Weekly Posting of the Conservative Cow Doctor


A Letter Home

Dear Dad,

After 42 years, I made a small payment on a debt which I incurred one winter’s day when I was 12. Perhaps you’ve forgotten about it, but I haven’t and here is how I remember that Saturday in January.

Both my brothers skied, but neither shared my insatiable passion for the sport, so you and I were the only ones in the car on the two hour drive to Antelope Butte Ski Area. Even though we weren’t calving yet, I know there were better ways for you to spend a Saturday, but while I skied, you patiently waited in the lodge. (Using the term “lodge” makes it sound like it was a mammoth log structure with a huge rock fireplace and picture window overlooking the slopes. In reality, in 1969 Antelope Butte’s lodge was the three-stall garage for the snow-cats which doubled as a warming shed and snack bar.) As usual, I skied all day, never stopping for lunch. When the T-bar lift closed at 4:00pm, I stuffed my gear in the station wagon, plopped in the front seat and drifted in and out of sleep as we rattled down the mountain. Since I was almost a teenager, I’m certain I added nothing to the conversation on the entire two hour drive home to the ranch…certainly no mention of gratitude.

Years later, when I became a dad and felt the conflict between family, time and money, I’ve often thought back to that Saturday when, without hesitation or qualification, you gave me 10 hours of your time. King David explains in 2 Samuel 24:24 he will not offer a sacrifice “which costs me nothing” and because we can always make more money, but can never make more time, giving one’s time is the biggest sacrifice a father can make. This debt of one’s time can be paid both backward and forward and two weeks ago, I had the chance to pay that Saturday forward.

Druann and I, plus four of our running friends had just completed a 12 mile, daybreak run along the rims in Billings. It was a great morning and we just walked in the house when Druann’s cell phone rang. “Mom, I’m in a jam.” Meagan frantically began. “My sitter is sick today, Michelle is busy moving back to the base, Tim is in Virginia for two more weeks, we admitted six new patients at work and I can find no one to watch all five kids this afternoon.”

Druann listened quietly before saying “I’ll call you back.” She looked at me and explained our daughter’s phone call. “Great Falls is three hours away, so we could be there by noon when Clara and Mae get home from school. What do you think?”

“Well, Meagan wouldn’t have called unless she was truly in a jam,” I offered as I thought back to that Saturday 42 winters ago. “I am not on-call this weekend and I don’t have to be at my speaking engagement in Columbus until tomorrow at 4:00. Let’s go.” In twenty-two minutes we showered, packed a bag, ate a banana and hit the road.

So Dad, the ten hours you gave me has now been paid forward to Tim, Meagan and their five mini-Kimmels. I expect all seven will pay those same ten hours forward or backward when the opportunity presents itself, so the pyramid of giving of one’s time is growing. See what you started?

Happy Father’s Day from your grateful son,


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