WINDOW ROCK- What does it mean to be a good father?
That was the question the editorial staff at the Navajo Times wondered about in its weekly meeting for this June 18 edition.
And when it came to deciding on a Father’s Day package — a tribute to fathers who play a significant role in their children’s lives — editorial staff decided to profile fathers from different outlooks and ages.
There is an elected leader who promotes a fatherhood initiative, a gay dad with three children and a new dad who was a top finalist for the 2014 Ultimate Men’s Health Guy competition.
The two other fathers include a firefighter as well as a professional bull rider, who recently won the MegaBucks BullRiding event in Window Rock.
The Navajo Times profiled these fathers in an effort to get a sense of what fatherhood means to these men, and to reveal how fathers can play a major role in parenting today.
And, to all fathers, Happy Father’s Day!
Losing a father
Navajo Nation Council Delegate Tom Chee was five years old when his father died.
Born at a sheep camp in Leupp, Ariz., Chee grew up without a father, spending much of his childhood in boarding schools or helping his mother. The absence of a father had a profound influence on his life, he said.
“I experienced separation from my family since I was small,” he said. “But I grew up with the frame of mind that someday I would be a husband and a father, so I needed to develop those skills.”
Chee forged a relationship with his grandfather, who taught him traditional skills and passed along insight that has helped Chee navigate life, career and relationships — and a marriage and family of his own.
Now a delegate from Shiprock, Chee, 57, advocates for healthy relationships, particularly between men and their children. He has six grown children and five grandchildren.
“Men need to be more conscious of their interactions with their boys,” he said. “The older I get the more I miss an elderly father, one who will put his arm around me and say, ‘Hey, you came out a decent guy and I’m proud of you.’”
Prior to running for elected office, Chee coordinated a fatherhood initiative under the Navajo Healthy Marriages Project. Backed by a five-year, $1 million federal grant, the project hosted free education sessions for couples and parents.
In that role, Chee taught couples to forge healthier relationships and to pass that on to their children. He also pushed men to maintain relationships with their children.
“I think there’s a father crisis that has come into existence on the reservation,” he said. “When there are no men in the home, that really puts a burden on our Nation. When men have a presence in the home, everyone benefits.”
Sometimes you’re the villain
Jeremy Curley, 28, is a firefighter — a profession most people think of as a hero.
But once in a while he has to play the villain for his 4-year-old son, Chasen Curley.
“He likes Ninja Turtles so we have to play-fight and I’m always the bad guy,” he said with a laugh.
Supporting his son’s imagination and adventurous spirit is important to Curley because he wants Chasen to “always have a mindset that he can do whatever he wants,” Curley said.
While the two are adventurous, Curley said his son is also inspirational.
His son is why he became a firefighter, he said.
“I’m trying to be a good example,” Curley explained.
Being a good role model for his son and the community is something that Curley strives to do everyday.
On trips, when Chasen sees a fire truck, he tells his dad that someone is hurt or needs help. Curley is happy to know that his son recognizes the nature of his job.
Curley makes certain not only to teach his son about fire safety, but also volunteers his time at local schools.
His advice to young dads is to strive everyday to learn something new.
“Never stop learning and be mindful of others,” Curley said, adding that a dad’s job is never done.
Curley also wishes a Happy Father’s Day to fellow public service workers, his dad and brother.
Taking the bull by the horns
His father, Teddy Granger Jr., was an avid bull rider who toured on the National Senior Pro Rodeo Association circuit a couple of years ago.
His grandfather, Teddy Granger Sr., was a roper.
So it only made sense that Justin Granger would follow in his family’s footsteps.
That upbringing has helped him become one of the area’s best bull riders as the Tuba City cowboy has traversed all over the country competing in some of the top shows over the last decade, which includes a $24,000 win in Connecticut in 2007.
At 24 years old, Granger still competes but after having a second and third child in 2012, he’s cut down his schedule so that he can be with his family.
“I don’t travel as much, but that’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” Granger said of becoming a father. “I have three kids and it’s a handful but it changed my life.”
Granger has an older son, Tatum, and while he was winning the International Indian Finals Rodeo, his wife was delivering fraternal twins — Jace and Kaylin — in Albuquerque.
“It was great that they were born when I became a world champion,” Granger said. “I got three big prizes in one weekend.”
On Saturday, June 13 he collected his third highest payout ever by winning the $15,000 winner-take-all at the MegaBucks BullRiding at the Dean C. Jackson Memorial Arena in Window Rock.
“I could use some of this money for going down the road, but I have three kids to support at home,” said Granger, who now lives in Rio Rancho, N.M.
According to his dad, Justin got interested in the western way of life by riding his first sheep when he was four years old.
“He got started real early and he grew from there,” Teddy Granger said. “And when he turned 14 he started to ride bulls at the PBR level.”
Asked if his son is following in his footsteps, Justin replied, “Yeah and he’s already riding sheep at two years old. He wanted to get on this afternoon (in Window Rock) but we got here a little late. They closed the books on us but it’s a cool deal to see that he wants to ride just like I did when I was a kid.”
Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the Navajo Times. Used with permission. All rights reserved.