My dad, they called him “Doc”

He was no doctor. His formal education ended when he graduated from high school after the 11th grade; more than 65 years ago, there was no 12th grade. As a kid, Thomas Ernest Harris, born March 5, 1909, was given the nickname by an older gentleman who for some unknown reason, began calling him “Little Doc”.
The Doc Harris I knew growing up was a dad that I cherished and wanted to emulate. His career with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries working in Predator Control, made me the envy of kids at school. I got to go with my daddy to run his traps where we would find a variety of wildlife such as wolves and bobcats in his traps. When I told classmates about what dad had trapped, I’m sure my chest stuck out a bit as I noticed their envy. Dad enjoyed squirrel hunting but never had the passion for deer hunting. Yet on his one and only deer hunt, he brought home a trophy 9 point buck weighing over 200 pounds.
Working for Wildlife and Fisheries, one of his annual tasks was to assist at wildlife management areas, checking in hunters and recording the deer taken.
One year, his assignment was on a wildlife management area in Sabine Parish and after checking in the hunters, there was a lull before they began trickling back with their deer. Dad, not being a deer hunter, didn’t have a deer rifle but one of the guys working with him at the check station had brought his 3030 but had no plan to use it that day, asking dad if he’d like to use it.
Dad borrowed the rifle, walked out back behind the check station and took a seat on a log, probably enjoying the coolness of a fall morning. His enjoyment came to an abrupt end when this big buck stepped out of the thicket in front of him, dad shot, brought down the only buck he would ever take on the only deer “hunt” he would ever make.
Before starting work as a trapper, he held a variety of jobs, one of which was a salesman for Watkins Products. He’d sometimes take me with him as he drove around the countryside visiting with folks and I never remember him as a high pressure salesman. He would sit and visit and tell tales with customers and if they were interested in what he was selling or if they weren’t, he enjoyed just sitting and visiting.
Once I went along with him and at one of his stops, while visiting, the customer he was talking with pulled out a plug of Brown’s Mule chewing tobacco. He cut off a chunk, handed it to daddy who followed suit. Being the curious kid I was, I asked if I might try it – I was maybe 6-7 years old.
Daddy thought it was a good time to teach his young son a lesson on the evils of tobacco, so he cut a piece off, handed it to me with the expectation of watching me retch and turn green and never want to fool with tobacco again. To his surprise, I loved it and instead of being repelled by the nasty stuff, I wanted more.
Daddy grew up on his dad’s farm in Goldonna. After his Naval career ended, he met and married a pretty young lady from the neighbouring village of Readhimer and together, they raised three children, me, my brother Tom who was two years younger than me and our sister, Linda. Daddy was a Christian, deacon and Sunday School teacher and faithful church member.
The daddy I knew was a mixture of seriousness and fun, mostly fun. He could turn any project into fun and that’s why today, my memories of my daddy were basically all good ones.
On the day he died from lung cancer in 1976, I had taken my mom to visit him in the Veteran’s hospital in Shreveport. For a few moments, he and I were in the room alone when he told me he had overheard his doctor tell a colleague that his condition was terminal. He told me
to take mom back home, that he was tired of fighting it and was ready to go meet Jesus. I got a call from the hospital that night telling me daddy had passed away.
Having just experienced Father’s Day, I had to write this column in my daddy’s memory and honor. How blessed I am to have been raised by a daddy like Doc Harris.

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