If there was one tragedy in his life, it was the fact that he never had the opportunities that my brother and I had to go to college. I seem to remember that he was one day off from some arbitrary cutoff date for going to college on the GI bill. When I first started college, he thought that I was looking down on him for his lack of higher education. It wasn't true - I always thought of him as one of the smartest people I knew.
He loved music, and he could play almost anything with strings. When he was a young married man, people would invite him to parties and add "and by the way, bring your guitar."
In the years that I was growing up, he did not make much show of emotions. Then, when he got to be my age, everything made him cry.
He was an enthusiastic photographer for decades. Some of the most important things I knew about photography came from him. Sadly, I never told him that.
Later in life I've had occasions where I was walking through me mall and I would look up and wonder who was this old man approaching me who looked like my dad. It turned out I was walking towards a mirror. Sam Ballard was a good man. Hundreds of people told me that over the years, and I never doubted it.
One thing he did for me as a child was take me to touring companies of the Grand Ol Opry. I saw everybody who was big then: Minnie Pearl, Wanda Jackson, Roy Acuff, Carl Perkins and, most impressively, Johnny Horton. Then I had decades where I wouldn't go near country music. By the time the gray hairs started arriving I reverted to my youth and became a bluegrass fan. On that note, I will leave you with a song by Steve Earle and the Del McCoury band that will also be played at my funeral. Thank you.