On this day, 70 years ago, Franklin Roosevelt was in the White House. Jimmy Dorsey was at the top of the charts. And Europe was plunging head over heels into the second of the Great wars.
And...on a little farm in the hills of East Tennessee...to Amel and Elsie Howard...a baby was born. A boy. Their second.
This little boy would grow up drinking sweet, cold water from a deep well. He would eat apples right off the tree. He would work hard alongside his daddy and brothers to wrest a living from the soil. And he would enjoy many a strengthening meal cooked up on a wood-burning stove.
Some years later, he would tell his children about the first time ever he ate baloney. About how he thought it was just about the finest thing he had ever tasted. He'd speak of the extraordinary luxury of having an orange at Christmas. And his children, who had never gone wanting, would not understand.
This boy would grow up to become the song leader at church. He married him a piano player. They brought three children into the world, with songs in their heart, and on their lips. They would sing everywhere. In the car, in the cornfield, and in the living room around a tall, upright piano that had once been a player.
This man would would give his children many gifts. He would teach them to love God and to take care of others. He would work hard to make sure they had everything they needed. He would love their mama. And, just maybe, the very best gift he gave them was curiosity. An appetite for foods they had never tasted. Wander lust. A desire to see new places and to know about things.
Eventually those children grew up and had families of their own. And the man would come visit. And fix stuff. And he would bring them apples and tomatoes, peppers and corn. The fruit of his labor.
Years would pass. And then one day, his daughter would find herself wondering what you give a man who has given you so much. How do you say thank you for surprises he brought home in his lunch box? For braces? For coming to your basketball games? For a lifetime of music, and road trips, and camping? And love?
But she knew he didn't do it to be thanked.
He did it because it was who he was.