For Father's Day and every day

TOWNER, N.D.-- My four-year-old has his own way of saying some things. Instead of saying "today," he'll say "this day." For example: "What are we going to do this day, Dad?"...

We are part of The Trust Project.

TOWNER, N.D.-- My four-year-old has his own way of saying some things. Instead of saying "today," he'll say "this day." For example: "What are we going to do this day, Dad?"

Good question, son.

He reminds me, in his own cute way, that it's not just any day we're about to plan, it's this day. And when "this day" is over, we won't get another chance at it. This day will be gone forever.

There's plenty written in the motivational media about the value of a day. Set goals, make plans, check off your accomplishments as you capture each milestone on the way to your first million or your next promotion. Each day is a gift, for sure, and we ought to consider how we use each of those gifts.

My middle son isn't thinking about us reaching the next rung of some material ladder, though, when he asks about our plans for this day. He's just wondering if we'll get to do something together as a father and a son.


This all hit me as we approached Father's Day, and, like a lot of things, my four-year-old helped me make perfect sense of it all.

Saddle up

Every kid is different, and every dad's relationship with his children is different. There is no standard instruction manual for the job, but there's a common denominator for the men most would call good fathers.

I think that denominator is like the tagline I read for an initiative promoting responsible fatherhood. It said "take time to be a Dad today." Simple enough. Take time.

The simple idea made perfect sense when my son looked at me recently with all his four-year-old hope and earnestness and said, "Dad, can we ride horse this day?"

My generally consulted list of things to do that day had items on it such as fixing fence, spraying weeds, entering cattle records and balancing the checkbook. I ignored the list and said, yeah, let's ride horse today.

He beamed as we went out to catch and saddle Dude, a 26-year-old gelding whose main job on the ranch is to eat grass and make little kids happy. He's the horse on the place that's not for sale and I hope he has a few more years left in him to work his equine magic on our family.

Giddy up


Dude is a full-sized horse, making him about twice as tall as my son. My son didn't let that disparity discourage him as he grabbed a hold of the saddle strings and scrambled up and on to the saddle of his noble steed.

I saddled up another horse and off we went. I looked over at my boy and he beamed back at me with a grin that stretched from ear to ear. Dude is the horse that he gets to ride all by himself, full control of the reins to stop or steer or maybe even kick into a trot. He relishes the responsibility.

When we pulled back up to the hitching rail, I suppose the whole activity for catching, saddling, riding, giggling, talking and turning the horses loose again took an hour or an hour and a half of "this day."

My little boy slid off of that big horse and as soon as his cowboy boots hit the ground, he looked over at me with a big smile and a twinkle and said, "Can we ride Dude again tomorrow?"

What's a dad to say? I said, "Yes, I'd love to." And my heart swelled as I put the saddles away and I knew that "this day" was a good day, a father's day and a son's day.

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Mikkel Pates set the standard for agricultural journalism during his 44-year career in the region, working for Agweek, The Forum and the Worthington Globe.
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