1928 - Alderson High School - 1968

 

Father:
 A male parent. A male who
adopts a child or who otherwise holds
a paternal relationship toward another.

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.