If you did something wrong, Dad really didn’t have to bawl you out. He had ways of making you punish yourself. I remember one spring when I was home. I was a young man and I planted all the grain with the four-horse drill and all the corn with the two-horse planter. All the time I was doing this I had a young colt that I was breaking, and Dad had continually cautioned me to be very careful and not leave him unless I had to. And so the spring went on and everything went very nicely. I planted all the grain; planted all the corn and, somewhat later, had this colt and his mother on a two-row cultivator. I stopped them in the yard and left them and they took off and ran into the wild grove….and Dad came home and I heard him ask somebody, “Did he leave them?” and someone said, “Yes, I guess he did.” Dad didn’t say anything: he knew I was punishing myself very severely.
Even from the time I was a very small boy, I had a feeling that I wanted to do the things that would make Dad proud of me. This feeling never left me. Even when I was a grown-up, everything I did I thought of in terms of how Dad would perceive this action. After I went in the Marine Corps I often had misgivings about how Dad would consider the fact that he had a son who was a professional fighting man because I knew how he felt about the defense of the country…he was a frontiersman, and he had the old gun over the door. I think his philosophy was that if they come to my farm I’ll take down the old gun and that will be it. But I had some misgivings about how he would perceive my choice of an occupation. And before I went overseas during World War I, he and I, we’re walking in the fields. And I had finished weeks and weeks of instruction on machine guns and of course I was already a very expert gunner. In fact, I was one of the few people in the Marine Corps who could lift the trigger of a machine gun so lightly that I could get off only one shot. Anyway, Dad and I, we’re looking over his fields and there was a long, smooth, even slope that had been planted to wheat, and this was in late June when the wheat was headed out and it was beautiful. And he said, “Look, look at that.” And I said, “Oh yes, what a great place to lay machine guns.” And he looked at me and he didn’t say anything, but I knew that he thought “Well, this guy is way out. Instead of seeing the food that’s being raised, he’s looking at this ground as a place where he could lay machine guns and kill a lot of the enemy.”
Well, when I came back from the war of course Dad was very proud and I remember he spent one whole day taking me around, meeting his friends and I felt pretty good about it.