My Dad

My Dad Billy Ray Hardin
My Dad
Billy Ray Hardin
Growing up in Clovis, NM, memories of my Dad are mostly of him at work.  Dad leased a gas station, and ran the business along with the help of my mom.  The first station that he managed, was pretty far from our home, on what was called the base highway, because it led to Cannon Airforce Base.  The first few years of operating the station, Dad kept it open 7am to 9pm 7 days a week.  Because I was still just 5 years old, I spent those days with Mom and Dad at the station.  Mom would take me to the library, I was an early reader, and I would read much of the day.  I also liked to stick a red rag or grease rag in my pocket, and follow Dad around.  He would let me go into the shop bay, but not out in the drive where the pumps were.  He was always protective of me getting hurt.

Dad also had a disability.  He never talked about it and he never let it stop him from working.  When he as two years old, a family member was driving with Dad in the front seat of the car when they had an accident.  I never knew the details except that the car drove under a semi truck.  Dad amazingly survived the crash, but his right arm and hand were torn up pretty badly.  His right hand turned completely under, and he could not use those fingers. His hand was never fixed.  There was no attempt at surgery. For reasons unknown, it was just left that way.   Many years later after Dad had retired, a Dr. told him he would love to fix it for him, but by that time Dad said he was too old to worry about it.  Dad also had a knee that was held together by screws.  This incident was in his teens, and another car accident.  With no one willing to take care of him, or possibly couldn’t, he was left in a hospital for a full year.  I can’t image that, but it is the truth, verified by one of my sweet great aunts, who used to visit him. Dad had many things happen to him in early life that probably could have just kept him down, but he was a survivor.

I watched him work, walking on the concrete and pumping gas in the New Mexico heat. I watched the sweat drop into his eyes and him wipe it away with the red rag. I watched him pull his pants up and tighten his belt. He was losing weight. He was small anyway, he probably weighed around 140 lbs. I cried to a God that I really didn’t know yet, but I believed he was there. I asked him why? Why did Dad have to work so hard out in the sun? Isn’t there a job inside he could have. I would watch Mom take his boots off at night and gently work on his feet. He had calluses and corns. As a little girl this made me so sad. I wished God would change things for him, give him an easier job. Finally my Mom saw the toll it was taking on him. I believe it was by her encouragement that he started closing on Sunday. The pay that Dad received from gas, was only pennies on the gallon. The station was open to take in flat tires and cars with issues. Dad together with Mom learned to fix many of those issues. I can remember my mom doing what they call rebuilding a carburetor. She was definitely not afraid of work. Once my Mom got here finger hung in the tire machine, big machine that they use to take a tire off of its rim. To this day there is a mark on her wedding ring where Dad pried her finger loose. God answered my prayer in not exactly the way I had asked, but he gave my Dad a much better station, with better location, and a better owner to work with, who paid him more money on gas purchases. Dad was able to hire extra help and the station eventually became known as the best full service gas station in town. They had contracts with the post office and the police department. That meant not only did they purchase their gas from the station, but Dad was responsible also did all of the maintenance and service work on each of the vehicles.

Dad, and Mom too, had huge hearts for helping others. Dad actually had his phone number printed on the large glass front window of the station. In an emergency call Bill — — —-. I’m not making this up, he truly did this. It wasn’t uncommon for him to get a call late at night from someone who needed help. Broken down vehicles, but also just people traveling through who had run out of money, and needed gas to get back home. I don’t think I ever heard him turn away anyone. If he could help he always did. I hope I can always have the kind of heart for helping people that he did. I believe I got my survival skills and work ethic from him. My Dad had his flaws like we all do, but he was a good man and I am forever grateful for the good things I can hold onto from him……My Dad.

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