Libby Baker Sweiger

Weaver of Everyday Tales

Archive for the tag “dad”

Spinning On The Brule River

“People travel to wonder
at the height of the mountains,
at the huge waves of the seas,
at the long course of the rivers,
at the vast compass of the ocean,
at the circular motion of the stars,
and yet they pass by themselves
without wondering. ”
― Aurelius Augustinus

My Dad Can Handle a Canoe

My dad was a great outdoorsman. Being raised in the great open country of South Dakota, he couldn’t stand being in a city for long. He’d have to go camping, fishing, or canoeing. One of them or all three. Of course, being a family man he’d take Suzy and I with him. Billy was still too young for the adventures, poor kid, so was Scotty.

I remember our trip into Wisconsin. We set up camp and it started to rain. We were all cozy and snug in our tent, having already eaten and had our fire. I love to watch my dad build a fire. And I loved to sleep in a sleeping bag. Suzy and I could snuggle and sleep in the same grown-up bag and stay very warm.

It was fun to camp with dad. He would tell us stories, not ghost stories. My dad hated what he called spook stories. He told us stories of his growing up with our Uncle Dick his little brother and his mom, Grandma Dorothy. His little brother was a big kid and a scrappy fighter. So he held his own if my dad and he ever fought. My dad always told these stories smiling and laughing so you knew it was all in fun and no one ever got hurt, except the time Dick got mad at my dad and threw a tin can at him in the back alley and cut his head open. We would squeal when he told us that because he told it with such good humor. He said he wasn’t mad at his brother. But the next night at dinner he thew a fork at him and it stuck in his fat cheek — wobbling up and down. Then we’d laugh uproariously because Dad was laughing until a tear came down his cheeks.

This may have been a tall tale, I don’t know. It’s hard to imagine two brothers who loved each other like my dad and Uncle Dick could ever carry on like that, but boys are different, so I don’t know. We sure laughed!

The next day we were going to take our canoe downstream to fish. We got up nice and early, had our breakfast and started on our way. Suzy and I were of course wearing life jackets. The water was a little high. We were in Wisconsin and I don’t remember if we knew how much rain they’d had that Spring or not. We were about half way there and our canoe hung up on a rock. We were caught pretty good. Dad was in the center, I was in the back and Suzy was in the bow. We started spinning on the rock. It was kind of like a ride in an amusement park, but a little scarier, because it was real. Dad said, “Poncho, Cisco, Hang on tight. I’m going to have to get out of the canoe for a minute and lift us off of this rock. Libby, you watch your little sister.” He used our pet names so we knew it was an adventure.

It sounded okay to me. I noticed Suzy’s eyes were a bit wide, so I waved at her. As I have said before, I have never felt fear in the presence of my dad and I didn’t that day. He gently eased himself out of the canoe. The water was deep. I was surprised by that. It was almost to his chest.

Then Dad asked us to lean our weight to middle of the canoe. Which we did, schrunching forward until we could touch our feet and hold on tight. He grabbed it in the middle and at the bow and worked with the water and pushed, pulled and lifted. We were off the rock! We were no longer spinning on the Brule River. We were moving, because my dad had the boat and he was taking us to shore.

When we got to shore we laid in the sun. My dad dried off a bit and took of his wet shirt. We just laid there and enjoyed the beauty of that early summer day. I always felt close to God on these excursions with dad. The beauty and power of His creation all around us.

We decided to fish right there and then bring the canoe back up to the car and head home a bit early. We were all in the mood to lay our eyes on Mom and Billy and by that time, little Scotty. They were happy to see us, too and to hear all about our adventure.

I thought that day my dad could to anything. As I got older my opinion didn’t change much. If it’s humanly possible, or even requires some help from God, Dad can do it. Because he tries. He loves his children and he looks out for them. He leads from the heart. He’s the same kind of grandfather as he is a father and we are all so fortunate to have him. Love you, Dad!

O Christmas Tree!

I love Christmas! To me it is a magical time of year. It always has been. The birth of baby Jesus — Savior of the world tops everything and is truly the reason for the season — but I’d like to talk about Christmas’ trappings for a bit. The little things that make a child’s Christmas never-to-be-forgotten. My dad was the master of Christmas magic! First of all we never went to a tree lot. From the time I was very young, old enough to walk through the snow and have dad carry Suzy on his shoulder we went out and chopped down our own tree.

Now maybe this was a common occurrence in those days for many people in rural Minnesota, but we were the only ones in our suburb carrying out this ritual. We had to drive a long distance to get to a tree farm. It was a long Dad Hike to find a tree worthy of our living room and decorations. It had to be magnificent! It was such an adventure every year. We waited with such anticipation and enjoyed every second of the day spent with my tall, handsome, knew-how-to-chop-down-a-tree dad!

We didn’t look at any of the little trees. They were not to be disturbed on the tree farm. We walked past them all until we found a tall one with a wider trunk. My dad knew the names of all the kinds of trees and just the kind we liked. Norway pines. They were a very pretty green and had long needles. They lasted a long time.

Finally our quest was over. My dad had spotted our tree! We ran over and found a good sized tree covered in snow. I held Suzy’s hand and we stood back. My dad took his ax out and started to chop down the tree. Now it’s a very easy matter to cut down a tree properly and push it the direction it should go when it’s time for it to topple. And my dad knew exactly how to do it. He would never risk knocking a tree over on one of his children, so it’s hard to imagine where they get this stuff they put in the movies. But I never felt any warnings of danger or mishap when my dad was around!

Soon Suzy and I were standing back further and Dad was giving the tree a nice little shove. TIMBER!!!!! We all yelled (the most fun part!) and down came our Christmas tree. Dad laid down parallel to the tree to measure 6 feet and then added a bit more in length for our living room. On cue Suzy and I followed suit and began making show angels. A small snowball fight and many giggles followed. Then back to the business of cutting the tree to the right length, tying a rope on the trunk and wrapping it around the branches so we could pull it back to the car.

When we got home after singing merrily in the car it was time for hot cocoa and Billy and Mom to join in the decorating after we untangled the lights and got the tree in it’s stand. Still my job to this day!

“Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree. In the eyes of children, they are all thirty feet tall.”
― Larry Wilde

Our Tree and Us

Saturdays at Dad’s

LtoR: Scott, Suzy, Pop, Dad, Sara, Me and Bill

“A writer is a person who cares what words mean, what they say, how they say it. Writers know words are their way towards truth and freedom, and so they use them with care, with thought, with fear, with delight. By using words well they strengthen their souls. Story-tellers and poets spend their lives learning that skill and art of using words well. And their words make the souls of their readers stronger, brighter, deeper.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin

Every Saturday, many Sundays after Church, every Christmas Eve and Father’s day were my dad’s and nobody questioned it! My dad had many qualities that made him a great dad, he loved his children, he loved to be outside and play with us and was the best story-teller. I could listen to my dad’s stories by the hour. I still can!

He loved us so much, my mother told me later, that the night they realized that a separation was going to happen he cried about not living with us kids. It breaks my heart to think of it. My poor parents, both loved us so much. My dad in tears, I could hardly bear it when she told me.

But on to the fun stuff. We lived in Minnesota. My dad was from Mitchell, South Dakota. Two cold places. He never let that stop him from being outside, or from taking us on hikes as he called walking up and down whatever hill or mini-mountain we could find.

On a Dad Hike! Me Bill and Scott!


He played football for the University and taught all for of us to go out for passes. Suzy first, she was the fastest, then me, then Bill and then Scott. He had us running, catching the football, throwing a nice spiral back to him so he could fire one off to the next kid in line. It was a blast. We went as fast as we could. Suzy set a pretty fast pace. She’s the beautiful blond girl in the pigtails in the picture. The baby is my sister Sara. She’d watch at first. Eventually she joined us for basketball. I don’t remember her playing football.

Sara was a delight as was her mom. Pop is my dad’s dad, also known to tell a good story. My dad loved words and chose his well. I loved to hear my dad talk about anything, but most especially his childhood. His childhood friends had amazing names, like “Liver Lips” Johnson! My dad could really made us laugh as you might well imagine! He told the stories of how he and his brother fought that are the stuff of family legend. He has golf stories that would make you laugh ’til you cried. You’re probably wondering why I’m not telling you any, well my dad is an author, currently working on his memoirs! I don’t want to steal any of his thunder!

I will say this, my dad taught me to love words and books and writing and speaking. When I was in high school he had a regular column in the Minneapolis Athletic Club magazine the Gopher for local business. It was funny, witty and I read it every month. His book, “The Guide Shoots First” about his hunting adventures is selling well on Amazon.com

There was one thing I envied my brothers. Well two, I guess. 1) every year they went hunting with dad and 2) they went down to the Athletic Club every Saturday morning with dad to workout, play basketball, etc. Dad would pick us up after. It was a men’s club back then with just certain hours that they allowed women’s swimming, which we did! But I wasn’t to envious. One big drawback, they couldn’t be a daughter of dad’s which is a precious thing!

All sports at my dad’s house were strictly co-ed. Other places, it was another era. There weren’t many sports for women back then, and my gym teachers were amazed at my basketball prowess when they began to “teach” us the game. Too bad they didn’t teach football too! Dad would have loved that story!

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: