By Tommy Vaughan
Tom Vaughan’s accounts of his professional and personal life in academics, societies and community have been remembered by his many friends and colleagues. As his son, I’ll share a more intimate family perspective. Rather than summarize or survey our 65 years together in the 500 words allotted, I’ll give a peek into Dad’s person through a Saturday morning routine we enjoyed when I was in town. At home, Daddy wasn’t much for “idle” talk. He reserved personal communication mostly for my mother. To enjoy his company and conversation I sometimes had to prime the pump. “Daddy, let’s go check on the farm.”
Stepping up to the bench seat of his old blue truck, we headed south from Auburn and back in time to our Tuskegee farm. He liked the Wire Road route where time slowed and directions wandered, past his beloved vet school. Cary and McAdory, Sugg and Greene — through my father I knew them all from his frequent reflections. The AU School of Veterinary Medicine was the reason that Rome was built — as I learned from his lecture. He was a passionate historian and most proud of the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine.
With the Vet School now in the mirror behind, prescient opining now shifted to “what’s Putin thinking, what’s Xi Jiping gonna do and what’s Biden doing about it all?” Daddy would question the world all around, from local news to existential threats with a rare informed and objective reasoning. He was an educated critical thinker and a perpetual student of the times.
As we passed I-85 and hit Highway 29, he would turn his eyes back to the trees for which he taught identification by leaf, bark and profile. I was now with John Bartram as we crossed Uphapee Creek through Tuskegee National Forest. My father the naturalist still lives in the minds and pursuits of his next generation.
Now on Highway 29 approaching Tuskegee, we transit backward in time. Every property and house standing comes with a story. The people, their relations and the deeds they did were recalled from firsthand familiarity. As we enter the Tuskegee square, we remember when and see now, and speculate on the problems and promise ahead. Through Tuskegee’s history of challenge and change, my father has remained loyal and present to his Tuskegee home.
Taking Main Street south to County Road 10, we come to our farm gate and our family land beyond. The names of the farm hands and the fences they strung and mended to pasture the cattle and the hayfields they tended. My father’s boyhood was relived here with his children through recreation and management and more memories made. Daddy often refers to his early farm life as formative of his community and career.
After mornings “checking on the farm,” we come to Daddy’s priority — a visit to the Tuskegee Cemetery where six generations of his family lie. A few weeds are pulled and a floral arrangement is placed in memory of his mother, father and family with more memories shared. Now with mortality squarely in mind he updates me on his health and that of my mother. While diagnoses are discussed and prescriptions are taken, the cycle of life is acknowledged without resignation or fear. Rather fulfillment and appreciation are felt for lives substantially lived. A quick call home to my mother concludes our stay.
“We’ll be home for lunch” and another day.