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I Am My Own Man

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I Am My Own Man

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John Michael’s newest Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise column, “I Am My Own Man,” shares about his dad, growing up in Lewiston, Idaho, and being his own man.

My dad was raised mostly in north Lewiston on a cherry orchard after some childhood years in Nez Perce. This was the ’40s and I imagine many folks from the Lewiston Orchards were as much rural as they were town. Dad and his brother were in 4-H and FFA (Future Farmers of America) with Dad winning some awards as a livestock judge.

I didn’t make it to the rodeo this year, but I was at the parade, and I took my dad’s old cowboy hats out of a sack and hung them up by a window in my apartment. He passed in February and I’m missing him pretty bad right now as fall sneaks in.

Also, because of the divorce, I missed him too much as a kid as well. I spent some summers in Weippe on the family farm which planted ideas in me about farming, animals (especially horses), and ranching. But growing up in Lewiston without Dad around? I was pretty much a town kid.

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I remember feeling a certain envy once I got to high school and some of the kids wore boots and talked about horses and raising stock for 4-H or walked around in FFA jackets. And huge heartache when I saw other dads helping their sons with Cub and Boy Scout projects. After Dad left, I was walking around mostly hunched over.

I was up at Moscow’s Farmers Market today buying some vegetables for my stew pot and realized the Latah County Fair was going on. I wandered over there and sauntered through the animal barns, scratching foreheads and rumps of cows, goats, and hogs, watched excited farm kids soaking up the attention and laughing with each other. It ain’t better or worse, but farm kids have a different aura and energy than city kids.

I’m still shy about taking pictures of people as I don’t want to be intrusive. A young girl sang the National Anthem before the livestock auction began and I found myself tearing up a little bit. As I was driving back, I noticed some combines still at work in the fields. The sporadic rain has slowed the harvest a little. An area farmer said, “It was a hell of a crop this year, thanks to all the Spring rain.”

Dad said once that he ate a lot of dust in his life, driving combines and tractors around Nez Perce and Weippe. It’s odd, I feel like I’m growing closer to you, Dad, all the time, maybe I can feel you some in heaven. I still want to be a cowboy and that ain’t a bad thing.

It’s odd, I feel like I’m growing closer to you, Dad, all the time, maybe I can feel you some in heaven. I still want to be a cowboy and that ain’t a bad thing.

I was never tough as a kid, but I figured out how to be during my last year out on the street. I could be aggressive in bars and at other times when I was trying to force things to go my way; my dad was a local legend as a bar fighter. This lasted a couple of years until I discovered I was receiving aggressive karma in return.

Dad was a cowboy. But a few days after writing this and while meditating, I saw an image of myself sitting in a chair. I liked the image because I was lean and wiry again, something I haven’t been in 20 years. I had a unique hat on that I didn’t recognize. But the thought was, Your own hat.

I love my dad dearly, but also, I am my own man, is the message I took. I like who I am and who I’m becoming.


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John Michael

Hello, good people. I am rarely sure how to describe myself. If I say I am a Christian, many things may arise in your mind that ain't necessarily so. I was homeless for seven years and learned more about myself in that stretch of time than in any other segment of my life. I read the Bible a lot out there and came across a passage in Proverbs that has shaped my approach to life: "A man's pursuit is his kindness." I am well educated with a Master of Social Work degree and have worked a wide variety of jobs in my 52 years. None have lasted too long however. When I was homeless, the beauty of Texas wildflowers made me decide to want to live again. Along with kindness, beauty, play, and self-expression are life-guiding ideas. My shadow contains things like feeling sorry for myself, a truckload of defiance, a desperate need to please women, and no small amount of cruelty. A quote from Luke also has had a lasting effect on me: "For God is kind to the ungrateful and the evil." When I read that I thought, "Hell, I have got a fighting chance." I am here to tell you, you have a fighting chance as well. Besides Christianity, practicing Buddhist and Shamanic techniques inform my relationship to God and the world.

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