The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

By David Stevens
Editor 

Some dads are superheroes

 


The first clear memory I have of my dad was in the alley behind our house in Muleshoe.

He met me at our gate and we walked the block back to his work, at Piggly Wiggly, where he purchased for me a Fighting Ace action figure because I had to have it.

I thought he was a superhero for doing that. I was maybe 5.

Another early childhood memory involved a trip to his hometown of Leonard, Texas, — population about 500 at the time — where everybody called him Johnny.

I’d heard people call him John or Steve many times. I’d never heard Johnny before.

The other thing that struck me about that trip — again, I think I was about 5 — is that all the people in Leonard, Texas, wanted to see my dad and spend time with him and they told stories that made him seem like a superhero.

John Stevens is 81 today, still living in Muleshoe with my mom in the trailer house off the Friona highway where I mostly grew up after we moved outside town. He still buys stuff for kids that they have to have, and he still enjoys celebrity status among those whose lives he has touched.

He’s not perfect. Let’s be clear about that.

He’s a lousy storyteller, often forgetting his point, leaving out important information, inserting a lot of irrelevant information.

He has a terrible sense of direction. There was that time we went to Six Flags over Texas and ended up surrounded by security guards at a locked gate outside an airport. (At least he asked them for directions.)

And he has a bit of a temper. Ask Benny Floyd.

My teenage neighbor in the 1970s decided it might be fun one summer night to pop firecrackers after midnight. My dad opened his bedroom window and barked at Benny and his friends, “You’re going to burn our house down. Cut it out.”

They stopped for a few minutes, then started again. The window opened again and my dad said, “Stop it now or I’m coming out with my shotgun.”

I don’t know if my dad would have shot those boys over firecrackers, but they knew him well enough to understand it was a realistic possibility and the noise ended.

I do not remember that he ever said anything significant to me while I was growing up. He certainly didn’t say, “Grow where you’re planted,” or “Swing hard, in case you hit it,” or anything inspirational like that.

But he was inspirational in many ways — usually without a lot of words.

Bust up the ice in the stock tank so the cows can drink. Water the pigs. Go get the eggs. Or else.

He was determined to instill in me a strong work ethic. Or else.

But I’ve never known anyone who worked harder than he did.

He tended the farm animals and was at the grocery store before I got up to go to school. He was still at work when I got home. And as soon as he took off that produce-manager apron, he was back at the barn, often until dark.

He taught character by example as well.

He didn’t say, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” He just did it.

His friend Cleon knocked on our back door one night. Cleon said he’d been with our neighbor Joe in Joe’s barn. Cleon had misplaced the keys to his pickup. Or maybe Cleon had the keys, but he’d misplaced his pickup; he wasn’t speaking all that clear. And he smelled funny.

Cleon wanted to know if my dad could maybe run him home. Of course, my dad ran him home, and the incident was never mentioned again.

When I think about my dad on Father’s Day, or any other day, I think about how actions speak louder than words, about his work ethic and about all the people, like Cleon that night, who came to him when they needed help because they knew they could count on him.

I guess that’s how Johnny got to be a superhero.

David Stevens is editor of Clovis Media Inc. Contact him at: dstevens@thenews.email

 

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