As Father’s Day approaches I come back again to the attributes my dad left our family. Chief among them was his intellectual curiosity, stoic endurance and courage when facing hard times. I remember him as an introvert and a person not prone to express his thoughts and feelings. Yet his actions told you every thing you wanted to know about these things.
As an infant of less than a year old I remember the feeling of his chest and shoulders moving as he carried me and his smell and the rhythm of his breathing that gave me so much comfort. There were the little gestures that meant so much like taking me to the back of a grocery store in the farm town of Marked Tree, Arkansas and handing me a half a pint of chocolate milk out of the cooler and then offering me a second one as a special treat.
His generosity with family was on display in the evenings after work when he played poker with other farm workers for nickles, dimes and quarters. In those games, Seledonio, my second oldest uncle on my mother’s side would always be at his side and seemed to always lose. Yet he never missed a card game. I found out how he was able to do that when, after a game, my father handed back to my uncle all of the money he had lost.
Only once did I see in my dad an anger that was almost out of control. A farmer in Central Texas insulted my father’s dignity and even appeared to threaten him with a gun if my father did not continue work the field with the tractor into the night. Instead, dad went home, got his rifle and a started for the farmer’s house dragging my mother as she tried to talk him out of doing something terrible. Needless to say, the next day the family left the farm and signed up with Great Western Sugar Company that was recruiting workers for the beet fields in Colorado.
My most vivid memory of my dad was as a 4-year old on the front floor board of a truck, dozing at the feet of my father and listening to him and my uncles sing together. The truck, loaded with migrant workers, was at the head of a caravan coming from the cotton fields of Arkansas home to South Texas. I can still hear them singing popular songs and beautifully harmonizing. I remember two of the songs and their words. The first is a great old piece called “Me Persigue Tu Sombra.” This song continues to be played and sung at Latino dances around the country.
I did not know the title of the other song but I knew the words. After talking to my mother to see if she could help (she could not) I decided to search for its name.
I felt that the title might come from the words on the first stanza: “Dios te pague mujer por lo bueno que has sido.” After years of searching I recently found the song on YouTube under the name “Dios te Pague” sang by a group called “Los Coyotes” on a 45 disc label called Fuentes.
I have been so excited about the find that I have made it an important item of conversation in the family. It is like reliving that important moment in my infant childhood.