Cowboys and Pretty Little Dolls

Cowboys and Pretty Little Dolls. Maybe that’s what I’ll remember the most. I can recall so many things. His office in the back of the store. A hundred or more candy bars. His voice, his words, though few. All of his perfectly timed jokes. His laugh. So many of these I’ll always look back on with fondness, but not like I will with Cowboys and Pretty Little dolls.

Grandpa will forever invoke my sensory memory. Living at the farm, I had pre-dawn alarms of smoky sausage and bacon burnt to the perfect crisp. Tractor rides on hot, sultry summer afternoons; molasses tubs, dusty hay, and a hint of beer. Straw hats, tattered button up shirts, and duct tape. I’ll remember his gait, his relaxing recline on the farm swing, and his wispy hair in the breeze.

He had an unspoken schedule. Grandma knew it well, and waited patiently for the “okay, Beep.” Always early to church. Polkas in the truck on the way there and back, unless it was baseball season, then it was Milo Hamilton. I interviewed him in the 7th grade about his time fighting in WWII in the Pacific theater. I was proud before then, but more proud after. He could speak Spanish, German, English, and Czech, always laughing at Charles Schwab commercials on the TV, because “‘schwab’ is the German word for cockroach” he told me.

Cow dung for burn nettle. Lemon juice on cuts from a barbed wire. Grandpa’s fixes were simple, no fuss. Rickety door? Hang a hinge or two, or eleven. Need to move the cattle? Holler out a yip and grab a stick. Grandchildren want to go for a ride? Load ‘em all up on the trailer. Have interest in the stock markets? Watch them every single day so the ticker burns into your television screen. These are some of the things I’ll remember. But not the most.

He always smiled when you walked in the back door, no matter the time or day. He prided himself not on the monetary achievement he amassed over his 94 years, but the family that he created. He loved his life, his wife, and his kids to no end. He was, in all sense of the phrase, a good man. On Christmas Eve, just before counting down into prayer, Grandpa said “they say a man’s success is measured by the people who surround him…and look at the crew I’ve got.”

9, 35, 31. He loved us all. You knew it in the way he held the babies, doted on the toddlers, and taught the boys to shoot and gave the girls a kiss on the cheek. We are his legacy. We are his crew. We are his Cowboys and Pretty Little Dolls.

This is what I’ll remember the most. I have to. I want to.



S.A. Dees


  1. I remember him and your Grandma too! Such precious, amazing people!!
    We always felt the love of the Darilek family even though we were not related.
    Still do!! <3

  2. I didn’t know your grandfather but after reading this story I feel as I’ve known him forever. I believe he left a strong mark on all of your lives and his beliefs and great values will live on in years to come. So glad you can cherish all these wonderful memories. Prayers for all of you.

  3. Wonderful story and wonderful memories. Prayers for you and all the family. You were fortunate to have him with you so many years.

  4. Even the extended family was treated special! He treated all the cousins as his own kids! He will truly be missed.

  5. I fondly remember early morning fishing trips with him his son Henry,Dad,Richard and me…I don’t remember if we ever caught anything but I do remember the fun we had!!!!

  6. Wow Shirley, beautifully written. What an incredible life well lived and what a legacy. Let’s make sure we always polka on!!

  7. A beautiful memoir of your wonderful grandpa, Shirley! We all loved uncle Rudy.
    How sweet to see him through your eyes!
    Trisha Hoffman

  8. I just found out my Dear Uncle Rudy is gone since I was traveling today. Writing this through teary eyes but your description of my Unc is over the top. You were lucky to have such a Grandpa. JoAnn said he is dancing with your Grandma in heaven and I’ll bet my mother and daddy are dancing right beside them. THANKS for the perfect sweet memories.

  9. Beautiful,Shirley! Beautiful memories. Burn nettle…Chris ended up with burn nettle while at the farm. I don’t remember the cow dung part (: But, what I remember is the care your grandpa showed him.
    Love, Dee

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