Monday, June 10, 2013

Come Monday...Dad

“Come Monday…” is a weekly series that will involve a review of, or commentary about,  websites, movies, documentaries, television shows, sports, music, and whatever else may tickle my fancy at the time.  Be assured that these reviews will be generally positive, as in accordance to the Jimmy Buffett song “Come Monday.”  This is subject to change, however.  In fact, I would be most derelict in my duties to neglect going on a rant every once in a while.  For rants promote change, and change can be good—right?  Therefore, since good is generally considered as being a positive force in 99.3% of the parallel universes that I am aware of, even a rant could be considered as being something positive, and a genuine hissy-fit would be even better (so I’m told).

What comes next (in italics) is The Third Crumb of [The Crackerhead Chronicles].  After that will be the rest of his story.  Well, at least a heavily condensed version of it.

The name of my dad is Fred Marshall Beuterbaugh.  He was born on February 4, 1920 in the small farming community of Blue Mound, Kansas, which is around 65 miles south of Kansas City, Kansas/Missouri.

I do not remember if he was born in a hospital or not, but it sure wasn’t under the same conditions as my mom was.  For my dad’s family was much better off than hers in a number ways.

Sadly, I do not know all that much more about my dad’s lineage than I do my mom’s.  For I was allowed and enabled to actually meet his mother just before she passed away, along with having a fairly close relationship with two of his sisters, but there is so much that is still a mystery to me.

What I do know is that Beuterbaugh is Dutch—Pennsylvania Dutch, if you are so inclined.  For I can remember my dad getting real upset with me over telling him that the name was Germanic in origin.

Okay, the Pennsylvania Dutch part is on me.  For my dad’s bunch eventually settled in the Lancaster County area of Pennsylvania after coming over here from the old country, and I thought it was a nice touch.

Whether or not they were Mennonite, I do not know.  For my dad’s mother and father considered themselves to be non-denominational Christians, and I was not made aware of any evidence of what prior generations were.

Neither do I know just when they came over, but it had to have been before the Civil War.  For Samuel Buterbaugh (same name with a different spelling) served under the Union General Sherman on his march to the sea through Georgia and South Carolina.  After the war, he rode under General Sheridan in a U.S. Army Calvary unit, and later became one of the earliest settlers of Kearney, Nebraska.

My dad’s father was raised in Omaha, Nebraska, and how he came to settle in Blue Mound, Kansas is another part of the mystery.  The same can be said of where he met my dad’s mother, who was about as Danish as one can be.

Anyway, there is no mystery to where the anger in my dad over me insisting that Beuterbaugh is a Germanic name came from.  For he served with the First Infantry Division of the U.S. Army during World War II, and saw his first action when he went ashore on Omaha Beach with the second wave of the division on June 6, 1944 (D-Day).  Furthermore, severe wounds received while out on patrol in the Ardennes Forest region of Belgium several months later at the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge landed him in a hospital in Paris, France for several weeks.

It could be argued that being wounded like that saved his life.  For when he woke up in the hospital, he saw his first sergeant lying in a bed across from him, and when he asked him what he was doing there, his first sergeant told him that they were the only survivors from their company.  For what ones were not shot first were crushed to death by the German tanks that had rolled straight over their position a day or so after he was wounded.

As if that was not enough, when he was released from the hospital, my dad was assigned to another unit that helped liberate the Buchenwald Concentration Camp in Germany.  The only thing that he really had to say about it was that it was then that he was glad that the army had stuck a rifle in his hand instead of letting him do what he knew the best, which was run a bulldozer.

You see, my dad was a pipeliner, which is someone who travels around the country (the world, actually) building pipelines for the transport of such things as natural gas and oil.  They can be heavy equipment operators, welders and a host of other things, and my dad was a master bulldozer man until back problems forced him to start operating a ditching machine a few years before those back problems forced him off of the job completely.

It all started when his sister Maxine married Paul Williams, who was a full-blooded Choctaw from the reservation in Oklahoma.  Uncle Paul was also a pipeliner, and he was able to arrange employment for my dad as a bulldozer greaser during summer vacations from school.

From then on, my dad was hooked.  For the money was very good—especially during the days of the depression, and tales of faraway places, like South Carolina and Connecticut, fueled the imagination of a boy who knew only the prairie of eastern Kansas.

No, not even an offer of a full scholarship to play basketball for Phog Allen at Kansas University (ROCK-CHALK, JAY-HAWK, K-U!) could dissuade my dad.  For he was going to be a pipeliner, and be the best bulldozer operator that had ever been seen.

Speaking of my dad playing basketball, he once told of his high school team getting beat 100 – 2, and that he had scored the only points for his team on a pair of free throws.  The rest of the story was that the principal called the entire school to an assembly, and after placing the members of the basketball team in chairs behind him so that they could be clearly seen by all, he then proceeded to declare, in no uncertain terms, that he would dissolve the team and forfeit the rest of the games if anything even remotely like that 100 – 2 defeat happened again.  Considering the fact that my dad was the shortest player on the team at six feet tall, and that the rest of the starting line-up consisted of two at 6 feet 10 inches tall and two at six feet seven inches tall, who could blame him?

No, I cannot blame you for thinking that his story is quite a tall tale in and of itself.  For there being so many white boys that tall around a very small eastern Kansas farming community back in the 1930s is hard to imagine.

On the other hand, my wife and I saw an older gentleman, who appeared to have been born around the same time as my dad, have to duck to go under a seven foot tall doorway in a Liberal, Kansas restaurant one night.  So, maybe they just knew how to feed ‘em right back then?

My dad was also quite a shortstop for his Blue Mound High School baseball team.  In fact, he even received some offers to play in the St. Louis Cardinals, St. Louis Browns (that became the Baltimore Orioles in 1954) and Chicago Cubs farm systems, but the money they were talking about was not nearly as much as he was already making pipelining.

So, after sticking around Blue Mound for a year or so to care for his ailing parents upon his return from the war, my dad returned to the life that he loved.  Granted, it was a lonely one, but that all changed when he met a red-headed Cherokee from Arkansas in 1951.

It was just the two of them touring the country one pipeline jobsite at a time until the old adage, all good things must come to an end, bit them squarely on the buttocks in November of 1957.  For that is when I came along.

All was not lost, however.  For in December of 1962, my little brother arrived and helped them to understand that they were not nearly as bad at parenting as I was making it seem.

Alas, it is much to my shame that I still think of my dad with much fear and trembling, and I am talking about genuine fear here.  For after receiving a pretty good taste of what living with constant pain is like, I can certainly see where my dad showed great restraint when dealing with my antics.

Be assured that I am not trying to compare my condition with my dad’s.  For in 1967, it was determined that he had lost one complete vertebrae, along with the discs on both sides of where that vertebrae was supposed to be in his spinal column, from running bulldozers for too long.

Yeah, he knew great physical pain, and he knew great mental anguish, as well.  For after faithfully paying dues to the International Union of Operating Engineers for over 30 years, he found out just how corrupt and incompetent unions can be.  For they refused to give him a pension because of not being old enough to receive one yet, in accordance to their rules and regulations.

He was also reintroduced to just how corrupt and incompetent the federal government can be.  For before he could board the ship to come back home from World War II, he had to sign a waiver of all liability for his injuries or have to stay in Europe considerably longer, and 22 years later, here was the Social Security Administration denying his request for disability compensation the first time he applied.  Furthermore, it would be another two years before it was determined that missing a vertebrae might prevent one from holding regular emplyment.

No, it was not a truly happy day when those checks finally started coming.  Granted, it kept us from going plumb under, but my dad was of the opinion that real men do not accept help like that.  In fact, he absolutely hated Roosevelt and his new deal until the day he died in 1981.

The time of his death is another thing that I am deeply ashamed of.  That is, at least my part in it.  For I was not there when his time as a part of this world came to an end because of not wanting to see the look of deep disappointment on his face when he looked at me.

Be assured that I would not wish what I am having to live with now upon my worst enemy.  Yeah, I know that I am forgiven, but forgiving myself is another thing entirely.  So, do yourself a favor and go spend as much time as you can with your dad before it is too late—even if you do not have a good relationship with him.  For you just might surprised (shocked, actually) by what our Heavenly Father can do to mend broken relationships when it is in accordance to His will.

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  1. A somewhat sad but good story, Jerry. My dad died in '84 and I still miss him.

  2. Thanks for stopping by, my dear Gorges!!! It is somewhat comforting to know, which goes far beyond merely believing, that all went as our Heavenly Father wanted between my dad and me, as part of what He wanted to accomplish in and through us, but it still hurts. Oh, and yes, I do miss him.


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