Professor Flappy Pants


Dad where he was happiest – on a ranch in Montana

In honor of Father’s Day, a repost from last year.

This is a day on which those of us whose fathers have died often flay about with our emotions.  At least I do.

My father’s words could kill. He had no patience with sickness, weakness or young children. His idea of the perfect family vacation was a grueling four hour back-packing trek up the face of Mt. Whitney (generally behind a pack of pooping donkeys), followed by a night spent next to an insect-infested lake with no plumbing facilities and the likely prospect of a visit from a bear. 


On the other hand, he was a Renaissance man, well-versed in the Greek mythology, astronomy, literature and classical music. As a pilot he was a madman in the skies but on the ground, never once got a traffic ticket.  He never swore and always had a book in his hands. He often said “when I become a burden to the tribe, I will wander out into the desert with just the clothes on my back.”  I don’t know how many times I heard him say that, especially as his parents aged.  I’m sure it comes from the years he spent with the Sioux. 

We fought about everything.  He was a hunter while I liberated rabbits from their cages. He supported the Vietnam War while I helped friends burn their draft cards.  He wouldn’t let me ride on the back of motorcycles with boys so I bought my own Honda 90. 


He ordered me not to live with my boyfriend before getting married. You can probably guess what I did. 

For someone perceived as somber and dignified, he did have his quirks.  He insisted on wearing WWII era ski pants which flapped in the breeze as he marauded down the slopes.  My sister and I called him Flappy Pants.  


WWII Era Ski Pants

Although his eye sight was excellent, he often went to work wearing mismatched socks. He had a legendary weakness for bow ties, particularly red bow ties. And he often got so wrapped up in the lab he forgot about his classes. They tried to make him Dean of Engineering and it was a total disaster. He was far too honest and forthcoming with his opinions to run the department or get along with other college VIPs.

He lived long enough to laugh at the fact Arnold Schwartzenegger was elected governor of California but not long enough to see the rise of Obama, which is a shame as I think he would have been proud.  Racist was one thing he could never have been called.

Dad didn’t die in the desert with just the clothes on his back.  He died in the Pacific Ocean in his speedos.  I like to think he was trying to swim to China.

31 thoughts on “Professor Flappy Pants

  1. What a fascinating man your Dad sounds! I should have loved to meet him. I still have a 100 to a 1000 questions I’d love to be able to ask my own Dad. What is that saying –
    too late we get smart? You write beautifully of him, Jan : )

    1. Thanks Joanne – I was stunned to be reminded the other day that he’s been gone over 10 years. Doesn’t seem possible.

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