Photos From Dad

There aren’t a lot of pictures of my dad.

He was the family photographer. He was the one who documented his life, our lives, and the passing of time.

He had the camera. He took the photos. There weren’t many times that someone took a photo of him.

I took this one.

My dad’s photos – and he took thousands of them – were neatly sorted, by topic, and filed, along with their negatives, in big plastic boxes. Most included handwritten notes – sometimes written over the front of the photo – explaining  who, or what, or when.

Tractors and wide fields of North Dakota wheat being harvested. And, pets. And, every house we ever lived in. And, flowers. And, squirrels. And, plenty of people I don’t know. And, cars.

(There are a few more photos of me, his daughter, than there are of the cars he has owned. But, it’s pretty close.)

When my dad died, over a decade ago, there was so much to do and so much to take care of, that I was overwhelmed by the photos and threw a bunch of them away. (Advice to future generations: do not throw away your father’s photos, no matter how many of them there are.)

How many photos of his ’46 Nash would I need in my life?

The correct answer is two.

This one …

And, this one …

Which includes this helpful explanation on the back …


When you’re an only child, the “family photo” is pretty small to begin with, but when your dad is also the family photographer, most of the family photos are just of me and mom. Or, just me. Or, just mom.

Here we are, disagreeing again.

This is, best I can tell, the only family photo that includes all three of us.

I’m the one in the middle. And, it appears that my dad is trying to stop me from running away.

I’m serious. That’s the only family photo of all three of us together that I have. I have no idea who took this photo and it’s entirely possible that my dad used a timer and a tripod to take it himself.

My mom took this one, one of only two or three photos of me and my dad together.

The California-born Baseball Bloggess, around age 6, in Lake Tahoe, touching snow for the very first time. If I seem horrified, I probably was.

Little did I know that just a few years later, we would move from California back to the North Dakota town where my parents grew up and where there is snow … constantly.

What would my dad want on Father’s Day? I think it would be this. He would want me to a) admit that it was short-sighted to throw out so many of his photos, and b) post some of the photos that I was smart enough to keep.

Oh, and he would want me to tell you one more important thing, which I will get to in just a sec’. But, first the photos …

1941 Ford. Snow courtesy of Devils Lake, North Dakota.

I told you there were a lot of photos of cars. And, snow. My dad turned 16 in 1941, so maybe that Ford was the family car. Or, it could have been a neighbor’s car. Or, it might have just gotten stuck in the snow.

After the hailstorm … a rainbow. My dad noted on the back that the local NBC news channel featured this photo on their weather forecast.

My dad took photos of all of the family pets, including this feral who just showed up on the farm one day.

I can’t tell you a thing about this chicken. I only know that I love this photo.

In 1988, part of my high school burned down. I had graduated nine years earlier and was working in Washington, DC by then. My dad called me that morning to tell me and then rushed to the school to take a photo. Because, he wanted to make sure I saw it. That’s the kind of dad he was …

There’s one more thing my dad would want me to tell you …

Don’t be too fast to toss out your father’s photos when he’s gone. Here’s why.

After my dad died, I started to go through the photos. I kept a lot, but, photos of the neighbor’s car and the neighbor’s cat? I had to draw the line.

Many were photos of his tractors that he had enlarged and framed. They hung over his desk. I kept those, because they were his favorites. (He would want me to tell you that they were John Deere tractors.)

He restored this old tractor until it looked — and ran — like brand new.

But, I just wanted the photos, not the wooden frames. Carefully, Editor/Husband and I peeled the photos out of their frames. And, hidden there behind one of the tractor photos was $300 in cash. I think he left it there for me.

Happy Father’s Day, dad. And, Happy Father’s Day to all the dads.

22 thoughts on “Photos From Dad

  1. Wish I could make the same kinds of comments about my Dad. Great stuff, Bloggess.
    As my grandfather, who had the Dad role for me, used to tell me, “Make sure you get into a couple of the pictures or they’ll think your wife was a widow early on.” Smart man.

  2. Love the snow picture. “You’re gonna touch the snow, and you’re gonna like it!” Well, maybe not.

    But good advice, hidden cash or not. There’s far more than $500 tied up in those photos.

    • Thanks, Casey. Absolutely. I think the money behind the picture frame was more about finding it and knowing — 100 percent knowing — that my dad hid it there for me to find one day. It was that little message from dad, his idea of a funny prank that would make me laugh, that meant more than the money.

      As for the snow … that’s pretty much still how I approach snow. We don’t have a good relationship.

  3. My dad wasn’t the family photographer, but he wrote letters. I have saved those and most of his notes as well. He made sure there was always mail in my mailbox while at college and when I left home. Never found cash, but, like your photos, they’re priceless even so.

    • How wonderful to have letters from your dad! Not many letters from my dad, but I kept the few he sent. I wish I had kept all the Sports Illustrated magazines he sent me over the years with his comments and opinions written in the margins!

      I love going through my dad’s photos from time to time. And, I always find one or two that I hadn’t noticed before. Priceless, indeed! :)

  4. I love this so much – he sounds like a wonderful man and father. And if I had that Nash (not to mention that chicken) I’d probably take just as many photos :)

    • Awww, thanks! That chicken photo was probably the artsiest photo of all. I love, love, love it! My dad would shake his head to think it’s one that I picked out for this post. He would have said, “Kid, why the chicken? Why not the ’69 Riviera or the ’66 Wildcat? The ’45 Nash? I left you 500 photos of cars. Why did you have to pick the chicken?”

  5. Back in the day it must have been the thing to take many pictures of the family car. We have multiple copies of every car our family owned. Chickens, yes. We lived on a farm and in every packet of “developed” pictures you picked up at the drug store there was at least one or two chicken shots. Just saying.

    • Thanks, Martha … my dad’s car photo collection went well beyond the family cars. I have one entire photo album filled with photos of every car that came by in a local parade … cars he liked in parking lots … the neighbor’s cars … hundreds of photos of cars, none of them the family cars. (Although we have lots of those, too.)
      As for the chicken … in all the photos, and there were more than a thousand, there was just that one chicken photo. Pets and horses and sheep and a couple cows — lots of those — but just that one chicken. He would be surprised that I discovered that photo and fell in love with it.

  6. I enjoyed reading about your dad and his photos. What a different time. Nowadays we have photos of everything and everybody, but unlike your dad’s photos, they’re not neatly organized and categorized. One thing I’ve always enjoyed about old photos is that it’s easier to identify the most meaningful ones, if only because there are so few photos of particular people together. It’s not about the pictures being “perfect,” it’s simply about the pictures existing. The imperfections of old photos given them added beauty in my mind.

    • Thanks, Matt. Every photo cost something back then, too … the cost of developing, the cost of film. It’s not as easy as it is today. And, no selfies. I try to imagine what my dad would have done with an iPhone … would he have taken a selfie? And, I finally decided, no. There were too many other interesting things he could take a picture of, why would he want to take a photo of himself?

      (I miss your blog …)

  7. Thank you for sharing your memories. I love the car, house pictures in great supply but not so many of just dad! I agree with the chief photographer thoughts…my dad did that also.
    Happy Fathers day to all Dads , no matter who you take care of, you are dad to them.

  8. Best post I’ve read!! My Dad too took a lot of pics, all slides for the most part. All are still around and, like your Dads, perfectly arranged. My Dad also was an officer/platoon leader in WW 2. He landed in Italy, led a platoon to the Black Forest, and was part of the Liberation of Buchenwald. He had no pics of that, but photo journaled his entire march from Italy to the Black Forest. Through blown out France, Germany and England. Amazing photos that we still have. I’ll show you some someday :) Thanks for the post, I loved it, and it brought back a lot of great memories :)

  9. Thank you for sharing such personal memories. I kind of think of our blogs as the new ‘photo albums’ and hope my kids can look back at it one day and see all of the fun we had together. I do sometimes think what would happen to my blog if something happened to me. Would one of my kids step up and keep it going? If not, would the few people nice enough to stop by and read it once in awhile think I just fell off the face of the earth? It may be morbid, but you think about weird things sometimes when it’s slow on the midnight shift.

    • You know, I think the same thing sometimes. There are blogs from very talented writers or people who just have the “knack” for telling a good story and write regularly. Then one day you realize they haven’t posted in awhile. They just disappear. And, I wonder, where did they go? What happened to them? Why did they stop? I think my dad would be pleased that his photos are getting some new life … not just sitting in a box. I enjoyed going through them all … and I always seem to find a “new” one that I hadn’t seen before. Those photos were a great gift that he left to me!

  10. I’m the family photographer too. I tried to capture each moment…to share w others and also to remember years later. So I’m not in many photos of our crew either (% wise) although Disney is great cause they will photograph you all over the place. At some point in time I realized while I was busy capturing the moment I took myself out of the moment. I’m glad you have some good and memorable photos of your father…

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