Monday, June 4, 2012

The Oner

Preacher Hebert was a oner. "Preacher" was a nickname he picked up in grammar school, and it followed him through his long, diverse life. Will Rogers once said he never met a man he didn't like. Preacher went him one better. He never met a man who didn't like him. As the years passed more and more of his friends, coworkers, and family members said goodbye to this world.

"There won't be anyone left to see me off," he often joked. He would have been surprised at the steady stream of condolers on visitation night and the standing-room-only crowd in the chapel the day of his funeral. There were plenty there to "see him off." Wife, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, former coworkers, hunting and fishing buddies, seven siblings, and assorted extended family. And friends. Lots of friends of all ages. The eulogies went on for quite a while.

He was in my life from the day I was born until the day he died. I observed nearly every phase of his life. Early on I remember those dark Cajun looks--the curly  hair, the laughing eyes, the pug nose that is a strong familial trait of the Heberts. Tall and solidly built, he had an athlete's fluidity of movement. I remember his hands--so big they could hide a baseball, strong enough to skin an alligator, yet with a touch so delicate he often bested his sisters, so I'm told, in a game of jacks. The dark curly hair grayed and thinned over the years, but the laughing eyes were there until they closed for the last time in his ninety-second year. December 8, 1999. Twenty-three days before the new century.

He excelled in all sports, but his passion was baseball. He was amazed he could actually get paid for doing something he loved so much. But when it was time, he hung up his cleats and went on to the next phase of his life. He never tried to relive the past through his children. Of the five of us, only two showed any real interest in sports, but that was fine with him. He always supported us in everything.

His retirement years afforded him the opportunity to pursue his other passions. He hunted ducks in the fall and winter. Spring and summer was the time for fishing and gardening. He skinned alligators during gator season and read "shoot-em-ups" when the weather was too bad for anything else. His talents extended to the kitchen as well, where he could whip up a mean gumbo. We were often treated to fried filleted fish, French fries, and fried okra followed by our mother's blackberry cobbler.

A snapshot shows him sitting in his pirogue in a quiet backwater of the Calcasieu River, an old man fishing, his face shaded by a battered baseball cap. A stranger might be surprised to know he'd been equally at home on the pitcher's mound in St. Louis, San Diego, and Pittsburgh. That snapshot is only part of his story. He was in my life a long time, and I regret he's no longer a part of it.

Writing Prompt
See what you can do with this:
A person who refuses to fit in and an asteroid heading toward Earth.
(Taken from The Storymatic)


  1. Love, love, love this. You are so lucky to have had your dad all those years. Your words flow like water. Although I didn't know your dad, the words you use make me miss him. You are such a great writer, Ms. Linda!

  2. I never tire of hearing Hebert stories!