The Turlock Journal is focusing on "memories of dad" for this Father's Day edition, and it has prompted quite a few paternal flashbacks for me. My father passed away from a sudden heart attack in March 2000, but he lives on in my memory.
There are many memories that bring a smile to my face when I think of my dad, Jack Gilbert Stout. For one, he loved jazz. He loved jazz music so much he quit college and ran off to Los Angeles to start a band — not a wise decision during the Vietnam War, as he was soon drafted into the Army.
The Army, seeing where his true talents laid, put him in a military band. You might think that would be the safest job to have during a war, but my dad told a few stories about running with a trumpet in one hand and gun in the other as enemy fire rained down upon him. Thankfully, he made it out alive — or I wouldn't be here today.
Growing up, I remember my dad as a fan of gourmet food, remote-control airplanes and Ford Mustangs. But one of my most cherished childhood memories is the time we spent together through the YMCA's Indian Princesses program.
I apologize to the Native American culture for the politically incorrect name of this father-daughter youth program. I understand the YMCA now calls it Y Guides. But, at the time, going to Indian Princesses meetings with my dad was the coolest thing ever.
Not only did we have Indian names — ours were Big Wolf and Little Wolf — but unlike Boy Scouts where there are den mothers, the Indian Princesses meetings and events were solely organized by the fathers. This made for some interesting meetings. Most of the big events were competition-oriented, like bike rodeos and swim meets.
One of the most "only a father would do" Indian Princesses moments was during the group's annual camping trip. After setting up camp, roasting hotdogs and marshmallows and ending the evening with a few ghost stories, we all climbed into our tents for the night. That is when the famous fickle Indiana weather decided to take a turn for the worse.
Hurricane level winds began to blow —well, at least that's how I remember it — and rain poured down in sheets. My dad and I had to keep re-staking our tent as the storm blew it down over and over again during the night. All the other fathers and daughters gave up after an hour or so of Mother Nature's worst and drove to the nearest hotel. Not Big Wolf and Little Wolf.
We battled the storm all night long and come morning, when the rain had stopped and the sun was shining, my dad calmly built a campfire and started cooking the best breakfast I've ever had. Pretty soon the cars and trucks started arriving. The other Indian dads and princesses in our group were astonished to see us enjoying sausage, eggs and orange juice at the scene of the recently demolished campsite.
My dad turned to the others and asked "Where have you been?" This is the kind of father-daughter memory I will cherish always.
The only regret I have is not reminiscing with my dad about my fondest childhood memories before he died. I encourage you to take a minute and travel down memory lane with your dad this Father's Day.