Politically, today the phrase characterizes a person who fights for the causes he believes will benefit his people – or likely himself. Physically, it’s a man who has the capability and determination to do whatever he wants to do – usually for himself. Mentally, it is used to describe a man who doesn’t crumple easily under stress and strain – rare, but can be located. And the emotionally tough man is one who simply doesn’t feel – easily found.
But the other day I listened to a man describe his long-deceased granddad as the toughest man he ever knew, and I came to agree. Evidently, Granddad was a tough man in just about every way you can imagine. Now, you’re probably rolling your eyes and blowing off what is coming next. Thinking that the grandson is remembering Granddad from a little boy’s enamored point of view. And unfortunately, because of today’s version of ‘tough guys,’ most of us would agree with you. Because you just don’t find very many male role models anymore that make a mom yell, “Now Johnny, THAT’S a guy you should be watching! That’s who you need to learn to be – just exactly like him!!”
But keep reading. In a nutshell, here are some actual facts backed up by other family members. Not a fondly held, hazy-around-the-edges, biased memory of a little boy. These are genuine details of a life that evidently was strong in the ways that count:
A hard working farmer, he raised his kids on the family farm during the Great Depression. He carried water for the house, planted crops, grew chickens for eggs, and kept milk cows – just to survive. His horse was his transportation – and also his tractor to plant those crops.
Always playful and involved, the man carved a bat and a toy gun out of a tree trunk, and spent many evenings in the backyard, teaching and enjoying the children.
Enduring hardship without complaining seemed second-nature to the man. At age sixty, he broke his leg while playing in a practice baseball game against the community’s semi-pro league. He splinted it himself and then drove home, as doctors were not a part of his life. At age eighty-four, when a blizzard struck that made roads impassable for days, he simply walked the mile to his cow pasture each day, while toting a fifty-pound sack of feed and carrying his axe. After all, somebody had to break the ice on the pond so the cattle could have water.
He never held a public office in his community. He never held a title other than Family Man. But the man was respected and liked by family and neighbors alike. Because he just simply did what he knew to do – be a man of love, integrity, and hard work.
A tough man, in all the ways that count.
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