Dads, Friends, Heroes
My father was a man well acquainted with hardship and sorrow. He was raised on a farm in the isolated Western Colorado town of Paradox. His family worked the land using work plugs and mules. There was little mechanization and conveniences such as electric lights and indoor plumbing came a little later to his remote valley than they did to the rest of the world. Dad finished the 8th grade in the tiny school in Paradox. He could’ve rode the bust to Naturita, the only town in that region of Colorado that had a high school, but his father forced him to stay on the farm to work. My dad, Frederick Robert Snyder, was a gifted baseball player, wiry and fast. He had a keen intellect, highly inquisitive and hungry for new information. He never had the chance to finish high school.
My dad knew too much death. A slightly older brother, Claude, was killed in a shooting accident when he was only 4. Dad shared the only the memory of that event, the memory of a tiny boy; screams and bloody sheets on a bed. No frontier medicine could save Claude after he and an older brother had gone hunting and a shotgun accidentally discharged and shot the younger child.
My dad suffered with peritonitis followed by gangrene resulting from a burst appendix. He was 4 years old when doctors had to operate to remove the gangrenous tissue. He should have died. But he survived that illness only to contract tuberculosis during his youth. He recovered from the TB without treatment, but scar tissue remained in his lungs. Several of his brothers were killed at young ages.
Dad enlisted in the army and was sent to England. He married Shirley Elaine McDougall from Green River, Utah, and had to catch a boat out of Oakland, CA, to take him back to England. He and Mom spent three days together after their marriage. Then he was shipped away and they would not see one another again for 2 and a half years. He was an Army Staff Sergeant and was recruited into the OSS. It is speculated that they wanted him because he had worked the mines in Western Colorado and knew how to handle dynamite. I believe that they wanted him for his uncanny ability to remember anything, in high definition detain. He was a man of very high intelligence. While in England Dad was a chauffeur for Wild Bill Donovan and Ike. He kicked crates full of supplies out of airplanes to the troops who had parachuted inland during the invasion of Normandy. He was among the first Americans to evacuate the German concentration camps. He was part of the OSS contingent that “escorted” the German rocket scientists, Werner Von Braun et al, out of Berlin before the Russians could take them. He and his partner had to be removed from that detail when their identities were discovered by the Russians.
Dad returned home to celebrate his wedding to Mom with a reception in the mountains above Paradox. He and his brother ran a sawmill there, and they started their young families in Paradox, living on the Snyder farm. Dad’s brother and business partner was killed when a load of logs broke free from the chains securing them to the flat bed of a hauler, and rolled over him. They tried to get the brother to the hospital in Moab, a 2-3 hour drive from the sawmill. But he could not be saved.
Dad was acquainted with hardship and sorrow. He was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at the age of 47 and forced to retire. Not working was one of the hardest things he ever had to do. He lost his oldest son in 1970 when he was killed in Vietnam on a Swift Boat. That son, Frederick Don, had volunteered to go into Vietnam. Dad and Mom never fully recovered from the loss of their son.
The memories of my dad are many, but not as many as I would like. I have faith that I will sit with him again someday and we will talk about the things that he kept hid, the secret wounds, while on earth. My parents, both deceased, often visit in my dreams. But the lucid dreamer reminds me that they are gone and the dream is only a reminder that I am not without parents. They still love me, perhaps they worry for me. Maybe they weep for my hurts and cheer for my little triumphs. But my Dad runs in my blood. He inhabits my heart, and he colors my dreams, my writings, and my patriotism.
I wish I could give him a kiss on this Father’s Day. I’ll just give him a shout out. LOVE YOU DAD. Let’s talk as soon as we can!
Happy Father’s Day to the good men in my life who have given me father’s advice, and unconditional regard. To the good me who have stepped into my children’s lives to teach them the things I cannot. To the friends who have given me the invaluable male perspective when my female brain, and shoulders, have become overwhelmed by the burdens of my life. To the brave men who are fighting for freedom in the United States Military. To the fervent Patriots who are changing American, with their voices and works, back to the free Republic which the founders intended. Happy Father’s Day all. You are loved.