I have known many great men in my life. I worked with cops that were pure and simple walking examples of what a good man is. There are few men that are on a level that many never reach. I am talking about the kind of man who other men only dream they could be like. My wifes Pap, Jimmie Solomon was one of those men.
When I first met my father in law I was intimidated. He is a big man with a reputation you hear about well before you meet him but when I met him I had future mother in law back up and future wife back up. When I finally met him I quickly learned he was no one to be concerned with as long as you came correct. As long as I take care of his daughter and treat her as he would I had no worries. When I met my wifes Pap it was another story.
When I describe my wifes Pap it is my view of the short 15 years I knew him. If I get any fact incorrect about him they are my error and I apologize in advance for it. When I was first taken to “The Farm” to meet him I was taken back by the very long rocky road that lead to his house sitting up on the side of a hidden mountain. His brother lived just below him. The road seemed like a scary path to a place that city boys like me had no place going to. There was cattle everywhere. He raised cattle for a living and his farm was impressive to someone who had never been on one. I knew he was a hard man. He was a coal miner also. He had his back broken in the mines. He had the reputation in Morgantown that when he walked across the street it may not be a bad idea to be on the other side of the street. He had a missing finger and it took me a long time to ask him about it. When I met him I received a strong handshake. It was a handshake I could never match. Even in his late 60’s or early 70’s at that time you could tell his presence alone kept you in line. He commanded respect with a handshake and a gentle but firm gaze. He was very welcoming and kind to me on that first visit. I thought I would struggle to converse with him because we had nothing but his grand-daughter and a love for dogs in common. He was very easy to talk to. I listened to him tell me stories about the farm,coal mining, and Morgantown. He told you things you never knew. He did not make me feel dumb. I didn’t get many family stories from him but I learned a good bit.
My wifes Pap would sell his cattle to help fund his granddaughters college. He had my mother in law help neuter cattle. Get your hands dirty kind of stuff. His Farm is huge. To this day I truly do not know how big it is. He would take his ATV all over it and he told me of many times where he had to politely explain to strangers or neighbors the property lines. I am sure that meant a firm “let me explain this to you” conversation. He would run those mountains with his cattle dog. He got hurt once and was a good distance from his home. It was his dog that came and got his wife and brought her to him. He was a John Wayne get stuff done kind of man.
One of the conversations I had with him I will never forget was about my tires. We came to visit and he noticed my tires were balding. He pulled me aside and told me I wasn’t going home until I replaced them. He meant it too. He quietly told me that he would give me the money if I needed it. He told me this away from everyone. I felt like he was giving me an offer if I needed it without embarrassing me. We didn’t need the money but he was willing to take care of us. I fixed those tires the second we left the farm. I was not going to explain how I ignored him and his offer and took his granddaughter on a seven hour trip through the mountains home. He was kind. He didn’t say much but when he did you listened and most of the time you learned something.
My daughter was terrified of him. He played loud and with quick hard movements. He was not rough by any means but to a two or three-year old just learning to walk it was something to get used to. She learned to love his play and after a couple warm up trips she would go after him with great vigor. In his later years he had some trouble moving around but when his great grand daughters were there you never knew it. This hard man would scamper through his house chasing the girls with this huge smile on his face. It was a smile that melted you because it was at those moments that even tough you knew he was a man to be reckoned with and respected he was also a man with a great heart and love for his family. He was the true measure of a man. He was the most a man could be.
A couple years ago time caught up with him. He suffered from Alzheimer’s. I will not offend his life by waxing poetic about a decline with great detail. He does not deserve that. Suffice to say his decline was somewhat textbook for his age and the disease. We visited him in an elderly home in his last years. Even sick and in an advanced age the ladies at the home loved him. They loved him to the point it may have even got him in a little harmless trouble. 80 plus and making the ladies crazy. Like I said he was a mans man. The last trip we made to him was this past December. He loved his dogs and they had long passed and sadly a good part of the mind that made him the great man he was had passed too. We brought our Australian Shepherd to the hospital. His vacant stare gently cracked into a smile upon seeing our Lily Bears. I placed his hand on her head and he rubbed her fur. I saw that familiar smile. The one he had chasing my daughter and her cousin through the house with. No words but that smile was unmistakable. For a moment that dog brought him back. I am so happy that the last time I saw him I saw that smile.
The good Lord was in need of another good man and around 830 PM on 2-18-2015 he brought him home. I bet that there are girl angels up their lining up to get an up close look at the lady-killer. There his brother waits to show him the lay of the land to a farm he may have in Heaven. His dogs are running by his side and of course across that newly minted angels face is a unforgetable smile.