Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: TOWER (01/16/20)
By Leola Ogle
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They found his body in the spot where I’m standing, the same spot where he was born. I close my eyes and sense my father’s life that started and ended here. Farming was all he knew. Born during the Great Depression when the Dust Bowl decimated farms, Dad knew poverty.
Born seventh of nine children, Grandma said Dad was a strange boy from his birth. “I was in the barn, praying while I tended to the livestock. One giant pain gripped me as my body released my baby. Were nothing like I ever experienced in childbirth. I fainted from the pain. When I came to, Molly the cow was licking Thomas. People think I’m lying when I say Thomas was smiling and cooing. My biggest baby ever, must’ve been eleven pounds and twenty-five inches long. All his life, he towered over everyone. He didn’t talk ‘til he was five. We thought he couldn’t. His mind was always elsewhere, with the animals, nature, God. Our community was starving. All that dust and no rain. Crops failed. Thomas’s first word was God. He’d been down by our dried-up pond. Weren’t more than a mud hole. I’s a-praying for something to feed my family when he walked in the kitchen carrying this big catfish. I was dumbstruck. I asked how he got a fish like that from that nothing-pond. He said, ‘God.’”
Grandma smiled at the memory. “He’s always talking to God. And animals. He loved animals, probably from Molly licking him. He claimed him and the animals talked to each other.” Her smile faded. “People made fun of him, bullied him all his younger years. Kids called him T-T-Towering T-T Thomas, ‘cause he stuttered and ‘cause he was so tall. Sadly, some feared him because of his abilities.”
Dad never stuttered around family and kept quiet around others. He grew to 6’ 8” and was homely – big ears, orange hair, and bone-skinny with a shuffling gait. His abilities were strange. He’d stroke an animal while whispering to it and tell you what ailed the animal. He’d put his ear to the ground, and tell you where to dig a well. If he stared at someone long enough, he’d know their secrets – but it didn’t happen with everyone. He’d climb to the top of the silo and just sit, then tell you what the weather would be that week.
While some feared him, others sought his help. “Thomas never said or done an unkind thing in his life,” Grandma said. “There was something different about him. Special.”
As a boy, people left Dad’s farming community, but Dad’s family stayed. Grandma said he saved their lives several times – finding edible tubular roots by the creek bed or telling his father that Molly would birth a premature calf – things like that. No one could explain his abilities.
Grandpa eventually passed, Dad’s siblings left, but he stayed to care for the farm and Grandma. Still painfully shy at forty, Dad didn’t have many friends and certainly never a girlfriend. Until Mom.
Winona was Cherokee, married to George, an abusive alcoholic. When George died in a farming accident, it was rumored Winona was responsible, something she denied.
Grandma sent Dad to help Winona, who had two-year-old twin sons, Axel and Angus, with farm work. A month later, Winona arrived on the porch, asking Dad to marry her. My sister, Grace, was born a year later, and I was born two years after Grace.
Dad towered over my beautiful, petite mother. People often asked why she married someone who looked like my dad. She always responded, “My heart fell in love with Thomas, not my eyes. He is the most genuinely kind person I know.”
Their love for each other was obvious.
Axel had a real mean streak. He’d punch, kick, and throw things. Dad would gently cup Axel’s head in his hands and whisper in his ear until Axel calmed down. I loved Angus, but feared Axel until he changed under Dad’s care.
Time progressed. Angus became a doctor, Axel a pastor, and Grace a teacher. Because of Dad, I became a veterinarian.
Dad lived ninety good years. I bend and touch the spot where Dad was born and died, and thank God for giving me this amazing man as my father.
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