My dad, Wendell Gauger, is a scientist.
Specifically, he’s a biologist (retired, he would add). His professional career was spent teaching college and graduate level biology, botany, mycology and genetics. Unfortunately, that’s about all the detail I can provide because science was never my strong suit. That doesn’t mean I didn’t take a lot of lessons from my dad, or that he didn’t influence my approach to life, or instill a scientist’s level of curiosity – he most certainly did.
Having just returned from a week-long visit with my father in South Dakota last month, I’m provided a clearer perspective for my Father’s Day tribute, and an appreciation of the many ways he’s been an influence. Hard to say how much has been applied to how I run my business, I’m likely too close to see that bigger picture. (Armchair psychologists, have a field day!) Contemplation in advance of the Father’s Day holiday defined four distinct ways that my dad has colored my view of the world.
1. A love of the natural world.
As a young man fresh out of college, my dad was a forest ranger at Glacier National Park. (According to him, it consisted of a lot of post hole digging, but it was romantic to me.) When my siblings and I were all big enough, all our summer vacations were spent camping – tent camping, sleeping bags on air mattresses on the ground. It was great– I never knew there was any other kind of vacation! Growing up in Nebraska, the summers were terribly hot and terribly humid, so we always headed west to the mountains of Colorado or Wyoming. We even went as far west as California and Oregon; and as far north as Idaho and Montana, and one summer-Canada. To this day, I still thrill at the sight of mountains. A clear view of Mt. Hood still takes my breath away, even after living in Portland for 25 years. When I was fairly young, I used to “help” my dad plant our vegetable garden and it always felt like something special, placing green bean seeds in the carefully prepared furrow, covering and tamping them in. As an adult, in my own garden I love learning Latin Botanical names for my plants. Is my aptitude for it perhaps the science gene surfacing as my own wonky little quirk?
2. The joy of exertion.
P.E. was a drudge and a dread for me, and I was consequently remarkably bad at it. But hiking? My dad loves hiking still and has taught me the joy and accomplishment of conquering a steep climb and looking at the forest and plants around me; breathing the natural fragrance of the air; and the delicious satisfaction of returning to camp (or home) to sit with a book afterward. As an”older adult” now, I appreciate the many benefits of staying more active, and hope to be blessed with my dad’s longevity and health as well!
3. A love of reading and a reverence for a well-turned phrase.
My dad is the most well-read person I know. Shelves and bookcases full of books line the walls of his house in South Dakota. If I started reading a book a day from now until the end of my life, I could never hope to catch up to his record. Every Christmas growing up, I got a book from my dad and looked forward with great anticipation. The gift books ran the gamut – Shel Silverstein one year (Lafcadio, The Lion That Shot Back) to a book about the American Revolution and General Lafayette another. He still sends me a book for my birthday; and I still love getting them. Often I wish I had more time to read, but it really comes down to making the time. Isn’t that always true? Drat.
4. A sense of humor and trust that laughing gets you through more things than crying.
A dry sense of humor is a difficult thing to explain. Jokes can be made with a total straight face and a tiny twinkle in the eye. One April Fool’s Day my dad woke us all by running into my sister’s room (she was always the gullible one-sorry K!) urging her to come into the bathroom, there was a fish in the bathtub! Hopping quickly down from her bunk bed, she ran to the bathroom. You can guess the rest. My dad and I both clip cartoons from the paper to send each other. He asks me for recommendations for movies, and I ask him for recommendations for good reads. And I think we’re both fairly certain that we’ll like the suggestions.
Lastly, if the merchant gene skips a generation, it’s possible I also inherited some of my business acumen from my father’s lineage. Starting in 1929 or thereabouts, my grandfather opened and ran The Gauger Store, a general merchandise store and grocery in Madrid, Nebraska. I remember it only vaguely, but it was a magical place as a young child. Of course, my dad recounts how he hated working there – probably because he was expected to do so every day after school, sweeping the floor or some such, in the same way that all kids hate chores. So even if the business-owner genes were latent in you, Dad, thanks for passing them along! Happy Father’s Day!
What qualities and interests have you gotten from your father? We’d love to hear!