Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Faris Biography. Hey, I'm on the cusp.

MARK’S ARTICLE – Aug 20, 2009
“On the Cusp of a Bio”

The earliest memory of my dad was of him tossing me up on his shoulders during the Foley’s Christmas Parade in downtown Houston. Might’ve been the first parade ever. First in Houston, I mean. I didn’t attend the first parade ever in the world. I believe it was the Kill Big-toothed, Slobbery Beast Day Parade way back in the BC’s. I’m guessing here.

I only mention the earliest memory ‘cause of my next writing project. If I play my cards right, it just may turn out to be a project I actually finish. Cross fingers.
The idea came from Kay. The other morning she suggested I write a book about my dad. I liked the idea ‘cause it sounded so much easier than the one I was thinking of. I wanted to do a psychological play where every… Uh, never mind. I hate to give the idea away. When (and if) I finish Dad’s story, I may go back and write the crazy play.

But, for now, I’m on the cusp of a bio. I like that word. Cusp. Sounds like something you could eat. “I’ll have the buttery cusp with some blueberry ice cream.”

Like I said, this oughtta be easy to write, ‘cause I know a lot about Dad. Uh, he was my dad. Did I mention that? Anyway, I made a list of stuff to mention in the book. Give me a second. Here it is. Let’s see, I’ve got the first paragraph at the start of the article. That’s cool. I’ve got the trip to Florida. What an adventure. And, Dad didn’t kill us or anything like that.

All the stuff that happened on our golf trips oughtta make a fascinating chapter. The many carpenter jobs we did with Dad could be a book in itself.

Yeah, I’ve got a whole list here. Problem is I don’t know where to start. I hate to do it chronologically. That’s what people expect you to do. It’s so overdone. Kay suggested I get organized. Maybe make an outline. She can take so much fun out of stuff. Turn fun into a chore. Turn a cusp into a trudge. “Trudge” is not a fun word. You don’t wanna eat anything called “trudge.”

So, I’m gonna try for an outline. But, first I’ve got to finish with my research. I hate research. It means I have to talk to people. I asked the brothers and sisters to send me their memories of Dad. Good and bad. I wanted an honest bio. Larry said, (and I quote) “Why do you wanna write a book about Dad? He didn’t do anything. Who’d read it?”

That’s the oldest son talking there. What Larry meant was that Dad was not famous. Larry thinks books are only written about famous people. Dad was so not famous. In fact, he’s two generations from being forgotten.

But, what Larry doesn’t realize is that books are written about characters. And, Dad was certainly that. I defy anyone to prove that Faris Hayter was not a character.

To get at least one objective account of Dad, I went to Pasadena yesterday to interview one of the guys Dad used to work with at Crown Refinery. The gentleman’s name is Howard Bradley. I don’t think there was a day at the plant where anyone called Bradley, “Howard.” He was the youngest operator in the refinery, likely the country, so they called him Junior as a joke. And, added in "Bradley" so they could tell him from anyone really named Junior. I guess that’s what they did.

Junior Bradley with Evelyn. Have you ever seen a more charming couple!

Before yesterday, I don’t believe I had ever met Junior Bradley. I heard more about him than practically anyone at the plant, but I don’t think we met. Dad would come home and announce that he was going golfing with Junior Bradley. Or, building a garage with Junior Bradley. They were thick as thieves.

When I met the gentleman yesterday, he told me that he spent more time talking with Dad than he did with anyone in his family. Told me that Dad knew something about everything. Politics, history, religion… Dad could talk convincingly about it.

I tried to get JB to be perfectly honest about Dad. Told him to tell me everything he knew, warts and all. I even encouraged him by mentioning what a temper my dad had and how we were always afraid he might snap or something. Dad’s old friend acted as if I was talking about a different Faris. I couldn’t get the man to say anything negative. Oh, he told some stories, but none that painted Dad as less than respectable.

I asked him about some of the other guys at the plant that Dad used to talk. Guys named Blacky and Curly and Red. Dad would occasionally even mention some normal named people. Ed Weston, Clyde Archer and Pete Conner. JuniorBradley knew ‘em all. Even took the picture of the Crown Fast-pitch Softball team I brought along and gave me the names of those in the photo.
Find Dad in the photo. The guy was a catcher on the fast-pitch softball team.

And, he had stories about practically all of them. Mostly funny ones. I enjoyed the talk and was especially pleased with finally getting to meet one of Dad’s old friends. And, the man is in such good shape mentally and physically. He’s 84 and sharper than I am. Right. No big stretch there.

And, his hearing is better than mine, which shocked the willies outta me. I didn’t think there was any way a person could work at Crown Refinery for 37 years and walk away with his hearing intact. I worked there for two weeks one winter and came away nearly deaf. The boilers were hissing and roaring, the flackstack compound blades were clangin’ away… (I made that up. I never knew what was making all the noise.)

After the interview, I shook hands with JB and hugged his charming wife, Evelyn. Whatta doll! Then I drove over to Dennis’ house and talked with him and Larry about Dad. What’s weird is we each had a different view of the man. Not shockingly different, but different.

We each witnessed pretty much the same events, but those events didn’t generate the same emotions. Maybe that’s normal in a family.

Regardless, my book is not going to be normally written. I’m pretty sure about that, ‘cause I doubt I do an outline. I hate outlines.

I’ll give Susan, Jill and Big Al a couple more days to give me their input, and then I’m launching forth. I’ll be on the post-cusp of Dad’s biography. That sounds like a cereal, doesn’t it?. “Post Cusp. A lot like Cap’n Crunch, but in a different box.” I think they do that with a lot of cereal, don’t you? I’m just sayin’.



  1. Good luck with the book. The Bradley's are some fine, fine people. So glad you got to meet up with them.

    We've got that baseball picture framed, over the computer!

  2. Good article, Moke.
    Cora Beth, thank you for your help with getting JB & Moke together. Moke I'll get my thoughts to you probably this Saturday at the August BD Gathering. I look at Daddy so differently now, can't wait till I can hug him again.

  3. Here's something about Dad - The first year I played in Little League, I played for the Cubs. The first field was behind Pasadena High - real nice concession stand and only one in Pasadena. Four teams in National League - 4 teams in American League. First practice I liked playing shortstop. Manager was checking us all out to find out what position to put us in. The kid that was catching was terrible. Dad went up to the Manager and said "My kid can do better than that." End of the year I was all-star catcher of the National League. Got my picture in the Pasadena Citizen with Thomas Maples, all-star catcher of the American League. That was the height of my athletic career. (You can just use the stuff about Dad). This is from your No. 1 brother Larry

  4. I didn't know that Lar, I like to find out things like that.

  5. I love this story, Lar!! You keep blogging with us, cause you're good, and we love you to pieces!

    Remember when you brothers were trying to be a singing group and y'all would sing The Kingston Trio's stuff, like "Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley" and "How Many Roads Must a Man Walk Down"? Y'all were singing one day and Daddy got me and said that me & him could sing good too, so we sang with y'all and it sounded good. Then Daddy stepped back and let me sing, and I sang "Where Have All The Flowers Gone". That made me feel special, like Daddy knew I could sing!
    And we were on vacation one time and I was sitting in the back seat and hanging over the front seat and we were talking about singing, and Mom told me to sing something. And I sang, "It's My Party and I'll Cry If I Want To", and Daddy let me sing the entire song without stopping me, and then he said I sang good. Of course after that I wanted to keep singing, but Mom silently let me know that was enough. I knew that it was enough, cause if Daddy had wanted me to continue, he would have told me to. I felt very special in Daddy's eyes then.

  6. I'm real curious to know what kind of car the Hayter clan drove back then, that would hold all of you!

  7. Well, duh... that's obvious if y'all were in it! What brand of clown car?