Fatherline


DadcapFather Warren Neal

Born in Guthrie County, just west of

Dexter, Iowa, on the farm

where Cousin Vince lives now.

The oldest of five children,

first high school graduate.

 

Farmed until Pearl Harbor.

Enlisted in the Air Corps, became a pilot,

instructed advanced cadets in Texas,

married Doris Wilson, became a dad.

 

After the war, returned to the farm,

bought his own in Madison County, south of Dexter.

Patiently taught young girls how much to

feed the cattle and hogs, how much water to

pump into the tank.

 

How to shift gears, to navigate country roads

and driveways, making sure we mastered the farmer wave,

might be a neighbor, and admonishing always,

“Be awful, awful careful.”

 

Farmer, carpenter, active in church,

teaching Sunday School over twenty years.

Remember him most wearing overalls,

laughing with his head back,

napping after noon dinner, head on folded arms,

on the Formica farm table.

 

Kenneth

Grandfather Kenneth Neal

Born in west of Dexter, farmed.

Because of a matched team of horses,

often called on to pull the hearse to the cemetery.

 

Married Ruby Blohm, whose parents

were German immigrants. Her father

owned the grocery and meat market.

 

Farmed his entire life, sang with

the Metha-Quaka-Terian quartet.

He was the Presbyterian, like his

father before him.

 

Teased kids, whether grandchild or not.

Fireworks with cake and ice cream

near Independence Day, as he was born

on July 5 (1895).

 

A pipe and cigarette smoker, he came down

with lung cancer. Fifty years ago this May 8,

I took him lilacs in the hospital. It was the awful day

I realized he wasn’t going to get well.

 

He died just short of his 75th birthday,

the age I am now. I remember the forlorn

feeling of being cheated out of my Grandpa.

 

OSwGreat Grandfather Swain Neal

O.S. (Orlando Swain) was born

near Redfield, Dallas County, Iowa,

the sixth and last child of John and Rhoda,

the only son.

 

Married Nellie Edith Keith, had four children,

including a set of twins. Farmer,

bottled and delivered milk, drayman in Dexter.

 

On the committee to plan and build the 1916

Community Building, now on the National Register

of Historic Places and, although elliptical in shape,

is affectionately known as the Roundhouse.

 

John

Great Great Grandfather John Neal

Born in Jefferson County, Tennessee,

married Rhoda Marshall

in Wayne County, Indiana,

but when the War of the Rebellion

broke out, being a southerner at heart,

became a private in 3rd Forrest’s Tennessee Cavalry.

Deserted.

 

Perhaps Rhoda’s Quaker father and brothers

were part of that decision. John later shows up

on the roster of the 9th Regiment, Indiana Cavalry.

 

After the war, they moved to Dallas County, Iowa,

the place Rhoda’s relatives had crowed about,

with four children–two born in Tennessee,

two in Indiana. Two more were born in Iowa.

Five daughters, one son.

 

A farmer and fiddler, however you interpret that,

he is buried at Dexter, along with his elderly parents.

In fact, all of my fatherline and one more (Thomas Neal)

are buried in the Dexter Cemetery.

15 comments

  1. Enjoyed your fathers day piece..I knew your Dad from my years working in the Bank in Dexter, your Grandpa being one of my favorite customers with his fun, teasing voice greeting me with “Your good looks is exceeded only by your winning ways and cheery smile” or something like that… same thing to Betty if She waited on him. I didn’t know your Grandpa Swain, but he is in my Grandpa Cushman’s diary so many times, I feel like I did.

  2. How great it is to know so much of your family’s history. Due to Mom’s early divorce and family secrecy, I didn’t learn about my father’s life until I was well into my 60s. Thanks for sharing this legacy.

    • Thanks for the note. Your 60s was a great age to sort things about about your past, having a more mature perspective, maybe even compelling answers to what made you who you are today.

    • And some of us returned, after living in two other states! We’ll be among the next generation buried in that same cemetery. Hard to believe, but our stone is already there. ha

  3. I enjoyed reading this tribute to your fatherline in verse. Reading about your dad in particular, I remember posts you’ve written about him. The one that stands out in my mind has a picture of him sitting at the kitchen table in overalls with his face burned by the sun after working very, very hard on the farm.

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