The Man

by tobias crabtree

Charles Crabtree is my dad and he’s quite a dude. He was born outa the Choctaw tribe and my Gramps was the first generation to move away from the reservation. Once, I went back with my Pa to Oklahoma to see the area where he grew up, i was 15 at the time. I saw the ol’ rope swing he used as a kid to fling off into the pond. I saw the fence where he decided to lasso a pig and then was decidedly drug through the mud by said pig. I saw my Grampa’s brother, who looked like my Grampa, horn-rimmed glasses and all. Aunt Evelyn was maybe the toughest old woman I’ve ever known and she was plucking chickens and filleting the bass for the meal that night when I met her. That world had a glow to it that I struggle to capture even though I remember it without a skip. My Pa came outa that country, it’s no wonder he’s a wonder.

Once I saw my ol’ man walk down a flight of 5 stairs and up a flight of 6 on his hands while he was speaking to a congregation of grinning christians. They were grinning and chuckling because this was no new thing to them, they had seen this kinda thing before. Dad was that kind of preacher. He attributed every strength and notion to his God, in fact, he still does. He’s a trick to figure out. He did not discourage a little fist fight every now and again, but there was never a curse word allowed. He could hear the television from any room in the house and would yell, “turn that thing off!” if anything being shown was the least bit questionable to christian standards (which was nearly everything), unless, of course, it was an old Western. Charles Bronson and Clint Eastwood had carte blanche and, or so I assumed, their cuss words were absolutely necessary considering their occupations as gun-slingers. Us boys would glance at one another with curly grins as the old man cleared his throat during these moments of gravity when a squinty-eyed Eastwood would utter a raspy, “well, hell…”and then take the appropriate action.

When Charlie Crabtree was 19, he ran his motorcycle through a barb-wire fence. It cut his neck and some fella from a gas station got him to the hospital before he bled to death. He woke up with a baptist preacher praying over him. In my Dad’s eyes, God saved him. Naturally, he decided to give his life to God. He went to preacher school and became a bulging muscle for Jesus. Lucky for Jesus, the old man is faithful like a hound dog, still memorizing scripture and weaving sermons together out of a lifetime’s worth of beautiful living. He just turned 80 and he still rides his Harley to and from the gym, where he lifts weights and laughs loud and is all the rave amongst the lifters. He is quick to pray for ya if you’re sick or sad or lost. He’ll jump right under your vehicle if it’s broken down cuz he used to be the bus mechanic in the early days when preachers wore many hats out of necessity. He’s every waitress’ favorite fella because he’s genuine and he listens and loves, even when you’ve done terrible things. He can quote the Bible like one of the Apostles, and he can quote Charles Bronson as well. He likes anything hand made, that’s why he owns my old wallet; I made it, he liked it, and I gave it to him for Christmas. About 5 years ago the family went to Glenwood Springs to be together, we all went to the big pool for a day in the sun. My brothers and I were playing on the diving boards with my nephews, doing tricks and laughing at tricks done poorly. Let’s face it, a belly flop is way more entertaining than a trick done well. Out of the blue, ol’ Chuck Crabtree stepped onto the 1 meter board and executed a reverse gainer. The trick wasn’t perfect and Pa kinda slapped on the entry but us boys all looked on with jaws agape. At 75, there he was, our Dad, coming up red faced and laughing, powerful and godly, perfectly imperfect.

A good many people blanch when they think of hanging out with a preacher. I reckon I would too, unless that dude happens to be 5 foot 3inches with pure white hair and bulging biceps…my Dad. He’s the man.