Every Little Boy Needs a Hero …
Young people need models, not critics. -John Wooden
“As you get older it is harder to have a hero, but it is sort of necessary.” -Ernest Hemingway
“You don’t raise heroes, you raise sons. And if you treat them like sons, they’ll turn out to be heroes, even if it’s just in your own eyes.” -Walter M. Schirra, Sr.
My hero was my Uncle Larry Patton.
This is a photo of the biggest male influence and my hero. His name was Larry Patton and he was my Uncle. He died suddenly but peacefully at his home some time back. Those who know me and my siblings know that our home life and childhood were not ideal, but Uncle Larry to me was the shining light in my life and gave me a role model to look up to. He always had a smile and a joke and a great sense of humor.
In my youth, I would spend my summers on Uncle Larry and Grandpa (Pappy) Dale farms in Lane County Kansas. Easily my fondest memories from my childhood. Sitting here this evening a flood of memories has engulfed me.
Some of the things I remember, riding shotgun with Uncle Larry – just about everywhere. To check crops, cattle, to refuel the tractors and countless trips to Alamota and Dighton, Kansas.
Uncle Larry would let me ride with him in the tractor on hot July days with no air conditioning.
When making a visit to the grain elevator in Alamota he never even would ask he would purchase a cold Pepsi in a bottle from the soda machine and hand it to me.
Letting me drive him to get the mail at the post office in Alamota, Kansas when I was 11.
Buying me hamburgers and large limeades at the Frigid Crème in Dighton.
Giving me extra money for tickets at the Lane County Fair in Dighton.
Letting me blow up ant hills with firecrackers around the 4th July.
Taking time to help me look for arrowheads and sea shells (Yes, folks, there are seashells in Kansas) in hot dusty pastures.
The worry looks he always had during the wheat harvest as he watched the skies for storms and hail.
Letting me ride in the combines and grain trucks.
Laying down with him in a bar ditch on the side of the county road waiting for a tornado to pass – never felt safer.
His “pass the butter trick” at dinner, which always ended up with someone with melted butter greased from the palm of their hand to their elbow.
Helping me catch my first jar full of fireflies.
Helping me name my first toad I caught “Fred” and each toad after that as “Fred 2” and “Fred 3” on so on and on,
His laughter after he realized I wasn’t hurt after I was kicked in the gonads by a blind calf I had corned in the corral.
His chuckles when my cousin Rod would dump a pipe full of water on me when we were moving irrigation pipe in the corn fields (I never did learn).
How he held me when he thought I was sad.
Letting my cousins and I race the riding lawn mower and the three wheeler up and down the dirt on the road next to the farm.
When I was older and married with kids of my own on how he took my brand new 1982 Chevy Blazer and herded some cows with it in Manhattan Kansas (he had a habit of running into said cows),
How he came to South Dakota when my family and I lived there numerous times when my Mom (his sister) was stricken with dementia and how he was the rock that I needed when it was decided that it would be better to put mom into the nursing home, that the staff was better equipped to deal with her condition.
Always when I was older, he was my sounding board when things in life took a downward trend, how strong he was when my mom died, when I was not.
When I was little I always wanted to be like Uncle Larry, to look like him, have his sense of humor – He will be missed by others, I will miss him – I loved him – he was my hero….
Kurt James © 2016
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