Its coming up on fatherís day again and
again I find myself holding conversations with a man who has been gone from
this earth for sixty two years. Since I was only six months old when he
passed away, I only know him by the stories family and friends have told me
through the years. While some were witty and funny, others were sad or
dramatic. People who have depended on others to embellish on their
reputation have gone from ordinary people to men of great renown. Others
have gone from complete losers to great successes. I could tell you tales of
that sort about my father, but it would
serve no purpose. Maybe the real reason is because I do not have the word
power necessary to raise him above all other men. So I will tell you a few
short items to give you an idea of who he really was and if per chance my
father comes out the other end being just short of Will Rogers or Andrew
Carnegie it will be because of his life and not how well I can spin a tale.
Dennie Duff was a born of humble beginnings, lived an unassuming life and
died in obscurity. He came into this world with nothing and left with less
as far as possessions are concerned. He never owned or drove a car. What
little he had accumulated in his savings account was taken when the banks
closed during the great depression. When he wasnít working on the railroad,
he was producing as much as his small farm would allow including seven
children. He saw to it that his family never went hungry and taught his
children that a good name was worth all the money in the world. (If you
would talk to any of his children, they would have opted for the money.)
That, as far as the world is concerned, is the story of my father.
The merchants who had done business with my father would gladly tell me how
he loved to stop by their store and swap tall tales with the locals. He once
had a man convinced that at five twenty in the afternoon the true distance
was only a mile and a half from the top of Keenyís Knob to the Sun. Another
time he told the story of how he saved the express passenger train from
derailing. It seemed, as my father told it, he was working on a section gang
in a remote part of West Virginia when he noticed early one morning there
had been a landslide which covered the tracks and had taken out the
telegraph wires which ran along them. My father said he jumped up on the
camp cars that the crew was staying in and taking a couple of stove pipes,
he wrapped them around his legs and went up on the side of the mountain with
the telegraph wires attached to the stove pipes, where there was a large
rattle snake den. He provoked those snakes into striking the stove pipes in
such a way as to send an SOS signal to the closest train depot who flagged
down the train.
He also had a serious side. Once a flash flood had almost wiped out a coal
town in the southern part of the state. My father organized the section gang
to help clean up after water had subsided. If he gave his word he kept it.
If he made a deal he went through with it. If he made a debt he repaid it.
Mr. Rowe, the president of the bank, loaned me the money to buy my class
ring when I graduated from high school, because of my fatherís reputation.
He said he would not normally loan a seventeen year old money, but if I was
anything like my father, he would get his money back. He did, I remember
making every payment.
I miss my father very much. You would think it would be hard to miss a
person you never knew. There have been occurrences in my life when I wish he
could be there to share those moments with me. Even now, I find myself
talking to him, asking his advice. I am now older than he was when he died,
yet the father figure doesnít change. The older I get the more I revere him,
not for what he achieved in his lifetime, but for what he left me as a
legacy for mine.