Independence was dad’s greatest legacy

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

Who’s your daddy anyway?

Growing up in Portales, it’s a question I’ve gotten used to answering frequently. Around here it’s not meant as a question to categorize you into your place like it is in the Deep South, but it’s close.

Growing up in my father’s shadow could be both good and bad. For such a short-statured guy, he cast a pretty long shadow in this community. I’ll admit, growing up in the 1960s and ’70s the “good ol’ boy system” that prevailed then didn’t have a lot of attraction to me.

I thought it was pretty unfair to get treated differently based on who you knew or who your family was. At the same time it was tremendously handy if, say for instance, you wanted to hunt quail on a certain old boy’s place. I learned, while standing at the door of a farm house with hat in hand, I was much more likely to get on the property if I worked into the first sentence or two of my spiel who my dad or granddad was.

On the other hand, there was a whole community of folks who seemed to know my business better than I did, and I resented that fact.

I’ve recently reconnected with a couple of classmates from high school through the magic of e-mail. Each of the three of us grew up here and then moved away. Each of us had a father who was well-known and respected in Portales and each of us lost our dad within the same year last year.

Our e-mail conversations and a couple of face-to-face meetings have pointed up the same thing in each of our lives. We all lived in our fathers’ shadow and it made us all squirm uncomfortably from time to time. I sometimes got tired of being “Keith Terry’s son,” and seemingly not having an identity of my own.

I don’t want to seem ungrateful. I’m very thankful to have had a father who was a good role-model. He worked long, hard hours and never complained. Working next to him I learned the value of hard work and a dollar. I also learned the value of independence and respect from him. It seems that in my younger years the independence part seemed a lot more important than the respect part. But both traits are equally important; we just have to learn how to balance them out. I don’t think I’ve mastered that yet.

I have learned that some of what I mistook years ago as just being the “good ol’ boy system” at work was actually just a respect for my dad and his values. When I look at it in that way I’m very proud of my dad.

I believe my dad knew before he died how proud our family was of what he accomplished with his life. It made him uncomfortable to hear us verbalize it to him. He never shared his feelings much with anyone but mom. So, I don’t know if his fierce independence was born out of wanting to get out of his own father’s shadow like me or not.

Either way, that independence and the knowledge that I can cut my own path in life are his greatest legacy and gift to me. The respect is something I’ll have to earn on my own.

Karl Terry is managing editor for the Portales News-Tribune. Contact him at 356-4483 or by e-mail: