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  • My dad died Thursday night. He was 86. Since June 21, 2012, was the longest day of the year, it was appropriate for a guy who loved having lots of daylight to get his work done to move on to whatever the afterlife holds on the longest day of the year. He hated wasting daylight.

    My first Cowbird piece, entitled “Pickup Lines” ( featured this photo of my father – Arthur Young Jr. All of the quotes in this brief piece came from him from one time or another. He was one of those people who laconically said funny and often profound things. As the first male child in our family, I was named after him and my grandfather. Both were very proud of their Swedish ancestry.

    My great grandfather, August Swenson, was asked to change his last name to something else when he was entering the U.S. on Ellis Island. There must have been a lot of Swensons that day chasing the American Dream. He chose the name “Young” and some bureaucrat penciled this in on his forms.

    He left his native Stockholm when he was 17 joined some friends and relatives for the good life in Texas. August started a little Swedish community called West Sweden, Texas, building a church, school and store, and farmed several sections of land. My father grew up on this land and over many years put the entire parcel back together and followed his grandfather’s example. It became integral to his life.

    As this photo suggests, my dad's personality was complicated. He was a very quiet, intelligent and even stern guy who grew up in a time when fathers worked hard and let their wives take care of the kids. As a result, I didn’t get to know him until I was old enough to go to work with him. Once I went to work for him I saw how he treated his employees, customers, other farmers and animals. I found out that he was very outgoing – even gregarious - interesting and compassionate.

    We seldom agreed on politics, never talked about literature and we wouldn’t think of sharing our feelings. Guys his age didn’t do that.

    We were, however, in complete agreement about a few things. These included the tragic brilliance of George Jones. We both distrusted authority, especially if it was based solely on wealth. We agreed that his two grandchildren (Jaz and Chris) were the smartest two kids in the world. And we both loved being outside working on the farm in West Sweden.

    I will miss him.

    Photo by A. Young 2009
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