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Darrell Huckaby: TV dads can't measure up to the real thing

Darrell Huckaby

Darrell Huckaby

Father's Day. It somehow doesn't have the "oomph" of Mother's Day in May, but then we are just dads, after all.

I lost my daddy a long, long time ago. Maybe 25 years. Precious memories of our time together still flood my soul, however, and a little of him --his temper, his penchant for a good story well told, his love of life in general -- live on through me, his only son.

I was having a discussion about the approaching Father's Day festivities with a couple of my buddies the other day -- on the golf course, of all places -- and talk turned to TV dads and which one we might pick for our own fathers, if a fellow were allowed to pick his own father.

The first character to come to mind, of course, was Jim Anderson from "Father Knows Best," for obvious reasons. I think he sold insurance for a living, at least until he entered the witness protection program and re-emerged as Marcus Welby with an M.D. after his name. He must have had something going for him because he was married to Ronald Reagan's ex-wife. He wore a suit to work every day and carried a briefcase. When he came home from work, he replaced his suit jacket with a sweater and sat around in his tie reading the paper while waiting for his wife to put supper on the table. He was a lot like old Ward Cleaver in that respect.

My daddy didn't wear a suit to work. He wore white short-sleeve dress shirts and a tie, though. He always bought shirts with two pockets. They weren't just for looks, either. In one pocket -- protected by a pocket protector that any Tech student would be proud to claim -- he carried a couple of pens and a little notebook filled with all sorts of information about loom specifications and such. In the other pocket he carried the Winston cigarettes that eventually killed him.

Jim Anderson probably smoked a pipe, and there was never a problem that he couldn't solve for his three children, Betty, Bud and Kitten. I don't think I would have wanted Jim Anderson for my father. He didn't seem to be all that much fun, and I doubt that old Bud turned out very well. He seemed pretty sorry to me. I would rate Ward Cleaver about half-a-notch above Jim Anderson, just because he had to put up with Eddie Haskell and Lumpy Rutherford.

Another TV dad that came up was Howard Cunningham. Now I could always associate with old Howard. He owned a hardware store, you might recall, in Milwaukee. He was a little bit on the portly side and was usually a little bit discombobulated and said a lot of really stupid stuff. He always seemed to be a little late on the uptake, too. Like I said, I can relate to Howard Cunningham, but I wouldn't have wanted him for a father. There was too much drama around the Cunningham house.

My daddy never owned anything except an old mill house and a 1968 Buick Electra 225. We didn't have that much drama around our house, and he wasn't always sitting me down to give me advice. But when I needed something -- or when my friends needed something -- I knew he would always come through in a pinch.

One of my favorite TV dads was Lucas McCain. He was able to maintain a successful farming operation and provide for his son, Mark, while spending just about all of his time in town. Got to be a trick to that. My daddy didn't spend a lot of time hanging out in town, or anywhere else. He worked the second shift in the Osprey Mill weave shop for most of my life. That meant he was gone from 2:30 until 11:30 p.m. every day. When he had time off, he stayed at the house. He didn't golf or play cards or pursue any pastimes that would take him away from home any more than necessary. I appreciated that.

My buddies and I all agreed that the very best TV dad of all time was Andy Griffith, with John Walton and Charles Ingalls close behind.

Andy was a Southerner and talked like I do. John Walton was a Southerner, too, and knew what it was like to do without and work with his hands. Andy gets the nod because he had to raise Opie without benefit of a wife and two parents living in the same household to give him a hand. Andy did have Aunt Bea, but he also had to put up with Barney, which practically canceled her out. I think Charles Ingalls turned out to be such a good father because he was raised by Ben Cartwright in another life.

We had fun remembering all the dads we have watched on TV, but in the long run, I decided I wouldn't trade Homer Huckaby for Homer Simpson or any other television dad. He did his best to raise me right and helped me be the person I am. I just wish he had lived to see all the blessings I have received.

Hmmm. I wonder which TV dad my kids would trade me for?

Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at dhuck008@gmail.com. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.