Walk In His Shoes
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  • Post published:13/05/2021
  • Post last modified:13/05/2021

My Dad disappeared
For about a year
When I was seventeen.
The last I saw him,
We left him
Passed out drunk
On the living room couch.
Relatives came and got
My Mom, sisters and me
Leaving Dad
Who wouldn’t quit drinking
Who wouldn’t accept help.
I thought
I might ever see him again.

He returned to our lives
A changed man.
He sobered up
Got back his old job
Built back his old life.

But twenty years later
After he died
I realized
I never knew what happened
When he disappeared.
When he was on the edge
Of killing himself
With the drink.
Rumor had it
That he worked
The wheat harvest
Something he had done
In college.

I started to write
The story of what I thought
Might have happened.
I realized
The piece I was missing
Was what it would be like
To work on
The wheat harvest.

Combines dumping grain on trucks

I said to a friend
If I ever want to
Really explore
My Dad’s story.
I might just have to
Work the wheat harvest.
My friend Pat
Listened quietly.

Later he said
“You’ve talked about
Working the wheat harvest
Three or four times.
I just want to mention
Someday – if you want
To work the wheat harvest.
I have relatives in Oklahoma
Who do that each year.”

I did what I do
When hit with
The unexpected.
I sat there
And then said
“Thanks for telling me.”
Talk about upping the ante
On a spiritual quest
To walk in
My Dad’s shoes.
My friend had
Certainly done that.
Now I was left
To put it all out there,
Or leave it as “someday.”

I finally called Pat
And asked if he would
Do me a favor.
Check with his relatives
To see if I might
Join their harvest crew
For the summer.

I tried to figure out
If this was
Completely nuts.
Quit my job,
Go off and work
On a harvest crew
To find out about
My Dad’s story.
I checked it out
With Scott – a good friend
Who was really grounded.
He’d give me a solid answer,
Besides, he was
An accountant.
Logical, linear.
I later realized
I was secretly hoping
He’d tell me
“This idea is crazy”
So I could give up
The whole thing.
Instead he said
“Makes a lot of sense
I think you ought to do it!
It will be part of
Your healing.”
Major gulp!

Two months later,
I was living in a trailer
In Lone Wolf Oklahoma
With six high school farm kids
Learning to drive a huge truck
Used to haul grain.
And following
My Dad’s story.

Bunk trailers and work pickups

It was the adventure
Of a lifetime.
We followed the wheat
As it ripened.
Living like nomads.
It was a world
I had never seen before.
Living in an old house trailer
In one place for two weeks
Then moving,
Trailers, trucks, combines
A caravan
To the next farm
As the wheat ripened
From Oklahoma
To North Dakota.

Combines and Tractors

I learned many things.
I grew up in the city
But had the heart of a country boy.
I love driving a tractor
Or a wheat combine.
I don’t do well on little sleep.
Living in a trailer,
Farm boys are not
Particularly neat
When Momma’s not there
To clean out the tub.
When pulling wheat from
A plugged up combine
The dust really itches,
When it gets down your neck.

And special things happened.
I got to visit the filmsite
From Dances With Wolves.

Me at Dances With Wolves Filmsite

We saw Mount Rushmore,

My first pic of Mount Rushmore

Both affected me deeply.
All in all
It was a magical summer.

 It gave me the truth
About what I believe
Happened to my Dad.
How he had
A spiritual awakening
And realized
He had to return
To clean up his past.
I finished the story
I wanted to tell.
I wrote it as a novel.

It will be called
“Nothing Left To Lose.”

But as I look back
What Pat said
When the idea
First came up
Turned out to be the truth.
He had said
“Dan, you think you’re going
On the wheat harvest,
To learn about your Dad.
I think this trip
Will be about you.
You will learn about
Heal yourself.
Claim your own power.”

He was right!
I often look back
On the wheat harvest experience
As a turning point in my life.
When I claimed the truth
Of my path
Not to follow the business world
Of my Dad and my friends,
But to claim my birthright,

As a writer
A teller of stories,
And a country boy.
I am completely convinced
I did the right thing
In going on harvest
To walk in Dad’s shoes.

Because I found – myself.

Dan the Writer


Photo Credits:

Photos by Dan L. Hays  © – all rights reserved.

Previously published in Thoughts Along the Road to Healing

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