This will be a difficult column to write. On Father’s Day, my dad, Farrel Dablemont, passed away peacefully, with his family around him. He was 84 years old and had suffered for several years with Parkinsonπs disease. 

This will be a difficult column to write. On Father’s Day, my dad, Farrel Dablemont, passed away peacefully, with his family around him. He was 84 years old and had suffered for several years with Parkinsonπs disease.  

He had been spared the tremors which go with that dreaded disease, but for the past year, walking had become very difficult. I am comforted by knowing that the he is walking just fine now, the man who stood so tall and strong when I was a kid, who taught me little by little, over many years, the things a boy should know about living right.

My dad had many friends and family who have preceded him in death, and personally I believe that somewhere, wherever heaven is, there is a great reunion going on this week. And while there may indeed be streets of gold and great mansions in that place, I have a feeling there are also beautiful rivers and woodlands and wild ducks, and turkeys and fish. Dad wasn’t much of a fan of golden streets; he liked woodland paths with wildflowers in the spring and fall colors and a good tracking snow in the winter.  

He loved to float rivers, and while in my boyhood we were confined to the Big Piney and the Gasconade, as I grew up we explored many others, like the Buffalo, the Kings and the War Eagle in Arkansas, and one of his favorites, that we first saw in 1971, Crooked Creek.

We got to fish together one last time a little more than a year ago, before it became too difficult for him. That was quite a day, as we caught smallmouth and Kentucky bass and largemouth by the dozens in a stream not far from here. His disease had taken the smile from his face, but he was smiling inside that day, and we talked then about how blessed he considered himself to be, with the very greatest of friends and a family blessed, I believe, because of the good life he had led.

He and my mother had moved up next to me in northern Polk County ten years ago, but dad lived most of his life over around Houston. His last 20 years of work, he drove a school bus for the Houston School District, and was so proud of that job and all the friends he made there. But of course you remember, if you read much of what I wrote, that he and my grandfather bought the pool hall in Houston when I was eleven years old, and I went to work there, from age eleven to the age of 16.

I couldn’t wait ‘til school was out so I could head for my important job at the pool hall, where all my friends were, old men in their 60’s and 70’s we come to call the front bench regulars. What an education it was, the basis for a book I wrote a few years back, entitled “The Front Bench Regulars.”

On weekends, dad and I floated the river in one of the wooden johnboats he built, to fish for goggle-eye and green sunfish and smallmouth, or we set trotlines for huge flathead catfish up to forty pounds or so.  We hunted ducks on the Piney out of those same johnboats, and in time I started guiding city fishermen on the river in those boats of his.

Dad was proud to have built so many of those johnboats, and he perfected a johnboat with a plywood bottom in the late 60’s. In his lifetime, he must have built close to 110 boats. And we hunted rabbits and squirrels and caught bullfrogs and trapped a little and did everything you could think of that Ozark outdoor fathers did with their sons.

Dad had a close friend who was a blessing to our family, by the name of Charlie Hartman, one of the finest men I ever knew or ever will know. Charlie and dad were very close, and when I was young we hunted quail with Charlie because he raised and trained the very finest bird dogs in the Ozarks.

And thinking back on it, I believe I developed the values I have today not only from what my dad taught me to be right and wrong, but from watching the men who were close friends of his, men who were the best examples a boy could have.  His sense of humor, and quickness to laugh hard and long, were shared by those men, and spread to me at an early age. How could I not be happy? I was the luckiest kid in the world.

We went to country churches, we had big family get-togethers in the summer and fall, and I grew up. I never smoked or drank alcohol because dad forbade it, and made it plain that he set rules and I would follow them. I follow the same rules today, and have watched many of the boys from my youth ruin their lives with tobacco, alcohol and drugs which I never felt a need for. I had a dad who kept me too busy for that.

My dad looked at himself as a common man without much education, who loved to study the bible and tried to improve himself all through life in every way he could. He didn't figure he did enough with his life, and he always regretted that. But he never knew the full extent of his influence, his teaching. He never knew fully the admiration people had for him, not for being some perfect person, but for being someone who loved other people, who wanted to do good things for those around him, and tried to correct his mistakes when he made them.

Today I am remembering the river as it was in early summer, when as a boy I floated with dad, casting a shimmy fly into swirling green pockets where goggle-eye and smallmouth waited in the depths. I remember the smell of the river just after sunrise, the sound of a paddle dipping quietly into the water, the singing of birds, the quiet roar of an upcoming shoal.

Those days, long in the past, live with me still. I am not sorry they cannot be again, I am thankful we had them, and I still have them to savor and remember. And I believe, as strongly as I believe in the Creator that made those wondrous places and days, that there will be a time dad and I will be there again, floating a river more beautiful than any we ever saw, in one of those wooden johnboats.

But for now, I will go on doing the best I can here, with grandsons to teach what dad taught me. And there are many more stories to write about those good days when my dad was tall and strong, and I was young. There is so much I remember and so much to tell.  I’ll finish a book someday that tells it all, when I get a chance to write it.

In the pool hall one summer evening, only yesterday it seems, I told Ol’ Bill I just couldn’t wait for duck season. He grew somber and said, “Don’t wish your life away boy, someday those treasured times you look forward to now will be treasured days you remember. When you get to be my age you will look backwards much more often than you look forward.”