Dads. What a marvelous invention. My own repaired fence, stacked hay, held horses, and drove the antique trailer he’d found for next to nothing to countless 4-H shows, all so I could be a horse girl. Pretty sure, looking back, there were plenty of other things he would have rather been doing, and better ways he probably could have spent his hard-earned money, but I don’t remember him ever complaining.
We tracked down some of our authors and asked them to share their memories of their fathers…or their own experiences being “Dad.” We’ll let them tell their own stories.
David Thelwell, son of popular cartoonist Norman Thelwell, author of PONY CAVALCADE and PONY PANORAMA:
“When you are a child, ‘Dad’ is just that person who is always there to support and nurture you, to amuse and annoy you. He’s someone to turn to…and someone to stop you doing what you really want to do.
“When he is gone, you can put his life in perspective and see how important he was to you and what he was as a person. I am grateful for everything my father did for me and my sister, and now I can understand his legacy and achievements.
“I was lucky—as long as I can remember my dad worked from home, so he was always around, and I could see what work he was doing in the studio. I thought, how great to spend your life drawing and painting, doing something that you enjoy. As I appreciate now, he gave joy and laughter to so many people, for so long. That is something few people ever achieve.”
Norman Thelwell at work in his studio. Photo courtesy of David Thelwell.
“My dad was 99 when he passed away last year. He served in the Second World War, was a stockman, and loved the Outback. He had a lot of very funny statements. One of my favorites was, whenever we complained about working outside in the heat, ‘Well, if you worked a little faster, you would create your own breeze.’
“His name was George James.”
“This Father’s Day, I will be thinking about my hero. He is a chinook helicopter pilot flying regular nightly missions in Afghanistan. He is not there to cause anyone harm, but rather is there to help his comrades of all nationalities and provide cultural stability to a torn country. He is the kindest, gentlest, most compassionate ‘warrior’ that I have ever known. He is my hero as well as my son. How can Father’s Day get better than that?”
Ben Grisel is second from right. Photo courtesy of Dr. Bob Grisel.
Florence Le Goff, daughter of renowned equestrian coach Jack Le Goff, author of HORSES CAME FIRST, SECOND, AND LAST:
“When I was a young girl my father and I would enjoy fishing together on his boat. A day on the Essex River was full of fish (and sometimes eels and rays!), lobster retrieval, and driving the boat while he gave you a lesson on ‘red right return.’ Much like our riding sessions, he was a humoristic drill sergeant! He was a master at enlisting you to help launch the boat on the ramp, pull up the lobster pots, and be his ‘Number Two.'”
Jack Le Goff fishing with friends. Photo by Florence Le Goff.
“Being a father is the priority in my life right now. I aim to lead as an example for my boys to go forward as strong young men, to hold themselves with integrity, and to value others.
“I was so proud of my son Weston the other day when the hockey arena maintenance man told me he had never had a boy come up to him, shake his hand, and thank him after every ice time (which is at least four days a week). I was particularly touched because I never suggested to Weston that he should do this specifically, but just, in a general sense, to look out for the people around you who help you in some way…and thank them.
“This also made me begin to realize that in some ways my work as the guiding hand for a young man is coming to an end…soon we will stand alongside each other, and I will be in a new role as a father.”
“Being a dad has made me want to be a better son. My dad, at 76, has started eventing again, and now we all go to the horse shows as a family.
“Here are two things that I would not have believed a year ago: Having a kid is more time consuming than having a horse. Having a kid is more rewarding than having a horse.
“I love this saying I heard recently, from Confucius: “You have two lives. The second begins when you understand you only have one.”
“Winter or summer, my father’s Morgan, Millers Commander, was a huge source of joy and companionship. What more can we ask of a horse?”
“Several years ago I was teaching a 12-day clinic tour of Alaska and asked my father to join me for the trip. I’d work from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., and then he and I would spend the rest of the day together, acting like tourists. At some point toward the middle of our trip, he asked if he could read my book RIDE RIGHT; he spent the next few days reading it from cover to cover. When finished I asked him what he thought. While I was expecting something along the lines of ‘Wonderful,’ or ‘Great,’ or ‘I’m so proud of you…’ he simply said, ‘So when are you going to write another?’ When I replied that I didn’t really plan on writing another book, he said I was crazy and that I had much more to teach than what he had read.
“So, long story short, I went straight home and started work on my second book. When I look back on that father-son trip, many memories come to mind, but none of them as inspirational as when he told me that I was crazy for not writing another book!”
“I often wonder what makes or forms our thoughts; why we feel what we feel, or why we do something for someone else instead of just for ourselves. This year I lost my dad, and although he is not with us anymore, he will always be in my heart. I am his legacy, in so many ways. From the the day I was born he was there for me. He taught me values that I passed on to my children. As a child I often thought, ‘Why is my dad so strict with me?’ only to realize many years later that he did what he did because he loved me and wanted me to be ready for this fast-moving world.
“I believe this should be the job of all of the fathers of this world. Love, protect, and teach your children what is right and what is wrong. Be role models to teach your children love and respect, and teach them to earn trust with fairness and kindness. It should be in each father’s instinct, to protect and provide, to teach and take care of their children and family, so they can survive when they someday lose their father.
“My dad taught us to try to always understand the ‘why’; to be independent with our thoughts; to become leaders and not lemmings; to understand that the person who knows the ‘how’ will always follow the person who understands the ‘why.’
“I am so lucky and happy to have such beautiful children with my wife. My children are truly beautiful—not only outside but more importantly, inside. I always spent as much time as I could with them in their early years—as much as my business travels allowed. Besides the evenings and weekends, I also took Tuesdays off. We called this ‘Family Day’ and spent it doing things together: skiing, swimming, playing board games, reading. In hindsight, children grow up so fast, I feel I should have spent way more time with them. I guess my dad and I are really alike…we live and breathe each day for our family. Nothing makes me more happy than to see such healthy, wonderful, and successful children, and to enjoy the wonderful memories of the time I have had with them. It’s a tribute to the way we brought them up that my kids still love to spend time with us, go on vacations with us, and call us from wherever they are in the world—almost daily.
“One of my many wishes I have as a dad is that my children will always have as wonderful a memory of me as I have of my dad. This year will be my first Father’s Day without him, and although he was just ‘buried’ at sea in the Baltic, I will never lose his love and guidance.”
Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and videos, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.