But Dad was not humorless by any means. I don’t think I ever recall him “telling a joke.” He may well have done so from time to time but it was so rare as to not be a part of my memory of him. What I remember are the little “setups” he would create to play with our minds.
When my brothers and I were young we were builders like our father. And like him we struggled to maintain our projects with limited resources. Any rumor of materials for the taking was good news to us. So, one winter evening, when we were gathered in the living room around the wood stove, Dad asked if anyone would like some large nails, we all indicated an eagerness for them. “There are some nice ones on the stove board,” he said, indicating the metal-clad asbestos pad that lay under the stove, keeping its heat from setting the floorboards on fire. One of us made a dive for the floorboard and then emitted a disappointed groan. They were, indeed, fine nails; those recently trimmed from Dad’s toes.