NORMAN — After four summer dates in five days, Jack and Breme Springer decided it was time to meet this skinny teenager who had been spending so much time with their daughter. First, it was a harmless game of tennis. Then a movie about the pinball wizard, “Tommy.” Swimming at the parents and a two-hour Sonic Coke date followed. He was informed that dinner was served at 6 on Sunday. Please don’t be late, she said.
Jack Springer greeted me warmly, then after a few awkward formalities, proceeded to show me his collection of firearms in a locked, upstairs case in their west Norman home. He had shotguns, rifles, pistols and enough ammunition to arm the west side of our fair city. I’ll never know if it was a simple warning to respect his daughter or a show of manliness in an effort to bond with this teenager who was quite smitten with his daughter. Whatever the case, the message was received nearly 40 years ago and never forgotten.
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My father-in-law has been on my mind a lot lately. After 84 years, his once-healthy body gave out Friday morning. It was tough to watch him wither in a nursing home bed hundreds of miles away. I prefer my memories of a man’s man who taught me to shoot those guns, snow ski, to change out brake shoes and respect his daughter. Together we cleared lake lots, cleaned catfish, shot skeet, welcomed children, debated labor unions, played something resembling golf and cards, worked in his woodshop, cheered on the Sooners and put in a sprinkler system. He was always there for health emergencies, graduate school finances and home choices.
We drove thousands of miles together on spring break ski trips and tent camps, celebrated birthdays, holidays and promotions. My children loved the retirement home he and Breme built on a lake in Arkansas. They learned to water ski and fish and got to know their cousins from several states away.