Lee Pitts: Famous last words
Roger was a plunger, no, not in a janitorial sense but in a business one. He was a compulsive go-getter who, as often happens, married an exact opposite.
Dorothy was definitely NOT a plunger, but a steady-as-she-goes conservative who liked to have every waking hour planned down to the last minute. So you can imagine her state when on their way to Lake Tahoe for their honeymoon they stopped for a fast food burger and Roger saw a poster for a heavy equipment auction that, lo and behold, was just a few miles out of their way.
“Don’t worry,” Roger told Dorothy, “we’re just gonna watch.”
He kept saying that right up until the time he bought an old dump truck, skiploader and trailer by maxing out every credit card the two of them were carrying. Three hours prior Dorothy had been married to a bread truck driver and now they owned a construction company! Instead of spending a few days at Caesars Palace on the shores of Lake Tahoe, Dorothy was now following Roger home in a dump truck. Little did she know this would be their life together for the next 40 years.
Roger hit the ground running and built his construction company from scraping manure at feedlots and dairies to bidding and building multi-million dollar roads and bridges. He was seldom home for supper. Their first child was Leonard, a frail, retiring type who just wanted to be left alone to read books in his bedroom. He hated it when his dad made him tag along on a construction job. It was on one such trip that Roger saw an auction flyer for a club calf sale that, amazingly, was just a few miles away.
“Don’t worry son, we’re just gonna watch,” said Roger as they sat in the sale bleachers. An hour later they were looking for a ride home for Leonard’s first show steer. Although, if his Dad had bothered to ask, Leonard would have much preferred a lamb if he had to raise a show animal at all. Leonard was on the small side and that steer drug him all over the landscape and stepped on his toes every chance he got. Leonard hated that steer, but not as much as his father hated seeing him handed a red ribbon at the fair. This was unacceptable, no kid of his was a loser. So there were many more such auctions where they were “just gonna watch.”
The middle child was a girl, Tina, and she dreamed of becoming either a makeup artist or a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, certainly not a real cowboy. But one day on a whim Roger took the family to a purebred cattle auction. “Don’t worry,” Roger told Tina, “we’re just gonna watch.” That’s how Tina got roped into being a rancher for life.
Then one day Roger took his youngest son Robbie to a farm equipment auction. Robbie loved fast cars and restoring hot rods, not Farmall tractors. “Don’t worry,” his father reassured him, “we’re just gonna watch.” A couple hours later Roger had bought enough worn out farm equipment to keep Robbie away from cars for years.
As his many enterprises prospered Roger put Leonard in charge while he went to auctions to buy heavy metal, cattle and more land. Tina ran the cattle and Robbie kept busy restoring the old tractors his father now collected. Wife Dorothy wanted to sell it all and see the world, at least the part of it you could get to in a 42-foot mobile home with four slide outs and a full-size tub.
Then one day Roger fell over dead at age 64 from a massive heart attack.
Pastor Coglin and the family sat at the kitchen table planning Roger’s service. When the Pastor asked Leonard if he would like to say a few words at the funeral the shy young man got a frightened look on his face. What could he say about a father he loved, but deeply resented. Dorothy made eye contact with each of her offspring and saw in their faces a reflection of her own unrealized dreams. “Don’t worry kids,” Dorothy spoke those famous last words, “we’re just gonna watch.”
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