He was born in Stone County in the great state of Arkansas way back in 1930. His mom named him Urbane, but everyone knew him as Ben.
You might say the folks around those parts were poor hillbillies. But they didn't know it. They were just hard working country hill folk doing their best to make it day in and day out.
Growing up on the old rock-dirt farms near Luber, he had to stop going to the rock school house before he got to the eighth grade to help in the fields. His dad was old school and strict with Ben and his three brothers. His mom kept the house clean and the meals cooked and the cow milked. She canned most of the produce they were able to coax out of the rocky soil, and the boys brought in rabbits and squirrels to cook whenever they could find them.
Later on, Ben spent lots of time in the "log woods" felling trees, skidding the logs out behind a mule, and cutting those logs into bolts to be taken to the mill and made into staves.
In 1951, Ben married a young lady from nearby Hanover, and they soon moved to Kansas City on the promise of steady work. They intended to stay in the city from September to May the next spring. Forty-two years later he retired from the steel mill, still living in Kansas City and still wanting to move back to the house he had built with is own hands close to Tomahawk Creek near Hanover.
While in Kansas City, Ben and Juanita raised four sons. He was a hard worker and held to some of the strict discipline taught to him by his own father. Even back then, raising kids in an ever changing social environment could be tough. Even so, he was extremely proud when each of those boys walked across the stage to pick up their high school diplomas, something he had never been able to accomplish.
When we were musicians going from place to place playing music he didn't understand and really didn't like very much, he was our driver, roadie, and all around biggest fan. He would stand in the back of the hall or skating rink -- wherever we were playing -- and keep an eye on things. Occasionally he would slip out and smoke a Winston, but he was always there when it came time to pack up the speakers, drums and guitars in the back of the old purple station wagon.
And though he wasn't crazy about our cover versions of songs by Steppenwolf, The Rolling Stones, and other rock bands of that time, he never discouraged our endeavors.
On one occasion, while making a visit to a local music store to purchase a new sound system, Ben had a crowd of hippy looking guys standing around him when we walked out of the store. Fearing he may have offended someone, we moved in to keep the peace only to find them all watching in amazement as he deftly rolled cigarette after cigarette from his pouch of tobacco. One of the guys even asked him to do it again -- "but slower this time." We all had a good laugh on the way home, not sure if Ben even knew why they were so interested in his cigarette rolling prowess. But he probably knew good and well why they were watching so closely.
Whether we were playing music or football or what-have-you, dad was always there to support us (if his shifts at the mill allowed him to be).
After a while all of us boys married and became parents ourselves. This was the time for Ben to shine. Being a grandpa, or a papa, seemed to be what he was born for. All of his grandkids loved him so, and he returned that love in such an easy, natural way.
He had some longtime, loyal friends from his years at the mill, and he seemed to make friends easily during his retirement years. Always smiling; always finding a way to bring cheer to every occasion.
Ben slipped away from us one night in early 2011, and he has been -- and is yet -- sorely missed.
Happy Fathers Day Dad!