A Small Tribute To My Father

He would be 95 today. James Elt Bourne, Jr., the son of James Sr and Helen Howes. The first child. The only son. Seven sisters. Tobacco farm. Do you feel sorry for him yet? I do and in many ways always have. This simple fact explains a lot about both of our lives.


He lived through the depression. Received the best education that eight grades could offer, and then married the farm. Not that he had a choice. Sr had taken ill that year – double pneumonia, right after he’d broken an arm falling off an ox cart (why was he riding an ox cart anyhow?). Jr got the crop in the barn with the help of a hired hand. He presented himself to high school in late October – in reality too far behind to ever catch up. So he simply took to farming.

His mother never seemed to have a bit of warmth emanating from her, unless it was in regards to her daughters. I’m sure they worked on the farm too. One aunt took pains to emphasize that point at his funeral. But love from his mother resembled money in the depression. Scarce.

Something happened to my father along the way. By the time he was 41 and met my mother, he could barely hold a conversation in public. My mother never had that affliction. Jr later said their union was the result of two left-overs getting together. I suppose I’m glad they did.

Helen never cared for my mother. I guess she viewed her as some type of thief. When I arrived, my mother’s stock went up a bit. Another male to carry on the supposed dynasty. I get to hear about that every time I visit my mother now. It’s one of the few things she can remember. I suppose the whole affair made an impression.

Dad raised tobacco all his life until he didn’t. 1983 finished him up. That crop brought more ten years later than it brought that year. Many farmers simply tilled it in and started over the next year. Dad would’ve never done that. Too much waste. Thirty-two years later, some of that crop is still hanging in the barn. Makes for nice show and tell.

Dad’s life was pretty much all work, little play. I’m writing this from Rome, Italy. I’m not sure he could fathom that. When I came back to the farm, we butted heads a lot. He gave me the responsibility, but very little actual power. That took a long time to change, death being the most responsible party there.

I’ve worked through a lot of feelings about my father. Like any child, my parents conflict me to a certain extent. In the end, it is what it is. He loved me the only way he knew how. He taught me to work. He gave me his farm. He bestowed upon me his angst. He made a life out of what he was given.

It took years for me not to think of him everyday. I do so now with admiration and love.

-March 10, 1921 – July 14, 2004