On Father’s Day, Remembering My ‘Rich’, ‘Free’, ‘Wise” Dad

Published on June 16, 2013

He taught me that not having what others would consider a lot was not a bad thing. We would be riding in his little flat bottom monarch boat with the 30 horse power Chrysler engine and we’d see bigger boats flying by and we’d end up across the river at the opening of Target Lake to watch the sunset and count Wood Ducks that were flying to the marsh to roost and he’d say, “Stephie we’re rich.” And he was right. Who needs a cabin cruiser or a bass boat when you have that lake, that sunset, the ducks, a dad and very large black Labrador/Irish Setter cross named Champion to share it with? We had more than Donald Trump.

Even a man who valued his freedom understood that liberty isn’t about doing whatever one wanted no matter what it was. Look at many of the large “L” libertarians or leftwing Democrats and one will see they don’t know the difference between license and liberty. Liberty is about living on one’s own terms, with respect, decency and humility to God. Liberty is about owning a gun and knowing how to use it and being responsible for any animals that the hunter takes. Liberty is raising your children to be good citizens and passing on morals and values that have seen generations before them through. It is about work, and putting bread on your family’s tables and not asking the government for a hand out or whining about being a victim.

The day he came home from the Bank and said we own our house he was so happy. I don’t think anyone understands what that means anymore. One would have to see homes lost like my Dad did as a boy, and having nothing and truly being poor to understand that when that final payment on the mortgage came through it meant something real to my Dad. It meant that after how many years of paying and hard work, the little house on Winnebago was his, ours. The home he and my Mom built. It was the finest thing that ever happened to him and he did it on his own.

I didn’t get that moment at the time, I was a preteen and horse crazy. Now, as an adult I do understand and I wish I could tell him that I got what he meant and why he was thrilled about it. To me, in retrospect, owning that house was the ultimate expression of being a free man and that’s what my Dad was.

My Dad taught me wisdom didn’t come from a college course taught by a pony-tailed, disconnected professor or my text books. It came from life’s experiences. It came from that first duck down, that first buck and getting thrown from a horse the first time. It came from fighting bullies and standing up for oneself and getting your heart broken. He was better read than anyone I know and, though he never finished high school, he was one of the most respected men on the river and at his work. He could out debate my old English professor at the bar and quietly with humor squash one of my well educated leftist siblings. He didn’t need a diploma to be logical and see how things really were.

I can still see him kneeling down on the bow of our little boat running a set line, or paddling slowly along a river bank looking for signs of raccoons or mink. I can see him sitting at our kitchen table reading Tolkien for the millionth time or Gene Hill’s books of essays. He was always there to answer a question, or ask how any of his children were. I hope he knew how proud I was of him and still am.

Image: William J. Netzer of La Crosse Wisconsin, circa 1977

stephStephanie Janiczek is a former Capitol Hill Staff Assistant, Schedule C Appointee and Leadership Institute alum. Military Wife, Hunter, Horse enthusiast, dog owner, writer and feminist kryptonite.

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