The Father-in-Law by Neal Murphy

October 15, 2020 - On June 6,1958. I became a changed man. Around 8:30 pm. I was pronounced “married” by a minister, who happened to be my new father-in-law. So, I was magically changed from a single man to one who now had a father-in-law, a mother-in-law, sisters-in-law, and, yes, a bride.

Now, being all those new things was a lot for a twenty-one-year-old to comprehend. Of course, then I did not realize that it was a lot for my new in-laws to comprehend. In the coming years of married life, I learned much about my new grafted-in family, particularly my new father-in-law. Rev. Clarence Howell was one of those people that you never forget. In some ways he was a classic type A, but other times he exhibited some type B characteristics.

One of the things that impressed me was his attitude toward money. As a pastor of a medium sized church, he never made what we would consider a lot of money. But he was very frugal with what he earned, probably a carry-over from his up-bringing during the great depression. When he got paid, he would take his check to the bank and get his tithe money in brand new crisp one-dollar bills. He would take the money and put it in his tithe bucket located on the top shelf of his bedroom closet. He would then distribute the money to the family on Sunday morning to put in the collection plate at church.

He did not like getting bills, so he would walk around to the places that he knew would send him a bill and pay off the balance with cash. If and when he bought a new car, he would always pay cash, no long-term payments for him. He often said that he would never buy a red car, because they did not look good in a funeral procession.

One thing he never owned was an alarm clock. He had the uncanny ability to wake up at any pre-determined hour without assistance from a clock. On numerous occasions Clara would need to get up early to go on band trips. She would tell her dad what time to wake her up, and he would always do so. I never figured out how he could do that.

After the wedding, he gave me two pieces of advice – Always keep your car's tank full of gas, and always be on time, or never be late to anything. To him, being late to something was a grave mistake.

Everyday Bro. Howell would go to town and walk to all the stores sharing a new joke with the customers. He would go to the hospital and both nursing homes and visit as many people as he could. He would stop in the drug store and drink coffee with all his buddies, then ended up on the courthouse square under the cedar tree visiting the older domino players.

He was the only man I ever knew who slept in a night cap, and often with his shoes on. He always wore a white shirt, suit, and tie every day. He was fond of Stetson hats and wore one constantly when out in public.

Bro. Howell was a school bus driver for many years. His concept of time made him very prompt and reliable. In fact, many parents on his bus route said that they could set their watches by his school bus. On occasion when running a little early, he would pull the bus over and wait for several minutes. If he was running late, he has been known to run a little fast to make up the time.

Bro. Howell refused to purchase one of those new gadgets taking the country by storm in the 1950s, a television set.  Perhaps he could not decide if they were a good influence on his members, or if they were not, or if it was the high cost of the sets. Finally, his sister, Bertinia, purchased one for him after Clara and I had married. I think he finally decided that the TV was a good thing to have.

He had an excellent memory. When conducting a funeral, his habit was to memorize the names of all the deceased's relatives and call their names in his eulogy. He also memorized the Sermon on the Mount from the New Testament and used it several times. He memorized his members' car license plate numbers, and their telephone numbers. He had excellent recall of this information.

Whenever he received a long-distance phone call, he would always have everyone come into the room, and he would pass the telephone receiver to everybody to talk. On several occasions he handed me the phone and I did not have a clue who he was talking to or what I could say.

Bro. Howell was the local weatherman. He had a nice rain gauge and kept up with the amount of rain. He could tell you how much rain they had received either daily, weekly, or monthly.

Bro. Howell left us on December 3, 2006 to be with his Heavenly Father. His earthly legacy will be long remembered. He is probably glad that he does not have to contend with those pesky sons-in-law any longer.