I remember meeting my father in law, Travis, for the first time around twenty years ago; when I decided I do the chivalrous deed and ask permission and blessing to marry his daughter, Karen. I was living in northern California at the time, and their home in Bakersfield was about a six hour train ride from where I was in San Francisco. With suitcase in sweaty hand, I hopped aboard and ventured off to meet him and Betty.

We had a nice dinner together on their peaceful acreage on the Kern River, and after we finished eating, Betty encouraged us to go play a game of pool while she cleaned up. As I racked the billiards into the triangle frame, Travis asked me in his gregarious way, “So what are we playing for?” I seized this moment to make my intentions known, and abruptly responded with “How about your daughter’s hand in marriage?” I breathed a sigh of relief after his response.

“I guess I better make sure and lose then.”

I knew at that point I would be welcomed into the family. Thus began my story with the man I will remember as Travis Hendrick.

I will always remember hear his voice in my head while in conversation with him, saying something like this:

“Let me tell you a story” or

“Well, the story goes like this.” or

“Did I ever tell you the one about…?”or

“Betty, let me finish the story…”

There were the stories about growing up playing football in West Texas, about the work in the oil fields and about the snotty nosed greenhand supervisor and all the changes in Shell Oil that led to his retirement. Being from Nebraska, he always like to update me on stories when Coach Tom Osborne made the news somewhere in his area, usually because of his work with Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Then of course there were the shenanigans that he told on himself, and with these we could fill a book, like the time he got stuck in their water holding tank and had to have Betty fill it with water so he could float up to the top and climb out, or even recently when he was complaining of pain around his swollen ankle and we all find our later that the reason it hurt so bad was because of a snake bite that he was unaware of.

I will always remember Travis for the stories he told, like the time Karen and her high school friend Theresa ran cross country together. Since they didn’t like to be competitive with one another, during one race they decided to run across the finish line holding hands and completing the course at the same time. I’ve heard that story countless times in twenty years, and to this day Karen swears that never happened.

But interesting, isn’t’ it, that the way we remember a man of stories is with more stories. It’s because stories are how we remember. They provide us a better way of remembering, far better than a list of simple facts. Over twenty years, some of the facts of Travis’ stories changed here and there, probably due to age, or maybe teller embellishment, but the basic point was the same. The story gave us the essence, the mood, the emotion or the idea, much more so than if we were to just list all the facts and statistics in a family reference manual that we could refer at some point in time.

Big Dad was our storyteller. He gave us something that was unique and that we will miss, but he also gave us something that we will cherish and pass on. He gave us stories, ones that will either fade away and drift from memory, or ones that will continue to live beyond his life,

…if we continue to tell them.

In Memory of Travis Hendrick 1928 – 2009, Part II