Saturday, January 30, 2010

Who's Your Aquarius?

“Who’s your Daddy?” is a commonplace phrase, generally asked as a rhetorical question suggesting dominance over the interlocutor. My Daddy is an Aquarius. The Sun is in the astrological sign of Aquarius from January 21 through February 19. Aquarians are known to be original, inventive, unconventional, independent, friendly and humanitarian. My father embodies each of those qualities. They are also known to be perverse and unpredictable at times. “Fanatical eccentricity” is another trait listed on the profile, and I wholeheartedly agree with that one.

Growing up with an Aquarian father has been a real adventure for me, complete with ups and downs. On the whole my feelings for my father are quite warm. I have learned a great deal from his openness and intellectual curiosity. His birthday present from me is a tribute to his Aquarian voyage through life up to now.

Aquarians are known for changing directions in their open search for truth. These individuals are not afraid to venture into unknown territory, changing jobs, entering new relationships and experimenting with various schools of thought. Daddy has lived this way for the majority of his life.


David Garrison was born February 2, 1938 in Tipton, Missouri. He worked his first summer jobs beginning at age 5 on his grandfather’s farm in Anderson, Missouri. At one time, Anderson was “the strawberry capital of the world.” Daddy spent several summers picking strawberries and grapes in the patches and vineyards of southern Missouri.

At the age of 10, he moved to a town called Clarkton in the Missouri Bootheel. There he helped his father and brothers to construct a church. Once the church was built, he picked cotton during the warm months of the year. Back then, the Bootheel was “cotton country.”

My grandparents bought a family farm in Tipton Ford, Missouri when Daddy was 12. He helped his brothers and sister to milk cows and take care of other livestock including chickens and hogs. He raised a favorite pig called “Whopper.” As he was quite fond of Whopper, he disliked the paternally imposed initiation rite of killing and slaughtering Whopper. My grandfather wanted to teach him that as a meat eater, he needed to overcome his emotional attachments to the farm animals.

My grandfather Wayne was a school principal in addition to working as a farmer. As time went on, Wayne decided to construct homes as well. When Daddy was 14 he started working with his brothers, father and grandfather laying brick, roofing and plumbing. His construction work continued for the remainder of his time in junior high and high school.


Following high school, Daddy completed two years at Joplin Junior College. He then decided to explore his employment options in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He worked as a shoe salesman, a file clerk for a manufacturing company and a file investigator at an insurance company before deciding that a college degree would be necessary for vocational satisfaction. He enrolled for two more years at The University of Missouri-Columbia. He earned a B.S. in Education while living at home with his parents and laying brick as a part-time job.

My parents got married after college and moved back to my mother’s hometown of Joplin. Daddy’s first job out of college was selling “Baby Butler” products, safety equipment for babies such as high chairs and cribs. He got his leads from birth announcements in the local newspaper.

When my parents got up the courage to leave southwest Missouri, they both found teaching jobs in Kansas City. Daddy taught General Science and Physical Health to junior high school students. To earn extra money, he sold World Book Encyclopedias door to door in the evenings. When he was offered a traveling sales job for significantly more money he took a job with Corning Glass Works for 3 years. While still living in Kansas City, Daddy was offered another sales job with Champlin Petroleum Company, first in sales promotion and then as a District Sales Manager.

Since my maternal grandfather was also in the oil distribution business, he was able to convince Daddy to return to Joplin to work as an “oil jobber” for Champlin. When the local Mobile distributor passed away, he was offered that man’s job. He then managed 8 service stations which he converted one by one into convenience stores. At the time, convenience stores were a novelty. He turned this new business into a company called “Pronto Enterprises” and by the time I was in high school he had 25 convenience stores and 3 truck-stops. Because of a longstanding tax and accounting error, Pronto Enterprises was forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1987. In 1990 the company had to be liquidated. Pronto stores were no more, but a lot of folks remember them.

Daddy’s next venture was a recreational horse-riding park called “Happy Trails.” I remember brainstorming with the family to come up with that name on a long drive to the Grand Canyon. 18 saddle horses and 8 draft horses lived in the stables at Happy Trails. The stables and trails were all on the 200 acres of land where we lived in the family house. Before the official opening of Happy Trails, I helped my sisters, my stepmother and our French foreign exchange student to break in the trails with the horses. We got through a couple of minor injuries while having a lot of fun. The saddle horses were Appaloosas and Quarter Horses. The draft horses were Belgians and Percherons. Happy Trails offered wagon and trolley rides. At Halloween we had something called “Spooky Trails,” featuring horse-drawn wagon rides at night up and down wooded hills with all kinds of scary actors and macabre displays.

Daddy always loved to smoke fish, turkeys, brisket, ribs and steaks in his smoker, so in 1993 he opened Uncle Dave’s BBQ Restaurant. To this day he uses hickory wood to smoke his meats. Uncle Dave’s served a loaf of homemade bread and apple butter to every table. Of course, the restaurant served the full array of Southern style sides. I know, because I worked there for a year as a hostess and waitress. The restaurant was a tiring endeavor so Daddy sold it in 1996.


From 1996 until the present day, David Garrison manages a fun small business called, “Paintball Ridge.” Logically, Paintball Ridge is located on the same land where Happy Trails once entertained adventurous customers. Paintball Ridge claims to be Missouri’s largest paintball park, “complete with 6 playing fields, a 2,500 square foot pro shop and a party room.” I know how much Daddy has enjoyed working with teams of young players over the years and he still gets excited about tournaments and historical enactments.


Most folks call my father “Dave.” Dave’s career path is certainly unconventional. Times have been tough, but he always seems to have fun with his work. I never heard him say he was bored. As a quick addendum to this chronological history, let me thrown in some final quirky details:

• Dave is on his fourth marriage, and Ying Chau (Candy) is a devoted spouse and an energetic life partner.

• Although my father attends no church at this time, in the past he has attended many churches and he started one of his own when I was in junior high school. His church was called “Praise Place”; with a name like that, you guessed right if you envisioned a full band and lots of singing.

• When I was 23 Dave invited a sect of an international religious community to take up residence on his land. These people still live there and have reconstructed a large barn into a lovely house. They also have several cabins and mobile homes on their section of the land. The group does international humanitarian work and they live communally. Members of the group rotate through their Joplin location on a regular basis, usually to receive training for various missions.

• Dave is a longtime champion of LGBT rights and spent several years actively participating in Joplin’s largest open and affirming place of worship. He used to cook and serve meals for 100+ economically disadvantaged persons every Wednesday evening at this church.

• When I was little, Daddy claimed to be an agnostic. Over the years he has changed his position and now claims a firm belief in the Divine. He shares my interest in interfaith studies and we are both learning a lot about Eastern religions and philosophy.

• Daddy’s maternal great-grandfather was a Cherokee Healer. Both his great-grandfather and his grandfather are listed on the Cherokee rolls in District No. 10. With my aunt, Daddy has made several visits to the Cherokee Nation Headquarters in Tahlequah, OK to formally document our family’s Cherokee ancestry.

• Native American Fellowship Circles have been held on my father’s land on many occasions. These ceremonies have included bonfires, drumming, smudging and singing. Among others, the following tribes have participated: Cherokee, Pottawatomie, Choctaw, Inuit and Osage.


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