Three Men and a Truck

 

My running route takes me past no fewer than a dozen home construction sites. The workers are up and at it early, and I appreciate them and the work they do. I love construction. Each day there is tangible evidence of work accomplished for anyone involved or geeky enough like me to pay attention.

My father was a builder, as was his father before him. Grandpa Dave had a dry farm in Canyon Creek and a small construction business in Rexburg. When Dad bought the business, he ultimately leased out the farm and focused on construction – expanding to commercial construction, including hospitals and schools and multiple buildings on the Ricks College campus.

Today’s run got me thinking about my father.

My dad was motivated by principles (including honesty, integrity and self-reliance) not political correctness. Most times that served him and us well, but occasionally it could get a little awkward. One year, Ricks College honored him as Business Man of the Year with a lovely dinner and many kind words and a plaque of some sort. When it was his turn to speak, rather than just thank everyone graciously, he took the opportunity to call out a concern of his, now ‘lovingly’ referred to as the “Three Men in a Truck” talk. Dad was upset at a trend he observed on campus – three school employees dispatched to do the job one or at the most two could do. He observed that usually a least one of the employees had nothing to do, and no purpose in being there other than to draw a check – so the worker would lean on a shovel or just watch the others. Sure the leaning and watching could be rotated among all three, but Dad was frustrated and concerned not just with the wasting of funds, but with what the practice was promoting – the wasting of lives, and of initiative and of hard work — systematically teaching all three employees to do less than they were capable of.

Currently the main road to my home in Heber has a transverse trench dug out of it to lay some power lines. The project has gone on for weeks. The other day, I counted eleven workers surrounding that trench – eleven…..two of whom were working. The others weren’t. And I thought of my dad.

Dad taught his kids and his employees how to see things through their employers’ eyes. He taught me when I submitted a time card with eight hours on it, I had better worked all eight of those hours, and then some. Otherwise I was being dishonest, and unfair to my employer. None of this showing up late, dorking around during the day, and taking off early stuff. That was unacceptable – no matter who did or did not see it, or how many others were doing it. Dad taught us to see the worth in a day not by how many hours we clocked, but by how much we accomplished, and the accompanying self-satisfaction that can only be earned, never doled out.

During World War II, Dad left my mother and my eldest brother (who was one at the time) for two years to serve his country. He came home and served his community and eventually his district in some way every year after that. Sometimes he served publically and prominently, more often he served privately and anonymously. He was a man of means who lived well beneath his means. By doing so he provided opportunities and blessings for not only his family and friends, but also total strangers. For several years he and Mother gifted every Ricks College graduate a silver dollar with an invitation to return it one-hundredfold to the school at some future time.

Dad hated politics, but loved his country, so he served in various political offices. He was fiercely pro-education and even more fiercely anti-union. While in the Idaho Legislature he requested an assignment on the Education Committee – which most legislators avoided because historically it was a no-win responsibility. But Dad willingly took on the challenge, hoping to improve education while still operating within a reasonable budget, and giving students and parents the most options and opportunities available.

It was important to him that each of his children acquire a college education, so we did. That same thing was important to me, so our children did, too. But now I’m not so sure that’s a goal or expectation I have for each of my grandchildren….because, sadly, too many campuses have become institutions of indoctrination and overwhelming financial indebtedness. They’re places where students are taught what to think, and what they can and cannot say, (from their ‘safe spaces’) rather than how to think, and more importantly how to think for themselves…..let alone to have the courage to speak the truth — even when that truth is neither personally expedient or politically correct.

See, (gratefully and sadly) I’m a lot like my dad. That previous paragraph isn’t going to sit well with a lot of people. That’s ok. I think it’s a truth that needs to be spoken anyway.

Yesterday I found a letter my father had written to a friend and constituent in 1985 on the occasion of her husband’s passing and Dad’s attendance at the funeral:

“Dear XXXXXXX:

Today for the space of two hours I sat in the presence of greatness – not just that of the man whose passing we mourned, but more particularly in that of the family and the legacy which he left.

My what a talented group of offspring, and what a wonderful way to display them to their father’s friends. As each one contributed his or her part in the service your pride must surely have drowned out your sorrow. After XXXXX’s poetry even I, as a non-familiar friend, wanted to shout “Look, world, what has come out of Rexburg!”

My first memory of you goes back to a second floor apartment in the old Chevrolet Garage building (later a Ricks College dormitory) when you were newly married and I was one of a group of Primary children you invited up for cookies. That was many many years ago but that first enchantment with you has never dimmed. You are a great lady.

God bless you in your new assignment.

Dick Davis”

That’s good writing. I’m pleased and impressed he took the time to compose and send letters frequently – stating his condolences, his frustrations, his hopes, and his concerns depending upon who the various recipients of those letters were. I miss him. In 1993 at age 71 he died much too early for Mother and all of us. But maybe it’s better that he’s not here to witness the bloating of government or private waste from “Three men in a truck” to “Eleven men and a trench”. It would trouble him. It troubles me.

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