Points of Light

I am bound to live up to the light I have. I must stand with anyone who stands right, stand with him while he is right and part with him when he goes wrong.

The gleam in a father’s eye is waiting for each of us as we emerge from darkness into the brightness of life. In fact, the eyes of new Dads get a little misty as they witness the miracle of birth.

As days go by, the initial excitement dovetails into the responsibilities of fatherhood. Oh, how grand are the visions of being the perfect dad. Then, we encounter the reality of how messy relationships really are.

Although, literally, tongue-tied upon entry into this world, once that little member was set free, my insatiable curiosity was the driving force behind the questions in my mind. It was the beginning of my twenty-question routine, which later morphed into the Cowboy Poet & Philadelphia Lawyer shtick.

Birds and the Bees

Around ten years of age and in the 4th Grade, I started to notice girls. The one with blond hair, blue eyes and straight A’s had captured my full attention. At that age, boys will be boys, and we were learning cockiness, which naturally included the art of swearing. In the course of our classroom studies of spelling and vocabulary, we never seemed to get around to the definitions of what some of those four letter words meant.

One word, in particular, was especially mysterious to our adolescent group. Since this was before the day of Google searches and the conversation around the dinner table, one evening, seemed conducive to a question, I asked my parents. Swivel-neck is the best visual I can offer to explain their response. In a millisecond, their facial expressions and body language spoke volumes. Only problem — I didn’t understand the language.

Hand in HandNext day, I received a book from Mom. The following weekend, during Christmas Vacation, Dad and I were on foot behind a small group of cows as they were following the pickup to a new pasture. There was a skift of snow and all the grasses were dry, with heads full of grain. Dad reached down and pulled a handful of needle-grass. As he rubbed the seed into the palm of his hand, the name was obvious — a thin strand was attached to each seed of grain, which gave it the appearance of a needle and thread.

I knew something was up, because he gave a nervous sniff and cough — before, beginning what he had to share. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, he wanted the needle-grass seeds in the palm of his hand to emphasize the point. All I remember of what he said was something about swimming, wiggling, and eggs. Then he paused, literally — we stopped walking. He turned, with relief in his face, and assured me that the only intimate relationship I was going to have to worry about, until high-school graduation, was the one with my horse.

Daddy’s Hands (Video)
Artist: Holly Dunn

Daddy’s hands were soft and kind when I was cryin’.
Daddy’s hands were hard as steel when I’d done wrong.
Daddy’s hands weren’t always gentle,
But I’ve come to understand.
There was always love in Daddy’s hands.

Old Babe

True to Dad’s word, I developed a special relationship with that horse. In fact, the very next summer found the two of us engaged in a mind meld experience, as we convinced a bunch of bulls to do it our way. Dad was nowhere in sight, ours anyway. With hindsight and a son of my own, I have a sneaking suspicion Dad was on top of a hill enjoying the rodeo.

He had this crooked grin on his face, as we pushed a dozen bulls through the pasture gate — and, then he turned back, stepped off his horse, and closed the gate between us. As he stood safely on his side of the gate, his hand was gesturing towards the west — where I and the bulls were to go. Just a few miles through the hills and he would bring the stock-truck (olden days — before horse-trailers were invented) to haul my horse back home. That was the plan.

Thoughts to self, at the time — “What the heck is he thinking?! I’m just a kid. Is he serious?! The odds aren’t quite fair. There’s just one of me and a dozen bulls.” As he swung back up onto his horse and rode away, I had my answer.

Dad’s brother, my uncle John Foard, tells a story about their dad. He would line out his sons (four of them) on a project, by explaining what he wanted to be done, omitting most of the details of how to do it. Before he left, though, he would turn and ask, “Now you boys can do that, right?” In John’s words, “There was no way in hell we were going to tell him, No!”

Because of the anxiety of the journey ahead with those bulls, I have no memory of what, surely, must have been the same question of me. The answer, though, was a given. Now, all I had to do was figure out how to get from Point A to B.

Cows, being of the feminine gender, generally, tend to be fairly social. They stick together. Where one goes, they all go. Bulls, on the other hand, must strut their stuff, separate and apart from anyone else — twelve bulls and twelve different directions. Unless they’re on the run. Typical male approach to the world — one thing at a time.

One of me and one direction to go. So, I gathered up the corners of what seemed like a herd of cats and off we went, at a jog. Once they tired a little, the pace slowed. Then, in the middle of the whole dang show were shade trees and a waterhole, wouldn’t you know. Bogged-down is inadequate to describe the revenge taken by the bulls. As they stood belly deep in mud, peeking out from behind what had quickly become their favorite thicket, the unspoken jeers were worthy of a solution.

My horse almost put a kink in his neck turning back to look at me. We were thinking the same thing. This was ugly and it was going to get messy. There was only one way to do it, though. Pry out one bull at a time — and, make a good example of that first one. So, we picked the one giving us the dirtiest look and went to work on him.

By then, I had uncoiled several loops of my lariat, to just the right length, to pop that knot on the end like a whip. That old bull winced a little and stood his ground. Just what we thought — no easy way to do this. So, into the mud, we went with my horse leaning into the bull — while, I shortened the length of the rope whip. The combination of pressure and pain resulted in the bull, grudgingly, taking a few steps.

My horse and I were of the same mind to enhance one of the laws of physics — what is in motion, stays in motion. In fact, we wanted that bull to catch a gear. Once we had him on dry ground, up and over a small knoll into some green grass was where we took him. As we headed back for Number 2, my choice of words to describe our frustration included a few of those four-letter ones — admittedly, even some directed at Dad. After a few more trips to that spot of green, the mud-hole bulls began to wonder what they were missing and volunteered to follow their peers.

I’ll never forget the smile on his face and the twinkle in his eye as Dad stood there by the open gate as a dozen bulls paraded past. Whether he had been watching, or not, he knew what was required to pass his test. He asked how it went. I replied, “Good.”

Lessons Learned (Video)
Artist: Tracy Lawrence

I was ten years old the day I got caught,
With some dime store candy that I never bought.
I hung my head and I faced the wall,
as Daddy showed me wrong from right.
He said this hurts me more than it does you;
There’s just some things son that you just don’t do.
Is anything I’m sayin’ getting through? Daddy I can see the light.
Oh lessons learned; man they sure run deep.
They don’t go away and they don’t come cheap.
Oh there’s no way around it, this world turns on lessons learned.

Silly Me

A few years ago, there was an occasion for me to say to my son and daughter, “Now, I want you to watch me.” They cocked their heads and gave me the Scooby Doo, “Huh?!”

The intent was pure. Rather than listen to words, which are cheaper by the dozen — I wanted them to watch the actions and results. Recently, I’ve had to laugh at how funny ‘we‘ can be. Sure enough, they have watched me — fall down, make mistakes, be humbled, admit frailties, and, generally, be a perfectly normal dad. Even funnier is the realization that they have watched all of that, from the very beginning. Why I thought they, as teenagers, needed to be reminded is still a mystery. Guess it explains the Scooby Doo response from them, though.

Silly Them

I watched my Dad give all. Late in his life, there was an occasion to defend his honor. A couple of clowns wanted to take issue with his silent creed — “I am bound to live up to the light I have. I must stand with anyone who stands right, stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong.”

While true to his core, those other two guys needed to understand a little more about my Dad. Known to be verbose, I thought a better approach was to use a song, recently released at the time, to make my point. So, the four of us listened together.

Point of Light (Video)
Artist: Randy Travis

There is a point when you cannot walk away,
When you have to stand up straight and tall and mean the words you say.
There is a point you must decide just to do it ’cause it’s right.
That’s when you become a point of light.

There is a darkness that everyone must face.
It wants to take what’s good and fair and lay it all to waste.
And that darkness covers everything in sight
Until it meets a single point of light.

All it takes is a point of light,
A ray of hope in the darkest night.
If you see what’s wrong and you try to make it right,
You will be a point of light.

There are heroes whose names we never hear,
A dedicated army of quiet volunteers
Reaching out to feed the hungry,
Reaching out to save the land,
Reaching out to help their fellow man.

There are dreamers who are making dreams come true,
Taking time to teach the children
There’s nothing they can’t do,
Giving shelter to the homeless,
Giving hope to those without.
That is what this county’s all about.

One by one, from the mountains to the sea
Points of light are calling out to you and me.

All it takes is a point of light,
A ray of hope in the darkest night.
If you see what’s wrong and you try to make it right,
You will be a point of light.

If you see what’s wrong and you try and make it right,
you will be a point of light.

Living Up To The LightDad & Me 1200 x 1371

At the end of 3 minutes and 37 seconds, two heads were bowed in disgrace. Dad and I — with heads held high — were looking at each other remembering an open gate and a dozen bulls. My hope is that Lindsey and Ryan, each, have a special memory of me, to be their point of light.

www.kimfoard.com

Generation to Generation

Grandfather clocks are representative of the grandeur of statesmen and the indelible legacy of the pendulum swings — from generation to generation.

The Pendulum Swings

Much is explained in the statement, “Sons are more like their grandfathers than their dads.” When I first heard it, I wondered, “Why?” Then it dawned on me, “We always want what we don’t have.”

This is a story about my son, his grandfathers (maternal and paternal), his great-grandfather, his great-great-grandfather, and his great-great-great grandfather. Truly, it is a great story!

The Cowboy

My son experienced a sense of community by starting and finishing his school years in Roundup, Montana. He graduated from High School in the company of many friends, with whom he had started Kindergarten. As for me, I was the new kid on three very different playgrounds during my junior year of High School: Longview, TX; New Underwood, SD; and Lavina, MT.

Here’s where the story begins. Later, we’ll do the introspective analysis of the common theme in this Foard journey. Enjoy!

Addison Kemp Foard was born in Baltimore, Maryland in the year of 1826. His son, Arthur Craig Foard joined his parents in the city during the year of 1860. His son, Charles Arthur Foard was the first generation to experience childhood in Montana, beginning in 1895. His son, James Burnett Foard graced the world by arriving in 1931; much more than a dad, he became a hero. Sometimes teased as being a dinosaur, my preference is to be thought of as a Classic, having arrived in the year of 1955 and given the name Kim Burnett Foard. The fellow who is following in the footsteps of his grandfathers began his journey on July 25, 1988. His name is Ryan Charles Foard.

At times, Ryan will hop in my pickup, reach over and take the Zune MP3 music player into his hands, and dial up my favorite Paul Overstreet song, Seein’ My Father In Me. We listen to it together. No explanation before as to why, nor any discussion afterwards about what. We each just bask in the thoughts and emotions.

For me, the chorus rings true in the relationship with my Dad:

And now lookin’ back I can recall the times we disagreed
When I could not take hold of his old fashioned ways
And the more I tried to prove him wrong
The more I proved him right
Now I know why he still stood by me
When I went through that stage

Recently, a new release by Brad Paisley Anything Like Me is the other side of that ‘Father-Son’ coin. As I listened to it for the first time, each line of the song tugged at a heart-string and recalled a memory about my favorite son.

I’ve seen this look in Ryan’s eyes:

He’s gonna love me and hate me along the way
Years are gonna fly by; I already dread the day
He’s gonna hug his momma; he’s gonna shake my hand
He’s gonna act like he can’t wait to leave

One thing is for certain about Ryan — he does everything with style. When it came to leaving home after High School Graduation, think “tornado” — and you’ll have some idea of the whirlwind of activity and suddenness of departure. In fact, he’s still twisting his way down the road of his version of the Australian walk-a-bout on the backs of Brahma bulls.

He has built log-houses, poured concrete for custom homes, guided dudes hunting trophy elk into the Wyoming wilderness, driven beet truck on North Dakota farms, built fence in South Dakota and rode bulls in arenas from Canada to the Mexico border. Right now, he’s in Houston, Texas, a few miles from the ocean in charge of his own crew building fence around a wildlife refuge for the benefit of our United States Government. He’s 21.

This nomadic, adventuresome approach to life by Ryan Charles Foard began, at least 184 years ago.

In 1826, Addison Kemp Foard arrived to stay in Baltimore, Maryland.

In 1879, his son, Arthur Craig Foard headed for Montana and lived the life of miner, farmer, rancher, cobbler and saddle maker, with much travel in his retirement years.

In 1920, Charles Arthur Foard married and homesteaded a place to call home.

In 1953, my mom and James Burnett Foard began an adventure of travel that took them from North to South — three times!

In the fall of 1981, Kim Burnett Foard planted a seed that eventually rooted his family to the Roundup community for twenty-plus years.

Ryan Charles Foard has cut the chains on his anchors and is full steam ahead into uncharted waters!

Even now, Ryan sees his dad tethered to a life that has come full circle. My home in Red Lodge is just a few miles from Fishtail, the home of the first Foard Family to live in Montana. My office is in Billings, the familiar community of childhood memories, college education, and thirty years of service to a loyal family of clients.

From generation to generation, the pendulum swings.

One generation enjoys home — the next enjoys adventure. One generation loves to have friends and family come to visit — the next loves to socialize and entertain wherever there is an event. One generation thinks managing risk is a worthwhile endeavor — the next knows an experience is only worthwhile if it involves risk.

Ryan’s grandfathers were men bigger than life itself. They were hands-on kind of guys who were gifted in all things mechanical. His paternal grandfather could do things with semi-trucks that were the envy of others stuck in their four-wheel drive pickups. His attitude and frequent comment was, “If a man made it, I can fix it.” Ryan’s maternal grandfather could do things with airplanes that left many jaws hanging and tummies tickled. His attitude and frequent comment was, “Let’s go!”

Grandfather Clock

Both men loved people and conducted their lives to express that affection. They enjoyed social occasions and frequently were the last to leave. While at an event, they were never the life of the party, or wall flowers. Simply, they were great conversationalists — they knew just the right balance of listening and sharing. In fact, they were each known to have made a telephone call to a wrong number and, then, to visit for a while with that new friend.

Dads tend to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life. Grandfathers have that out of their systems and are content to be like big old oak trees: Massive, Accomplished, Polished, Strong, Straight and Tall. Father Time is often pictured as a grim reaper, carrying an hourglass or other timekeeping device (representing time’s constant movement). Grandfather Clocks are representative of the grandeur of statesmen and the indelible legacy of the pendulum swings — from generation to generation.

If watched closely though, dads raise their hands from the circle of their work to offer huge smiles, at least four times a day. The traditional clock face is numbered from 1 to 12. Now, picture those hands raised and pointing to the numbers: Two and Ten. At 10 before 2 and 10 after 10 (AM and PM), the arc formed upward is only a small expression of the pride that dads have for their sons.

Jump for Jump

To carry on the traditions of his grandfathers, Ryan has big boots to fill. He shuffles at times to keep the toes pointed forward. Every now and then his spurs get tangled and he visits with Mother Earth. As he brushes himself off, he is calling for the next ride.

At the beginning of Ryan’s bull riding crusade, he mentioned to me one day, “Dad, riding these bulls is fairly easy. All you have to do is stay in the middle of them and ride ’em jump for jump!”

kimfoard.com

Credits:
Genealogy  ~  June Foard
Photos  ~  Lindsey Foard