. I still hear mom saying that we would be better off on welfare than seeing my dad work himself to death.
Welfare wasn’t something my dad was proud of, and it wasn’t something that he seen as a way out. With that, my uncle had just started a logging contract with a local papermill, and my dad was the first person he called.
Dad worked for his younger brother until the day he retired. When I turned sixteen, I expressed to my dad that I wanted to be just like him and become a logger. I remember my dad crying.
To this day I will never forget what he told me. He said that I was much better than this line of work, and that I should use my God given talents and become something that I want to do. He didn’t want me working my fingers to the bone and bringing home measly pay checks, barely enough to get by. When I told him that I wanted to try this, and later do something else, he still disagreed. I worked alongside my dad for the next twenty years.
For a glimpse of a typical work day, you can check out an old post of mine, in which I take readers back some fifteen years, into the tall brush and hardy forest of Western Newfoundland. Hope you like it. click this link
My dad is still as busy as ever. At 77 years of age, he and my mom spend fall mornings in the woods, cutting firewood and hauling them to the woodshed to provide heat for one another. After 51 years of marriage, they still do everything together, hand in hand, heart in heart. My heroes.