Friday, November 9, 2012

Daddy’s Gone

Two little girls were walking home from church one Sunday morning when the younger one told her sister that she felt like something bad had happened.  When they got home from church that morning, they found out that something terrible had happened.  Their Daddy had died in a hunting accident and it was November 9th, 1947 - 65 years ago today!

Richard hunting a Lynx
Oliver Richard Tannahill was known in his family as Richard.  The Oliver was never mentioned.  He and his sister Olive Rachel (aka Sally) were the youngest of eight children.  The twins were born on April 27, 1912 in Peru, Chautauqua Co., KS.  In the late 1920’s, Richard moved to Lewiston area and graduated from high school and met his future wife.  Richard and Capitola went to Vancouver, WA and married secretly.   In the next several years, he worked at his ranch, transported lumber down from his friend’s mill on McCormick Ridge.  Richard was also one of the mainstays of his family…his siblings and nieces and nephews counted on his support and advice.  He was always a hard worker but he had a special passion and skill for hunting.  Richard would go up to hunting camp and fill his tags that of all of his friends.  He also enjoyed bird hunting.

Richard & Capitola abt 1934
That day began like many Sunday mornings for Richard…he and a friend went out hunting for a few hours.  They were out at Webb Ridge hunting pheasant, when Richard’s friend was startled and his gun discharged.  The shotgun charge hit Richard on the right side of his head and he died instantaneously at 35 years old.  By the time, the two little girls arrived home, their mother, Capitola, had been notified.  I imagine that she must have sat there in the living room in disbelieving shock when she heard the door open that signaled that her two daughters were home.  I never talked to my grandmother about that day – but my mother, Betty, was the younger of those two little girls.  She refused to believe that her Daddy wasn't coming home.  Nothing could convince her…so besides dealing with her own grief, Grandma Cappy had two small children who didn't want to believe that their Daddy was gone.  The coroner and mortician was a friend of the family named Andy Vassar.  He took it upon himself to try and rebuild Richard’s face so his daughters could seem him one more time.  It didn't help my mother much because she simply said that “That isn't my Daddy…that is Uncle Hubert.”

My grandmother kept diaries for many years that are filled will all kinds of anecdotes and stories of her daily activities.  Reading that diary from 1947 is like reading the end first so the events become a prelude to a tragedy.  Just a few days before that Sunday morning accident, Richard had ordered the new family car that would be delivered the next spring.  The night before Richard took his family to see “Stairway to Heaven,” the movie ticket is still in the leather jacket he wore.  On the day of his death, Grandma Cappy simply wrote in her diary…”Oh my darling Richard!”  The next day…she wrote of choosing his coffin and making arrangements.  Then she wrote about the day that she buried him.  Nothing was written in the diary for the rest of the year. 

My mother remembered only pieces about the funeral.  The most vivid memory was being walked away from the cemetery and hearing the creaking of the cables as they were lowering the coffin in the ground.  Some woman pointed out a dandelion to my mother to try and divert her attention.  Mom wasn’t real sure why some lady wanted her to look at the dumb flower.  She told me that she could hear that creaking sound in her dreams from then on.

One of the few pictures of the Richard Tannahill Family -
Cappy, Betty, Richard and Joan
Richard was mourned by many friends and family.  By all accounts, his funeral was well attended and the chapel was overflowing.  Mom remembered some man coming to the door handing money to her mother.  The man told her mother that Richard had loaned him money and he felt that he needed to pay it back.  This happened several times. 

Grandma Cappy both adored her husband and was somewhat exasperated by him.  As hard as he worked…he played almost as hard at both baseball and hunting.  No matter where he was, he could be found with a passel of kids following him around.  My mother had few memories of her father...she remembered being in trouble with her mother and pouting at the table.  Her father sat across from her and slurped up spaghetti to get her to smile.  I've often wondered what my Mom’s family would have been like had her father lived.  On that terrible day, 65 years ago…everything changed in the blink of an eye and suddenly a beloved father and husband was gone forever.