In the fall of 1960, when I was sixteen and my father was for a time not working, my mother met a man named Warren Miller and fell in love with him. This was in Great Falls, Montana, at the time of the Gypsy Basin oil boom, and my father had brought us there in the spring of that year up from Lewiston, Idaho, in the belief that people–small people like him–were making money in Montana or soon would be, and he wanted a piece of that good luck before all of it collapsed and was gone in the wind.
My father was a golfer. A teaching pro. He had been to college though not to the war. And since 1944, the year when I was born and two years after he married my mother, he had worked at that–at golf–at the small country clubs and public courses in the towns near where he’d grown up, around Colfax and the Palouse Hills of eastern Washington State. And during that time, the years when I was growing up, we had lived in Coeur d’Alene and McCall, Idaho, and in Endicott and Pasco and Walla Walla, where both he and my mother had gone to college and where they had met and gotten married.
My father was a natural athlete. His own father had owned a clothing store in Colfax and made a good living, and he had learned to play golf on the kinds of courses he had taught on. He could play every sport–basketball and ice hockey and throw horseshoes, and he had played baseball in college. But he loved the game of golf because it was a game other people found difficult and that was easy for him. He was a smiling, handsome man with dark hair–not tall but with delicate hands and a short fluid swing that was wonderful to see but never strong enough to move him into the higher competition of the game. He was good at teaching people to play golf though. He knew how to discuss the game patiently, in ways to make you think you had a talent for it, and people liked being around him. Sometimes he and my mother would play together and I would go along with them and pull their cart, and I knew he knew how they looked–good-looking, young, happy. My father was soft-spoken and good-natured and optimistic–not slick in the way someone might think. And though it is not a usual life to be a golfer, to make your living at it the way anyone does who is a salesman or a doctor, my father was in a sense not a usual kind of man: he was innocent and he was honest, and it is possible he was suited perfectly for the life he had made.