I have a theory about us humans — tell me if you think I’m wrong.
You can always trust a man who tucks his shirt into his pants!
I’m talking about some serious tucking here; tucking his shirt into his Y-Fronts, not just his trousers.
So here’s why I think that.
Henry George Hayter — “Harry” to his friends — was my father-in-law, and the most helpful, decent, honest, gentle, courteous, kind, generous, humble and truly unsophisticated human-being I’ve ever known.
I’ll tell you what I mean by “unsophisticated”, in a minute.
Edna-May, his wife, was the same, although she obviously didn’t tuck her shirt into her pants. Well, I suppose she might have done so, accidentally, but I never asked her. Anyway, I digress.
Harry was one of those old-fashioned farmers who grew vegetables, raised cattle and shot pheasants at Christmas with a 12-bore. His latter days were spent in his fields, often from dawn to dusk, trundling the fields on his prize possession — his Little Grey Fergie — an old Ferguson TE20 tractor.
But his favourite diversion was to carry my young son Dan (then aged about 3 or 4), down to the farmyard, and watch him hammer six-inch nails into tractor tyres, railway sleepers, shed doorways, old stumps, and just about anything else that got in the way.
I don’t know who loved this mischief more, Harry or Dan. I suspect it was Harry.
Just for grins one morning, I asked Harry why he always tucked his shirt into his pants. He told me it was so that, “when I’m driving a tractor all day — ploughing a large field, for example — my vest won’t ride up, and let my back get cold”.
Now, I don’t know about you, but that’s not what I would have answered. I would have made up some old tosh like, “oh, I ran out of the house in a hurry this morning, and I didn’t notice”, or “I just changed my jumper, tucked my shirt back in my trousers, and I thought it felt odd”!
In other words, unlike Harry, I would come up with just about any old load of nonsense, rather than admit I tucked my shirt into my pants.
Why? Because it’s not done by sophisticated people. Sophisticated people, like you and me, wear our clothes like a uniform for all our friends, family, and colleagues to see. There is a certain way that uniforms have to be worn, and large amounts of knicker elastic showing, is a big no, no.
So, we just don’t do it, do we.
But that’s not what Harry was thinking about when he got up that morning, and — much like any other morning — carefully tucked his shirt into his pants.
I’ll bet you he was thinking along the lines of “should I plant kale or wurzels in the front field, this year?”, or “I’ll need to prepare her well if I want to top Ringwood market with that heifer, on Wednesday”, and “What’s the price of lead guttering; the chapel roof needs repairing?”, and other important stuff like that. Not about some soppy pseudo-fashion rules.
But unlike sophisticated, self-important me, Harry was a humble, unpretentious man. Someone you could rely on to give you an honest answer. Not someone who would make up a whole bunch of baloney, rather than tell you the simple truth about how he organised his clothes to best suit the weather.
In 1993, Harry died quite suddenly and left this world a poorer place for his passing. He left our boys without a source of endless patience, innocent mischief, and joy in everything they did together. He left Shirley and me without the true friend he had always been. Never wanting anything and always ready to give, help, love and do whatever we needed. And he left Edna-May lighter and more at peace for knowing he was no longer suffering.
Harry’s passing left a giant tractor-sized hole in all our lives.