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A Father Reflects On Strength And Meeting His Match

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Robert Stover grew up in the late 1930s, and as he remembers, he never really had a hometown.

"My father was a salesman with the Hoover vacuum cleaner company. He could move into a city and sell out its potential fairly rapidly. So I lived all over," Stover tells his daughter, Valerie Anderson.

Making friends wasn't easy.

"When I would get to a new town, everybody had to see who could whip the new boy," Robert says. "I was willing to stipulate that they all could — including the females. But it had to be proven."

"If you're born puny but born bright, teachers tend to like you and they call on you a lot. And I was so stupid as to volunteer the answer when one of the other kids couldn't."

And a boy named Buffalo Kowalski didn't care for that, he says. "He was very sturdy, very big for that age. That's how he got the name Buffalo; he was built like a damn buffalo. He used to beat me up going to school, at recess, coming home," Robert says. "And I had no chance against him."

One day, he remembers, he happened to be taking a Gene Autry cap pistol to class, and in desperation, as Buffalo was hammering him, he swung it and hit him in the face. "And I broke his nose. He thought it was a good move. You know, he said, 'Way to go, boy!' He quit beating me up, and I got to know him. He wasn't that bad a fellow."

"Daddy, you were always very strong," Valerie says. "But I have to say, my mother was equally strong."

Beautiful, but scrawny and strong-willed — that's how Robert describes his wife, Kay. "When we bought this farm, we had people who paid monthly rent. But typically, they would be behind a month or two, so Kay said she would go out and get the cash. She said, 'You're too damn nice to those people,' " Robert says. "So she took her revolver, strapped it on, went out and got the payment on time." From then on, she collected it.

"She was my match," Robert says. "Some days, she was more than my match."

Produced for Morning Edition by Jasmyn Belcher.

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