Steve Carroll Campbell was my father. He was born in January of 1930 near New Boston, Texas. When he was about ten years old, he suffered from a degenerative bone disease that so attacked his right lower leg that local doctors were ready to amputate. His father, Louis D. Campbell, took him to Texarkana where there was a Shriner’s Children’s Hospital. The family legend is that his stretcher rode on the back of a flat-bed truck.
The doctors there tried something desperate. They carved bone out of a live goat and transplanted (grafted, I suppose) it in the appropriate place in this poor boy’s diseased limb. A desperate gamble indeed since it was – as far as I know – unprecedented. But there was nothing to lose – except, of course, the boy’s leg.
He walked on crutches for over a year, this tragic figure of a child, until his leg was strong enough to take his full weight. The leg, though smaller in diameter and severely scarred, it was the roughly the same length as his left and quite capable. Unless you saw him in shorts, you would never know that anything had ever been amiss.
You may be old enough to remember when Shriners took one day a year to stand on street corners and collect donations for their charities like that Texarkana Hospital. As an adult, as often as he was able, my father would scrape together a hundred dollars to buy a crisp, new $100 bill. He would find a Shriner collecting and drop the bill in the little bucket, anonymously. In those days, a hundred dollars might have been a full week’s pay with which Dad could ill afford to part.
My father was uprooted from Bowie County and moved to Houston – with his mother and younger brother – in his high school years. While his mother worked long shifts as an LVN in a maternity ward, he worked as a merchant sailor and later as a letter carrier (on foot – told you that leg was strong!)
Dad refused to allow me to be a “Junior” because his middle name (it sounds exactly like “Carol”, a girl’s name) was a source of ridicule for him by mean-spirited classmates. Blake is my middle name and I do not know where it came from. It is possible that my Uncle Mark (Dad’s brother-in-law) may know. I’ll ask.
As far as I am concerned, Carroll is a perfectly acceptable man’s name and I can quote two examples you may have heard of : Carroll O’Connor, the actor famous for portraying Archie Bunker and Carroll Shelby, the automobile designer and racer famous for the Shelby Cobra and other cars.
Shelby was also from Texas, by the way. While I think Dad’s precaution was overly protective, I recognize that he did it because he loved me and wanted the best for me.
Dad eventually settled into a career in the glass sales business. It was he who trained me to clean glass properly. It takes clean paper towels, two of them. The first, “the wet one”, is used with a light amount of cleaner to emulsify the spots and loosen dirt. The second, “the dry one” mops up the streaks left by the first. Soon, you toss the wet one. Then the dry one becomes the wet one and you get a new dry one. To clean windows, the proper way is to use two people, one on each side. That way if you rub vigorously but can’t get the spot out, you can point it out to your partner since it must be on his side.
This “pointing out your partner’s flaws” is much quicker than a single cleaner going from one side to the other – especially on house windows far from the doors – as you know if you have tried it. These days, I have a truck windshield that I struggle to keep clean of all the bugs that dive like Kamikazes and spatter directly in my forward view. I always remember my Dad when I clean the windshield and I do the best job I can, in his memory. (This part written while “over-the-road”)
When I clean the mirrors, I remember Dad’s team method for windows and if there is a spot I can’t tackle, I say, “Hey Dad, that one must be on your side!”. He looks back with a smile and calls me a “smarty-pants” (or something similar 😉). He looks a lot like me, these days.
For most of his life, Dad fought a smoking habit established at a young age. That and a lung disease that was associated with poultry farming deteriorated his health until he was on continuous oxygen in his early 60’s. He died on June 30th, 1997 (age 67) of respiratory arrest – he wanted to breathe, but could not. It has been almost 22 years now that he has been gone. I miss him terribly to this day.
Happy Fathers’ Day,
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