(Written on October 9, 2013)
Today is October 9, 2013. One hundred years ago today, in Panhandle Texas, Floyda Margaret Hickox-Bishop, wife of George Frederick Lee Bishop, gave birth to George Francis Lester Bishop, a.k.a. George F. L. Bishop II. To me he would be “Dad”. Like nearly all births in the world, this one went unnoticed by the world with the exception of family and close friends. To them he would certainly be noticed.
He was the third child of the couple and the first and only son and he was to become what many men of his day became, a self-made product of the great depression and a dry-land farm in the Texas Panhandle. He was doted on by his older sisters his entire life. He was the baby; 5 years younger than Zoe and 8 years younger than Helen, and to them he was always their baby brother. In spite of that he became their defender and protector like a big brother would.
When he was about 4 years old the family purchased that dry-land farm 2 miles east of Canyon, Texas and it was there he would spend the remainder of his youth. He started school there and finished college there, in practically the same building. His dream was to follow in the footsteps of many of his Prussian predecessors and make his career in the military. His father, the first George F. L. had wanted the same thing for himself, but for reasons that died with him and others who knew him, he became a farmer and rancher instead. He wanted his son to make that choice of a military career for himself which he did, and was at first overjoyed when George F. L. 2nd received an appointment to West Point to replace his older cousin Harry who was 4 years older.
However, God apparently had other plans. At that time cadets weren’t given a physical examination until after they received their appointment, so upon receiving his appointment Dad reported for his physical. When it was completed he was told he wouldn’t be able to continue his dream. His feet were flatter than a pancake and he was allergic to too many things to be acceptable as an officer in the U.S. Army. He was bitterly disappointed, and his father was devastated. It meant that two generations of his portion of the family would not serve in the military.
Nearly seventy years later Dad would have the opportunity to attend the West Point graduation of his step-grandson Peter and while there he found a picture of Harry, hanging alongside the rest of his graduating class. Dad’s comment to me at the time was indicative of his basic nature, which was to always look on the bright side of any situation. He said, “You know, if I hadn’t had flat feet and allergies, I wouldn’t have met your mom and you wouldn’t have been born. So, I guess I’ve been pretty fortunate after all.” Yep, Dad … at any rate I consider it fortunate for my own sake if nothing else.
His basic optimistic nature, and always being on the lookout for opportunity, led him to gather up furniture to give to the two new teachers in town when he was a chemist for Phillips Petroleum at Phillips, Texas. What better opportunity to size up the new “single” female teachers than to show up on their doorstep bearing gifts. I have no idea what he said or how exactly he managed it, but after one date, Mom told her roommate that, “If that George Bishop doesn’t ask me to marry him I’m going to die an old maid.” At least that’s the way Mom tells the story.
Dad would go on to climb the corporate ladder and provide well for his family, but that’s not what made him unique. What made him unique was the nature of his character and at the core of that character was his love and respect for all people. Unlike many people who achieve the success of rising from the bottom to very pinnacle of the corporate world, Dad never looked down on any man whose financial achievements in life were less than his own. He took as much, if not more, pleasure in having a beer with a section gang foreman from Mexico, in the shade of a fruit tree in the man’s backyard as he did in having cocktails and dinner with a former president of the United States.
Likewise, he was just as at home on his knees in the flower beds of his and Mom’s back yard as he was addressing the National Petroleum Institute. He loved to garden and work on their home.
He had one trait that used to drive me crazy and one I never understood until I was much older. The reason I finally understood that trait was that I ultimately came to terms with the same trait in myself. Dad couldn’t just sit. As long as I was at home I never knew him to sit and watch television. He had to be doing something from the moment his eyes opened in the morning until they closed again that night.
The activity that gave him the most pleasure in life was doing something for his family; especially his grandchildren. In his opinion, his grandchildren were there for one purpose only. Their purpose was to be recipients of their grandfather’s love and devotion.
Dad, you weren’t perfect, but the few flaws you had pale in comparison to your qualities of love and devotion to family and friends. Recent visits to Oklahoma and Texas reminded me of the qualities of grace and respect in the people there, which you represented so well throughout your life. When I think of you now I realize how easily the good things in live can be lost but also, like you, never forgotten.