A Tale of Two Dads: Printer Meets Improviser


We were sitting at home this gorgeous Father’s Day morning, talking about our Dads  … and wondering what they would think of our handiwork on our recent home renovation.

Our fathers had a lot in common.

They both grew up in the country, and as children of the Depression, they became handy by necessity – in a quirky sort of way.


James’ Dad, William, was a man of many skills – an upholsterer by trade, and a whittler by choice. He once carved a 3-foot wooden chain for us, crafted from a single 3-foot length of cedar. He carved the links one-by-one, interlocking! It’s a magical marvel and one of our most cherished possessions. But he was also known for his practical, improvised solutions. Our favorite was his 8-foot-long pole (like a pool cue) that he fashioned so he could lay in bed and turn the TV off. Obviously before the days of remotes, it required serious manual dexterity and aim to hit the little “off button” – and was so much more fun than getting up!


Terri’s Dad, John, was a printer of books. He apprenticed and learned the business from the bottom up, playing many roles in the printing industry, branching out into magazines and other media. He worked hard to be handy, and often succeeded. Other times … well … he specialized in skinned knuckles. And never knew how he got them. Terri and her sisters often joke that he could walk through an empty room and emerge with skinned knuckles. But he made up for his clumsiness with his amazing creativity. John could look at an everyday object and see a work of art. He and Terri once built a round coffee table using two car wheel rims as the base with a round plywood top. It was way cool … and he let 13-year-old Terri stencil a folk design on it. Talk about a leap of faith.

Both men raised families of 4 kids, left wonderful memories, and died way too young. When it was clear that James and Terri had fallen in love, William and John became friends. They enjoyed each other, and made interesting contributions to each other’s lives.

William helped John find and buy an old red pickup truck he’d been searching for. “Ravishing Ruby” became one of Terri’s Dad’s proudest possessions. And when an ice storm caused the old cedar tree in John’s pasture to buckle under the weight, then split down the center, he called William to see if he could use the beautiful cedar wood on one of his whittling projects. That’s how we got our gorgeous chain.

Our final conclusion is that our ever-so-practical Fathers would be pleased with our handiwork on the house. The job was practical enough and creative enough to appeal to both men.

If you’re a father, we’re sure that you deserve and will appreciate all the special treatment. Have a great Father’s Day all!

Peaceful Trails,
Terri and James

Author: gallivance.net

We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at gallivance.net.

12 thoughts

    1. Thanks Laura. Father’s Day is always a time for me to reflect. I always have this conversation with myself about all the questions I wished I’d asked but didn’t. I’m glad your Dad is still in your life. ~James

  1. What a lovely post you two. They sound like special fellows and how wonderful that they became friends. My heartfelt sympathy to you at their passing far too soon.

    1. Thanks so much Sue. There isn’t a week that passes when I work out some kind of wacky solution to a problem, and Terri says: ” Your Dad would be proud.” And it always makes me smile. ~James

  2. How wonderful that your fathers became friends. My husband & I share a similar kind of relationship with our daughter-in-law’s parents. We feel so blessed as I am sure your dads did as well!

    1. Lynn, these friendships between parents are better for everyone. I’m not sure how often it happens, but when it does it’s special and makes it better for everyone. ~James

  3. I love the stories of your two dads and how they became friends as well. Our dads also became friends and travelled across the Atlantic to visit each other. A fond memory I have is of my cowboy dad drinking tea from a china cup with my British father-in-law in a tea shop in England. Of course, my father-in-law attending a branding party in Canada is also special. Thank heaven we have these wonderful memories.

    1. Darlene that’s a great image on both sides of the Atlantic, and I’m sure there time together gave each of them some tall tales for their buddies back home. Lots of in-laws either don’t get along or only interact when required, so when they can be friends its easier and fun for everyone. ~James

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