John E. Fisher
A Diamond Man

Helen Schmill

© Copyright 2001 by Helen Schmill
This is the story of a cowboy, my father, Mr. John E. Fisher, of Casper, Wyoming, written shortly after his death. As his older daughter, I am daily rewarded by Daddy's legacies of the Christian faith and a love of learning that keeps me, at age 74, in the University of Wyoming. Daddy was born in 1902. His father moved the family from Iowa to a homestead in Wyoming, where they nearly starved to death.

The afternoon our Daddy died a glory filled the western sky. This sign of assurance and love was great comfort for only God can so arrange the clouds and the sunlight. Glories are often a sign of His particular care.

Daddy's memorable compliment from God, for so the benediction in the sky seemed to be, was different from any other "glory" I had ever seen. Down from the center of the rays of light came a much broader ray, dazzling with color. It looked like a diamond.

On Earth Daddy only had six little diamonds. Five of them he gave to Mother in her engagement ring. The sixth was presented to him by Mobil Oil Company as a token of forty years of hard labor.

But Daddy was a diamond man. Only the highest standards suited him. In his 72 years he never told a lie or entered a saloon.

The radiance of this man is seen in the smiling faces of his great-grandchildren. There is a peace about the person who meets God's standards and is content, having done his or her best, a peace visible to all.

The color of the glory light was as real as it was surprising. So it is with our lives. Our good deeds shine and encourage others to do well.

It is not boasting on my part to claim the special diamond glory as Daddy's gift from God. The promise is found in the first chapter of Genesis that God will give us signs in the sky. It is as sure as the promises found in John that Christ will give us eternal life.

It is valuable to meditate upon the fact that God's eulogy of John E. Fisher was that John was a diamond man. The prism of light seen in the clouds reminds us that we can separate some of Daddy's characteristics, just as the colors are separate though all a part of the sunlight.

If Daddy had to play a part in Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress," the director might well assign him the role of Faithful. Daddy was faithful to God, faithful to Christ, and faithful to his family, his company and his lodge.

Daddy's honor was known throughout the community. Businessmen knew that his word was his bond. The only time he ever needed a lawyer was to make his will.

The first thing that attracts us to a diamond is its beauty. So it is with men. So it was with our Daddy as he lived on Earth, and must surely be with him now in Heaven. Daddy knew the beauty of music. He loved melody and harmony and was gifted with a fine tenor voice. He played the guitar and mandolin by ear. On his first job as a cowboy, he did not buy cigarettes and whiskey as many did with their spending money. He bought the mandolin and sang the songs that came up from Texas with the trail herds. The tragedy of the early loss of his mother was a part of Daddy, seen in his voluntary singing of the dark songs of death, like "Little Joe, the Wrangler," "Oh, Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie," "My Grandfather's Clock" and, saddest of all, "The Letter Edged in Black."

Along with the harmony in his tunes, Daddy felt the harmony of words. He loved poetry. His wonderful ability to memorize and recite thrilled us children as we heard "The Face upon the Barroom Floor." He also gave us "Hiawatha" and "The Wreck of the Hesperus," though he was never to participate in a storm at sea. When I read these poems I see Daddy in the little country schoolhouse.

My father's beauty was seen in his love for children, the most beautiful of people. He and his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren shared commonly the highest level of love, so much a part of little children and sometimes seen in those who have had their threescore and ten of trouble and pain.

Daddy's appreciation of beauty was nowhere better seen than in his love of Nature. The natural creation appealed to him in every season. He found it thrilling to shovel the snow, preferring the old-fashioned shovel which permits one to benefit from the strength and purity of the snow to the most modern snow blower. He was an excellent fisherman, true to his name of Fisher. He hunted big game until the doctor quietly said, "No more, John." Then he built a mountain cabin in which to store his trophies, retaining and gaining all that was good from the logs and rocks which he put into his cabin.

The wonders of the sky always appealed to Daddy. We touch on them here as a part of his love of beauty and the Creation.

Finally, he saw the beauty in superior men and women. Perhaps in his heart he admired this beauty most of all. He never talked about people much, but we knew those he liked because he chose his associates and friends so carefully. He dealt with businessmen whom he found to be trustworthy. He gave them honest money and expected honest goods and services -- again, a reflection of the beautiful part of his nature.

But a diamond man must be more than beautiful. A diamond is also valued for its transparency. Here again our Daddy passed the test with a high "A." He was in no way naive. Simply transparently good. If a man stooped so low as to take advantage of his simplicity, that man, not Daddy, was the loser. His faithfulness and integrity were visible to all. He and Pope John XXIII had a lot in common.

A diamond is known for its brilliance. Here God properly gave the glory of the diamond to our Daddy. He had brilliance of mind. His motto was, "Learn all you can." A self-made man with perhaps a fourth-grade formal education, Daddy never quit learning. He valued television for what it could teach him. His favorite programs centered not on the smashing violence classified as "entertainment," but with the adven- tures of the mind, such as "Perry Mason." He loved to have a problem and work out the solution. When Yellowstone Park's giant earthquake damaged the fireplace at his cabin on Casper Mountain, Daddy took his truck, a few simple tools and in a morning's work repaired most of the damage.

This taking an earthquake in stride brings us to the last of the diamond attributes, that of hardness and purity. The greatest of pressures makes the diamond. Daddy never faltered under the pressures of life. Only the disease in his own heart slowed him down, and to this he never surrendered. He grudgingly minded the counsel of the doctor and the nurse, working to prolong his life for the sake of his family.

He died on April 26, 1975, hiking to his cabin through the snow, meeting God on the Mountain, like Moses.

When I wanted a memorial of my Daddy, I chose a Wyoming artist's painting of great Wyoming upthrusts. The picture is an accurate representation of the way Daddy stood up to the storms and pressures of life, not only those of his own life but those of his children. He was not a parent who raised his kids and turned them out into the world. He shared our troubles and eased our burdens until his dying day. No matter what life threw at him, Daddy never lowered his standards.

He naturally chose a wife who was a diamond lady.

Finally, a diamond is known for its prospects. It serves royalty as a depository of the nation's wealth in the crown jewels. As the diamond's prospects are brilliant, so it always was with Daddy -- and is with Daddy. The minister at his funeral said my father prepared for death. Daddy prepared for death like a diamond is prepared to serve the wealthy and royal, knowing the prospects are excellent for the best of stones. Just as the diamond's prospects are excellent, we know that Daddy's prospects in Heaven, seen so clearly during his life on Earth, are fulfilled. He will find his diamonds in his crown.

Daddy always kept himself and us aware of the prospects in Heaven. The stars spoke to him. Some of his great physical and spiritual strength came from the stars. He kept a copy of Charlie Russell's painting of the night herder in his room. Daddy always took time to appreciate a beautiful sunrise or gorgeous sunset, was never too busy to wonder about a comet or show us children an eclipse of the Moon. In the panorama of the changing sky he saw fulfilled his favorite passage from Ecclesiastics that there is a time for everything.

Daddy aimed for the stars. He taught us children to do so. He saw in the stars a pattern for life, woven with time, patience and steadfast energy. He patterned his purposes in life after what he observed in the sky, both by day and by night. He knew the value of the water in the rain and the snow, living on the Great American Desert. He taught the cleansing power of the sunlight and its vital importance to our life and health. He felt the challenge and reassurance of the Morning and Evening Stars. Daddy did more than aim for the stars. He built his life on the Heavenly pattern.

It was no accident that God gave him the diamond eulogy. His life resembled that of the stone most like a star.
Helen (Fisher) Schmill is the Cowboy-Grandma who works as a free-lance writer in Casper, Wyoming. She has recently completed what she considers her best work, BIBLE STUDIES IN POETRY, a collection of poems about the heroes in the Bible. She likes to write cowboy poetry, and stories for juveniles. Helen is the perpetual student at the University of Wyoming, having earned B.S. Social Sciences and B.A. Humanities/Fine Arts, fulfilling her father's hopes that she could get a "sheepskin from Laramie."

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