Truth be told, I Knew a Man …

… and the man grew up in poverty during the depression. He protected his mother and little sister from his father’s outbursts.

I knew a man.

In the late 1930’s and early 40’s, he had two role models, two men he looked up to.

One was William H. Govan, the “water boy” for a small town football team. The “Negro” man, who served in WWI, showed compassion for the young kids, gave them doses of support and kindness, showed them how to stand up for themselves, and when they grew old enough to fight in WWII, he wrote to each and every one of them.

I knew a man. And he told me, “H. Govan was one of the best men I ever met.”

The second person he looked up to was his grandfather, a true Texas cowboy who could roll and light a cigarette with one hand while leading a string of 18 horses into town. Because of his grandfather’s teaching, this man learned to be a cowboy. So I painted his grandfather’s picture from a photo and gave it to him.

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When the man joined the Army in 1942, he became a boxer. I painted this from a photograph.

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Then, he met a woman, the love of his life. They had two children.

The four of them lived, loved and grew. Then, many years and anniversaries later, his wife died.

On this man’s death bed, I painted him another picture. I hung it on the wall next to where he lay, eagerly waiting to join his wife in the hereafter.

The man I knew said, smiling, “That’s me riding off in the sunset, ain’t it?”

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“Yes, Daddy,” I told him.

“You gonna publish that book about me, No Hill For a Stepper,?” he said.

He’d read the draft and kept it next to his recliner in the family room for visitor viewing.

“Who do you think will play me in the movie?” He’d said it so seriously it made me smile and ponder at the same time.

Two years after he died, No Hill For a Stepper was officially published in 2011.

I knew a man. That man was my father. He wasn’t flawless. None of us are. But he told me stories, taught me how to throw a football, and when I was faced with a challenge, he said, “Hell, Carolyn. That ain’t no hill for a stepper.”

This man, Cono Dennis, is still one of the best men I’ve ever met.

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