His Name Was Wes, and He Wore a Hat.
Actually, his name was Wesley L. Kallberg, and he was my dad. I never called him Wes, but everyone else did. I think of him this early October of 2015, because it was on this day in 1986, that my mom called me to let me know that he had died.
Joanie and I were living together at the time, and the call came about 11:00 that morning. Her voice was calm, and she told me he had pulled over on Highway 2, just outside of Lakota, and suffered a massive coronary.
The last time I saw him was just a couple of weeks prior, in the apartment Joanie and I shared, when he stopped by to drop off some bread from one of his customers. It was good bread, and he knew we liked it.
Dad was the last of a breed, a traveling salesman. From about the mid to late-40s to the day he died, he was on the road. He would leave the house on Monday morning, and usually get back home on Thursday night. That left mom with the unenviable task of seeing to the care and welfare of five children, a task she handled as if she was born to it, and she was.
Those were the days, before computers, when salesmen called on customers, whether they were selling clothes, like dad did, or any other products that ended up on the shelves of small stores in the small towns across the state.
The salesmen, in those days, formed friendships based on their life on the road. They always knew where the smokers were going to be, and would often adjust their schedules so they would all be together so they could enjoy an evening in Langdon, Mountain, Lakota, or anywhere else they knew there was going to be an evening of gambling, and socializing. Sometimes he came home a winner and other times he never mentioned anything about an evening like that.
He was a suit, hat and tie guy, at a time when one never went to work without a suit, tie, or hat. To the end of his days, it was always the same. He wore a hat, as if it was the most natural thing in the world. I could never do that, but he did it so well, I still smile when I think of him and his hat.
This photo of him, wearing his hat, holding his grandaughter, Vicki Jo, is one of my favorites.
There is much more I could tell you about the man called “Wes,” but that will have to wait for another time. I will leave you on this day in October, 2015, with this poem I wrote about him.
He died alone.
On a highway, in his car.
He pulled over,
And his heart gave out.
That’s all there was.
Slammed into my mother’s soul
Like a hammer on crystal.
She never got to say goodbye,
Or, that she loved him,
Neither did we, his children.
Children who learned about
Unconditional love from him,
And the woman who,
Never got to say goodbye,
Or, that she loved him,