Life Lessons From My Father
If candles had been on a cake, it would have taken quite a “huff and puff” to have blown them out. A few months back Dad (L.C. Coon) celebrated his 88thbirthday. Some parents deserve the honor the Bible instructs children give. Lanehart Calvin (thankfully branded L.C.) and Faye Coon do. A bit back, my blog was Five Things I Learned from Opal Faye Frazier Coon (Mom). Thanks for reading these somewhat longer ruminations.
The School of Family
Lessons thoroughly learned are those coming from constantly being in a particular environment. It is the reason business people and missionaries enter an “Immersion Program” for language study. For good or bad, family life is an “immersion program.” Parents’ approach to life shapes a youngsters future.
Rodney and I were immersed in a family marked by consistency, integrity and the unspoken practice of “the Golden Rule.” It was not perfect. There is no perfect family. After reading about Abram and his descendants, our family was not remotely as dysfunctional as that bunch.
L.C. Coon is a quality amalgamation: responsible, committed, progressive, caring, interested, interesting, a life-long learner, self-educated and trustworthy. Other positive adjectives and adverbs could be on the list. The arriving generation would do well to consider Dad as a model. His approach has worked.
Be Quietly Influential
Time stoops all shoulders. A few years back, Dad stood 6’ tall. These days, he is a bit shorter. In most areas of life, Dad will always stand considerably taller than 6’. Seldom do I visit, without at least one man much younger than me expressing how Dad has influenced him.
We don’t give such validation to men who are inconsistent. As was true of Mom, I could write more about Dad than you’d read. However, do indulge me. It may be worth it. We were immersed in several things by the daily experience of living at the home of L.C. and Faye Coon.
Work Hard and Work Smart
When he was 80, Dad would still have been able to work me to exhaustion. In his world, work is what men do. In his mid-teens Dad cut timber. He is familiar with the life of a share-cropper. Dad’s early morning departure to drive 30 miles to work as a roustabout for H.L. Hunt Oil Company was the norm of my childhood. Oilfield work is hard now. It was much harder then.
Dad wanted his family to progress. so he always had a second job or entrepreneurial enterprise. A quick list of ways he added to the family finances included growing red-worms and night crawlers, (Yes, in the 1960s, fishermen would stop by the house. Mom, or on the rare occasion I; would go to the “worm shed” to count out 50 or 100 worms.) Other endeavors: accounting for small businesses, completing Tax Returns, reading water meters, delivering live bait and fishing tackle across South Louisiana, owning a country store and after “retirement” from H.L. Hunt his own oilfield service company and owning multiple self-storage businesses. I missed some. Dad didn’t waste time. In the areas of his expertise and interest, Dad not only worked hard; he worked smart. He knew how to do things quickly.
Total Commitment to Jesus and a Local Church
Around 19, Dad was “born again” as instructed in John 3:5; carried out by following the instructions in Acts 2:38. He became part of a Pentecostal group who are radically monotheistic. To learn more about the beliefs and the Pentecostal experience Dad had send me a note. You might discover that you’d like to experience something similar for yourself. Influences on Dad’s conversion include heralded names, Evangelist W.E. Gambling and Ruth Caughron.
Shady Grove is a rural church in Louisiana’s LaSalle Parish. At Dad’s conversion, Shady Grove was one of the strongest Pentecostal churches in all Louisiana. Again, iconic people shaped him from a convert into a committed disciple. A.L. Clanton pastored Shady Grove immediately before becoming Editor in Chief for the United Pentecostal Church. Pastors Clanton, O.R. Fauss, and T.C. Bonnette among others put something into Dad. Without exaggeration, Dad has held every “job” in a church other than Ladies Ministry Director.
For decades he served as Shady Grove’s church secretary/treasurer. Most Sundays Dad spent several hours preparing church deposits and recording contributions. We were part of late night prayer shifts, barbecues to raise money for Sheaves for Christ and going to Jonesville to construct a church building for Church Planter Ben Deville. Dad has a Bible-based view. Decisions were screened through Bible truth. It seems the best way to do life.
Appreciation of The Bible
Dad has read through the Bible dozens of times. This year, he is reading it yet again. By November of a given year, he has likely completed the reading for that year. He has already started again.
He has heard thousands of sermons and Bible Studies. If Dad tells me, “That man is one of the best preachers I’ve ever heard,” the preacher received quite a compliment. Notes from things he has heard preached
are distinctively written in Dad’s Bible. Of course, I do suppose the only way to have a Biblical worldview is to know quite a bit about what the Bible says. Dad knows a lot. By observation and application, I gained an appreciation of the Bible.
Do What They Say Can’t Be Done
Dad was not a gambler, but he was willing to take meaningful measurable risks. In the early ’70s, my parents bought a country store. Their banker said, “Don’t do it. It is too great of a risk.” Dad and Mom had already counted the cost and calculated how it could work. They bought the store, rebranded it L.C.’s Grocery and paid it off in a few years.
He didn’t just tackle difficult things for our family’s benefit. In the 1960s, every home in the communities of Sharptown and Nebo depended on a well or cistern. Wells depend on the water-table. Cisterns depend on rainwater. Neither source is assured. Neither source is guaranteed to be usable. Before my teens, Dad and other community leaders pursued grant funds for a water system equalling that in any city. Of course, where it can be 1/2 mile or more between houses, it takes a lot of expensive piping.
A rural water system is expensive. Also, naysayers in the community were active in their opposition. Some thought, the water was going to be too expensive. Others imagined a government water system would give the federal government more control over their life or that the water might contain some unhealthy additive. (For this to make any sense, you have to understand how we southern country folk are a bit skeptical of new things. So it was and in many ways still is.) Dad and the others were undeterred. He visited home after home making the sales pitch to get home-owners to sign up.
A minimum number of participants was required to receive the grant. As the deadline neared to have an adequate number of participants the applicants lacked a few. Dad revisited those who had rejected his prior presentation. The group found enough participants, got the grant money and made it happen. If they said it couldn’t be done – Dad seemed to see that as a challenge. Without arrogance and with no bragging about it later – he just got it done.
Retirement is for Someone Else
During the oil crisis of the 1980s oil producers reduced staff. H.L. Hunt Oil offered early retirement. Dad took it. Within weeks Dad had established his own one-man company doing the same work he’d done for Hunt. Dad knows everything there is to know about the production side of getting oil out of the ground. He never lacked for clients.
In a decade or so, Dad retired again. It didn’t last. A small self-storage facility in Midway (a suburb of Jena) came on the market. It was Jena’s only self-storage. Dad and Mom bought it, cleaned it up, expanded it and ran it until it was time to retire.
Retirement didn’t last! In a few years Dad built a similar facility on the other side of town. In 2017, when Dad was 87 they sold their business and retired. Maybe? We will see if this one holds! Type A personalities are never ready to retire. Dad must be a “type A.” That trait certainly came to Rodney and me. I’m not able to envision spending four days of each week fishing or on a golf course. Work is enjoyable, particularly if what you do makes a difference and adds value.
Present Yourself Well
Dad has always been elegant. He and mom are an attractive couple. Dad has stood tall and has a ready smile. His head-full of silver hair is impossible to miss. Some men slouch their way through life. Not Dad. Even now, with the impact of years, if the situation calls for it the will is there. His shoulders go back in the posture that has defined him for a lifetime. Pastor Jerry Dean and Evangelist Tim Mahoney, among others, have mentioned how elegant Dad presents himself.
Until recently, Dad’s attendance Sunday church services were coat and tie events. You didn’t wear your gardening clothes to church! It was ingrained, look your best, even on a budget. I’ve not pulled off the look as well as Dad and my smile is a great deal slower to arrive. Would that my smile were more like Dad’s.
Make Time for People
Dad’s cliché to describe a talkative person is, “He can talk the horns off a brass billy goat!” Some days the phrase could likely be applied to Dad. L. C. Coon can get a conversation going with anyone about anywhere. In part, Dad’s quiet influence has come as a result of his willingness to listen. It wasn’t a pretense. Dad was genuinely interested in people and their story.
With his getting into such conversations we listened in on some tall tales. In the late ‘60s we stopped at a small tourist shop in Maggie Valley, NC. An old fellow ran the place. He had all the mannerisms of a true hillbilly. Dad got him started in a conversation. In short order, we learned that Maggie Valley was named after his long-dead wife Maggie. Of course, he’d needed to have been 150 years old for that to actually have been true. The problem was with this particular teller of tall tales was that when he started you couldn’t get him to stop. Dad is too considerate to walk away with anyone still talking. Finally, the rest of us went to the car. It took Dad forever to find a breaking point.
It was not just casual talk either. For decades many people who had no other person they could trust brought their story to Dad. He listened, if possible he gave advice. Often, he would listen to the same story again later. Confidences were not divulged. He was a patient listener who cared about the person talking. I’m not always as patient as Dad.
Family Vacations Matter
Some of the money from Dad’s second job was spent on an annual vacation. We aren’t sure how the idea of vacation became part of our family culture. In those years, a significant percentage of that population never left Lasalle Parish. My grandparents were not given to travel. However, the ambition to travel came. I’m glad it did.
Don’t misunderstand about “family vacation.” We did not travel to Hawaii, New York, or Fiji. The money available didn’t take us far but it was fun. For 5-7 days we headed to places like:
- Gatlinburg and the Smokey Mountain National Park. Did anybody else stay at the Wilson Motel in Gatlinburg?
- Biloxi was a destination if money was tight. Another year it was Destin, Florida before Destin was much of anything.
- Hot Springs and being entertained by the auction houses for free along the main drag or paying a bit to see a chicken play the piano.
- Branson, Missouri became a preferred spot. The Baldknobbers, The Presley Family, Foggy River Boys, Shepherd of the Hills, Silver Dollar City, the Corn-Crib Theatre, and the Family Fun Spot offered enough to bring us back. Did anybody else stay at the Jesse James Motel or the Silver Slipper? How about breakfast at Little Pete’s?
Those vacation trips were when our family spent the most time together. Norma and I applied the “family vacation matters” principle to our own life.
Criticism is a Waste Breath!
I’ve seldom heard Dad be critical of anyone. As a child, I never heard him speak ill of a pastor or any person in the church at Shady Grove. To do such a thing would affect how Rodney and I viewed that person. The decision to seldom criticize is wise!
There are some areas where I’m my father’s son. In most ways, Dad will be the best of the “Coon Crowd,” which includes several preachers, authors, educators, and entrepreneurs. There will be no day when it is not an honor to say, “L.C. Coon is my dad.” My sons are grateful for the times they spent with Dad in the oilfield or just hanging around their place in Sharptown. Even now, our “holy children” – Kaden, Wyatt, and Elsie revel in Dad, “Grandpa” to them, getting down in the floor to play.
What a ride it has been! I’m thankful the ride continues.
Unfortunately, the lessons I learned have not always been applied. Yet, I’m fortunate to have been immersed in the family of L.C. & Faye Coon.