Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Sarge

My dad has gone by a few nicknames in his day. His name is Sheldon. I reckon when your name is Sheldon and folks bless you with a nickname you sort of do your best to make it stick.

His first and most lasting nickname was Tut (with Tutta being a common variation). He earned this one as a young boy and at 80 I still think more people call him Tut than Shel. He is Uncle Tutta to all of my cousins. Tut, apparently, came about because, as the eighth of nine children and the youngest boy, some of his siblings believed he was treated like a young king. This always amused me, because his youth coincided with the Great Depression. He and his eight siblings lived in a small two bedroom house on a hill with their parents. His parents shared a room, his five sisters shared a room, and the four brothers shared one bed in the attic. Oranges for Christmas and glad of it, the whole nine yards. When he told me stories of his youth I failed to see anything kingly about it. His older siblings perceived it differently. It’s all about perspective. And Sheldon became Tut.

Now Tut may have been first. And it may have had the most staying power. But Dad had another nickname in my camping youth. He was known, among our camping friends and family, as The Sarge.

The Sarge was born in the woods on a hiking trail.

The exact location is unimportant.

The Sarge transcended geography.

The Sarge thought five year old little girls should be able to make five, six, even seven mile hikes with nothing but a canteen of water for sustenance (and they’d have to carry those themselves). Rest breaks were for the weak. If it was a destination hike – hiking to a waterfall or some other manner of scenic vista, a brief break was permitted for photographing and appreciating the scene. Photography, of course, was contingent upon us carrying our own cameras. We couldn’t linger long enough to make us soft, though.

My mother would remind him, upon embarking upon one of these hikes, that my sister and I were LITTLE. He would assure her very matter-of-factly: “They’ll be fine.”

And we were.

If we got tired and asked for a break, he’d assure us that we could take one when we got around the next bend. We never seemed to get around that bend.

And we never whined.

We were fine.

The Sarge said so.

Because of The Sarge’s refusal to treat us like delicate pink things we were able to witness so much beauty that many never see. As a matter of fact, a recent conversation with my parents as well as the recent PBS series on our National Parks revealed that many of the places we hiked and climbed to are now off-limits to tourists. (I’m pretty sure that wasn’t our fault.)

Years later, when my sister and I were in our teens, The Sarge decided he wanted to walk a few miles down the beach to check out another campground. I eagerly said I wanted to go. A walking tan is way more even than a lying tan and walking a couple miles in the sand was like a free pedicure. Chafing? Wasn’t in my personal lexicon at that time.

The friends we were with weren’t so sure. Their daughter was still so LITTLE. Surely she would get too tired to finish such a long walk. The Sarge teased that there would be Nutty Buddies at the other campground, and that it would be his treat. Their daughter was IN! Her parents still expressed concern.

“She’ll be fine.”

And she was.

She enjoyed that Nutty Buddy with a gusto usually reserved for an oasis in the middle of the desert. It gave her the energy she needed for the walk back.

And she never whined.

She was fine.

The Sarge said so.


otin said...

Sarge whipped you into shape! He needs to start a camp for today's kids! :)

kys said...

Thank goodness Sarge wasn't my dad. I was a whiny whimp. My dad carried me around till I was 5 yrs. old.

Another wonderfully written story - as if you need me to say so!

BONNIE K said...

I'd walk 10 miles for a free nutty buddy.

Vivienne said...

What an awesome, awesome post about your dad! I think your dad and my dad would hit it off just fine!

Traci said...

And the Sarge was right because clearly you turned out just fine!

Another great post from a great blog.


Joanna Jenkins said...

What a great tribute to your Dad. I'm sitting here
xo smiling ear to ear.

Lynn said...

I love your writing!
Just LOVE it!
Keep entertaining me!

Anonymous said...

Those hikes sound like an amazing memory!

FranticMommy said...

I need a "Sarge" at my house. My almost 4 year old still insists on being carried. And of course she SHE wears the pants in the family, she's carried on command. If you see something twisted around her tiny little's her dad :)

Vodka Mom said...

that was lovely.

very lovely.

Keeper of the Skies Wife said...

What a wonderful memory.

My husband would always say to me about our girls, "Just because they are girls doesn't mean they can't get dirty." He didn't want them to be high maintenance.

JennyMac said...

Love it...Sarge sounds very similar to my Father. Great post about your Dad, Tammy.

The Rambler said...

GREAT story!!!

Saw your comment in roll call and loved it. Insomnia huh? :)

Tater Tot Mom said...

Great story about your dad...I think your dad and mine probably would get along just fine..."Suck it up"-that's what I would always hear.

Love your blog and am a follower now...can't wait for more!

Margo said...

I love hearing about fathers who treat their daughters this way! The Sarge sounds as if he was a real blessing to you in this way :)


great story - sarge sounds like me - i'm always telling my son SUCK IT UP SOLDIER right before i give him the nutty butty to shut his pie hole HA!

new look? i likey

MiMi said...

So when I was reading my dashboard I saw that you had a post called The Sarge and I waited to read it last because I LOVE LOVE stories about your dad. : )

Melissa B. said...

Awwwwww...what a sweet tribute to The Sarge. You should let him read it!

The Peach Tart said...

I do love a good nutty buddy.

mama-face said...

The Sarge was so no-nonsense yet so loving at the same time. Which just makes me love him more. The fact that made his family top priority is a good lesson for us all. He has a great daughter in you!

Nutty Buddies; I haven't had one of those for years.

perfection as usual!!

blueviolet said...

That was so fantastic! I can't believe none of you whined though.

We spent hours every day trekking down paths through national parks too, but my brothers were the whiniest little snotballs!

That gave me a little twinge of pain to hear that some of the places have been closed off to tourists now.

Pam said...

It's amazing what you can do when someone believes in you. Your dad is one of the truly great ones of his generation.

Unknown Mami said...

I don't know Tammy, I sort of like picturing you as a delicate pink thing that swoons.

Sassy Chica said...

What a fabulous and inspiring story, the admiration you have for the Sarge is amazing!

Great post, beautifully written!!
Thank you for sharing the Tut aka The Sarge with us!

Sassy Chica

5thsister said...

Great story! Stopping by from SITs and think I may follow and stay awhile!

The Redhead Riter said...

That's nice that you have such positive memories of your dad and it tells a lot about how he helped shape your personality. No wonder you are such a strong woman! ♥

I read your comment this a.m. on my blog. Hang in there. If you need an ear, mine is free any time. Here's a little sunshine for your day ☼ and {{HUGS}} and love ♥ and a friendly smile ☺

Sandy said...

Haven't thought about a Nutty Buddy in decades! Yum.

Those were the days, eh? Before everyone treated all their kids like little pink flowers.

Great story.