My father was a very talented but self-centered man. The only other person who interested him as much as himself was his wife, my mother.
Born north of Atlanta in 1915, he roamed the woods of nearby Kennesaw Mountain, scene of a brutal Civil War battle, where he would find rotted military gear.
Rebel vets were still alive when he was born, and he never liked Yankees.
Perhaps this inspired his interest in history. He wanted to be an archaeologist, but the Great Depression prevented that because there were no archaeology departments closer than New Mexico, and who had the cash to go that far?
So he went to the University of Georgia in Athens and studied journalism, which is history in the making. He met my mother there, and they eloped one day on a lunch break from his newspaper job in Atlanta.
He roamed the woods behind my maternal grandparents’ home where he would find Indian arrowheads and spearheads too. And years later we had a burlap bag of stone Indian gear. Cherokees lived on the banks of the cypress pond long ago.
Watching strike-breaking goons in the 1930s was a big part, one supposes, of what made him a socialist, a political stance he never abandoned. He was a fan of Eugene Debs and Michael Harrington. His son, of course, leans in the other direction. Times change.
The old boy was a boozer. I don’t know at what age he started, but he stopped in his early 50s, and spent the following 20-plus years stone sober. He was never a mean or violent drunk, which was good. Instead, he was mellow and sad.
He went to Korea on a troopship during the Second World War. Yes, Korea during the Second World War, not the Korean War. He had a safe desk job, and never took a shot at anybody, which was also good because I doubt he would have done it.
On returning from Korea, he spent the rest of the 1940s on his in-laws’ farm in Southwest Georgia. He raised chickens and wrote short stories, selling both. Eggs too.
But the combination of short stories, poultry and eggs didn’t put sufficient food on the table for a family of four, so he had to return to newspapering, which he did in Jacksonville, Florida, for just over a decade.
Then his mother-in-law died, leaving my parents with a farm, and off they went.
He quit drinking shortly after and wrote poetry — both traditional and haiku — for the rest of his life. He won many prizes and awards for both in the United States and Japan, and he appeared in a number of poetry anthologies.
He became a very big deal in the small world of American haiku.
Two of his books are available on Amazon. One is a “collectible” because it is signed. It can be yours for $20 plus shipping, it says.
I would have preferred Ozzie Nelson.