20 June 2010

Father's Day

Mass ascension, Albuquerque. Hot-air balloons are Ralph's totem.

Here's the dilemma: we all want to post a tribute to our father, Ralph, today. Normally one would do that by posting pictures of the honoree throughout the years, and we have a number of those. Posting them, however, especially the tiny-child ones, would get us disinherited retroactively to the dawn of time. And that seems a little bit at odds with the spirit of Father's Day.

Ralph is not the person for whom gifts of ties and mass-produced tchotchkes are or ever have been appropriate. He has made it clear that what matters most is what we can creatively and personally produce ourselves.

So this is an encomium to Ralph, focusing on the things he has taught us to do, and cherish, and be. If a few pictures of him sneak in, it's not our fault.

Pilgrimage at Jefferson, Texas, ca. 1956
Life lesson from East Texas:
"A gentleman never gives offense...unintentionally." R. Shelton
Newspaper editorial offices at Texas Tech, early 1950s. Oh, look, we got a picture of him in after all.
Life lessons from a career in journalism:
  • Do what it takes to get the entire story before you make judgement calls.
  • Photograph everything when you get the chance. Edit later. You may not ever get a second chance.
  • Meet your deadlines. No excuses.
  • There is no excuse for bad or unclear writing. Communicate well.
  • Keep it as objective as possible, but don't be afraid of a little sentiment if it is appropriate.
  • Don't be intimidated by big names. Treat everyone fairly and with respect.
  • If things go wrong in your broadcast, expect a terse call from Ralph to the control room.
  • The fact that Ralph's kids can't ever watch a newscast without picking it to pieces on the technical details is definitely his fault.
  • If you take the photos, you don't ever have to be in the photos. The best pictures are the ones you take, not the ones you are in.

New Mexico adobe with turquoise door
Other life lessons:

  • Navajo weaving is not as easy as it looks. That's no reason not to do it.
  • Nothing is as lovely as New Mexico and West Texas architecture and landscapes.
  • It is better to paint sunsets and landscapes than to try to photograph them.
  • In fact, it is better to paint, or write, or play music, or cook, or to do anything you possibly can do yourself.  



  • The world is a wonderful place. Get out in it. Don't let opportunities go by.
  • The flatlands and canyonlands are the best places, and go well with Bach on the tape player.
  • It's more fun to break your own geodes than to buy cut ones.


  • The best trips are not necessarily the longest or most lavish ones.
  • The best trips are the ones that everyone takes together to nearby hidden wonders.
  • There are hidden wonders everywhere. You have to take the time to find them.
  • It's amazing how a Volkswagen bus can be rearranged to fit a family.

Got him again, sometime in the 1970s.


  • Dogs and other animals make the rest of life so much better. And more complicated. But still better.
  • Of course an adult standard poodle can be a lap dog.
  • Take care of pets at least as well as you take care of yourself.
  • A kid who wants a dog has to go through obedience classes with that dog. They both learn.
  • Your pets and kids will always need you.  


Chair of the Lubbock Library Board

  • Give back to your neighborhood and community. Be involved.
  • Put your family and friends first.
  • Don't ever hesitate to try something new.

Some dads are amazingly hard acts to follow. Happy Father's Day to the best there is.

1 comment:

Shirley A. said...

I'd say you learned his lessons pretty well! I miss mine.