Fatherly Sayings for Father’s Day

From the very moment we become parents, we nourish our baby with words.  We coo and sing lullabies to our newborn and delight in his every linguistic response. Soon we add expressions – sometimes those we learned from our own parents – to teach a lesson or impart a value.  At this, my father excelled, and I know I am the better for it.

father's day, dad and daughter, father and daughter

Dad was a country-boy at heart and had a folksy way of speaking.  A petroleum engineer, he traveled around the world analyzing oil and gas fields. Whether he was in a boardroom on Wall Street or sitting at our kitchen table talking to my sister and me, he remained grounded by his boyhood in Pecos, Texas. As Father’s Day nears, I remember him and his favorite fatherly sayings:

He was pragmatic – he owned his own business, managing it amidst the extreme cyclicality of the energy industry.  “The sun don’t shine on the same dog’s tail all the time” was both his worldview and how he helped his daughters cope with their own periodic disappointments or moments of good fortune.

He was sympathetic – “Hard to get all your raccoons up one tree” was his way of saying that he understood the frustration of not achieving goals, whether they were mine, his corporate ones or those of a hunting dog.

He was kind – Dad was one of the least judgemental people I have ever known and approached everyone he encountered as an equal: “We are all ignorant.  We’re just ignorant about different things.”

He was optimistic –  “Even a blind sow can find an acorn from time to time.” He fully believed that acorns were there in abundance, waiting to be stumbled upon.

A family friend once described my father to my mother this way: “Jimmie would smile at the devil.”  He was good-natured, curious about people, and found striking up conversations with perfect strangers the most natural thing in the world.

dad and daughters

On Father’s Day, I feel the loss of Dad in my life but am grateful that he lived until 80, long enough to know my two children. On occasion, I pull out one of these phrases to use with them. They knew their grandfather well and recognize his words. They smile in response, sharing a memory of Dad.



  1. happy outlook says

    Such great words of wisdom. Your blog post is a loving tribute to the memory of your wonderful father.

  2. cathy donovan says

    Poignant and wonderfully familiar to all of us about our fathers. Really lovely.

  3. says

    What a lovely tribute. I love those expressions! So nice to hear stories about such a wonderful father.

  4. says

    Mary Dell,
    Your father sounds like he was a wonderful and astute gentleman. I truly believe that loving fathers help their children stand a little taller and help them brave life’s misfortunes a little better. A good father also helps their children build character. Cheers to your wonderful father and to all the dads out there who are their kids biggest champions.

    • says

      Nareen, you describe so well the extreme beneficial role that dads play. Good fathers get little mention on our blogs where we are so focused on our kids – they deserve a bit more credit! Yes, Dad was a champion to my sister and me. My husband does the same to our kids- eternally grateful to both.

  5. says

    Love his sage and down to earth, salt of the earth wisdom, Mary Dell. The sun don’t shine on the same dog’s tail all the time – perfect. So glad you shared some of his sayings with all of us. And what a beautiful picture.

    • says

      Barbara, thanks so much -yes, salt of the earth pretty much sums up my dad. I was very fortunate to have him in my life.

    • says

      Thanks, Sharon, they sometimes sounded a bit corny to me but they really were words of wisdom.

  6. Betsy says

    What a pleasure to read this and recall your wonderful father. He was a wonderful man. I know you miss him but as we get older we realize all the more how fortunate are those that had good parents. XOXO

    • says

      Betsy, I was fortunate to know your wonderful mom and dad. How lucky were we to be little kids, growing up with not only with our own parents, but also spending so much time with each other’s, too. Carol and Hub – sweet memories of both.

  7. says

    I didn’t know your dad, but I know (and so admire) his daughter, so I can only assume the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Loved his words of wisdom–he was like a Texan Will Rogers!

  8. says

    I love these sayings! I’m such a huge fan of our southernisms and it sounds like your dad was a wonderful person! Thanks for sharing a little piece of him here on the blog!

    • says

      Kate, I bet you have heard some (if not all) of these. They are such colorful expressions and really speak to his Texan roots. Thanks for the kind words.

  9. says

    Getting all your racoons in the same tree – that sums it up perfectly. Your dad sounds like a treat and a treasure.

    • says

      Ginger, I am completely biased but he was really wonderful, and very devoted to his family. Thanks!

  10. says

    I’ve heard most of those!! One of my Dad’s fav’s was “That dog won’t hunt. “

    • says

      Dogs loom large in southern expressions, don’t they? Dad used the dog won’t hunt phrase, too.

  11. Karen says

    Great sayings! Our dad had a lot of sayings too, but they were usually more profane and much less philosophical. :) Your dad sounds like a great guy.

    • says

      I have a very clear memory of Dad saying these things and I bet you do of your father, too. He was a wonderful person – thanks!

  12. says

    Those are gems! What country charm — and city handsome. You both look great in those pictures. It’s great that you are documenting some of those sayings. They’re insightful.

    • says

      Karen, thanks for the kind words – our blogs give us all a chance to document our lives and those we care about. thanks!

  13. Lizzie Williams says

    “We’re all ignorant. We’re just ignorant about different things.”

    Luv it, luv it, luv it. So true.

  14. says

    I love his sayings! Sounds like he brought some sense to those boardrooms….we could use more of that these days. Thank you for introducing us to your dad, I’m sure he is still smiling from above.
    Ps. I love when I catch myself using my parents’ sayings, it always startles the kids!

    • says

      Thanks for your kind words – I feel his presence and guidance, still, in my life. Glad you are using family sayings, and startling your kids all the while!

  15. says

    Great words of wisdom! It’s wonderful that you have documented his sayings! So important to pass on to our children and grandchildren so that they know their roots! It sounds like your dad was a very special man!

    • says

      Thanks, Michelle, he was a wonderful father – we were lucky to have him as an active dad and grandfather, too.

  16. says

    I love this, Mary Dell! I would have liked your father very much. My dad is similar in that he always stayed humble and grounded. Your dad’s sayings are fabulous and I may just have to start using some of them. :)

    • says

      Helene, ask cousin Jane about my dad – he was very fond of her! Please start using these and let me know the reaction you get! ha

  17. says

    Great memories of your Dad. And his sayings are wonderful. Love the one about being ignorant. He sounds like he was a very smart man and a wonderful father.

  18. says

    I love these! What a smart man. This is my favorite: “Even a blind sow can find an acorn from time to time.” I’ll have to start using that one.
    I don’t recall wise sayings from my dad, but there are some that make the family chuckle now and again. He’s still going strong, so there’s still time for him to offer words of wisdom to his brood.

    • says

      The sayings are powerful and make it easy to remember my dad. I am now motivated to begin repeating my favorites so my kids can remember them….and me!!!

  19. Carpool Goddess says

    Oh, Mary Dell, these are so wonderful! Your father was such a wise and caring man. I was smiling and teary-eyed at the same time :)

    • says

      Linda, thanks, he was a wonderful dad and I was very lucky. (BTW, I know you are getting your tear ducts ready for a good workout with graduation!!!)

  20. says

    This is so nice, Mary Dell. I think we all find ourselves uttering the same expressions as our parents from time to time or, in my case, every day — things like, “Close the door. We’re not heating the whole town, for crying out loud!”

  21. says

    Oh, I love your faher’s sayings. They’re so true and so positive. You feel the love behind each word. Thank you. It certainly would be nice to see these on a poster in front of me each day. There’s something that we could lean on every day.

    Thank you.

  22. says

    I love those sayings from your father! Have grown up in the city, I have never heard of any of them. This is a beautiful tribute and your dad sounds like a caring and thoughtful person.

    • says

      Thanks, Raquel, he remained very much a country-boy in sensibility so I’m not surprised that these were new sayings to you.

  23. says

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard any of those sayings, but they are wonderful! The one about the dog’s tail makes me smile. Thank you for sharing your memories.

  24. says

    your father sounds a bit like mine although he was a new englander. they both fit ralph waldo emerson’s definition of a gentlemen. my father’s greatest gift to us was his sense of curiosity. it may be the one trait the six of us share. he died before he was sixty and i still miss him a little bit every day as i’m sure you miss your dad as well.

    it’s a beautiful post, Mary. he’d be touched.

    • says

      Thank you, Sandy. How lovely that each of you inherited your dad’s curiosity, that is wonderful trait to share in a family. We do miss our dads, every day.

  25. says

    Love the picture of you and your dad. I think my new favorite saying is: “We are all ignorant. We are just ignorant about different things.” A great reminder to remember.

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  1. […] Mary Dell writes: Tonight I feel like Cinderella, left behind to clean while her step-sisters attend the ball. My husband and our sixteen year old daughter just departed for the annual Father-Daughter dinner dance – a special date they have kept for nine years in a row. My companions? Certainly not twirling, dress-making mice! I remain at home with our Labradors, a glass of wine, and memories of the night, once upon a time, when I went dancing with Dad. […]