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Our Father's Day stories: As Austin changes, dad's our family bedrock

Peter Blackstock
David Blackstock with his son, Peter, in 1967 on Peter's birthday in Rochester, New York. David, an Austin native, moved with his young family back to the city in 1969. [Contributed by Marjorie Blackstock]

Though my family has a long history in Austin, my siblings and I were born in the Northeast. I like to think we can claim honorary native Austinite status, though, because my father, David Blackstock, was born here in 1930.

Dad grew up in an Austin that hit 100,000 population while he was a teenager at the original Austin High School campus. When he left after graduating from the University of Texas in 1953, the city was already pushing 150,000, a harbinger of greater growth spurts to come.

He returned in 1969, now with a wife and four kids plus a Harvard doctorate in physics, to teach at his alma mater. We watched in awe as the Texas Longhorns won a football national championship in his first year back home. We were fortunate children raised by two loving and hardworking parents in what was then the northwest suburban edge of town, with exciting neighborhood upgrades on the horizon such as MoPac and Northcross Mall.

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Dad worked hard every day at UT and its affiliated Applied Research Laboratories facility on the far north end of Burnet Road. But on weekends, he especially enjoyed exploring Central Texas waterways. Many a Saturday and Sunday afternoon were spent canoeing the Guadalupe, the Blanco, the San Marcos, the Pedernales, the Llano and pretty much any river within a couple hours’ driving distance of Austin.

I didn’t go with him and my brother when they took a week off of work and school to trek the lower canyons of the Rio Grande. Dad’s photos from that trip — our childhood adventures are well-documented through Kodak slides my brother has now digitized — left such an impression back then that I hoped there would be another opportunity someday.

It finally happened the year of his 70th birthday. My gift to Dad was a raft trip through Santa Elena Canyon, with renowned Texas troubadour Butch Hancock and his Far Flung Adventures companions as our guides. Dad wasn’t sure if he was too old for such river journeys at that point, but he was elated to find it was still very much possible.

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On Jan. 1, 2006, several family members drove out to Enchanted Rock near Fredericksburg and hiked to the top. It was a gusty day, and at one point one of our hats went flying off with the wind. We all scurried across the granite surface to track it down. My dad, 75, got there first.

He’s 89 now, facing health challenges that people who live for nine decades likely will encounter. (His brother Mathis, a doctor for whom the Blackstock Family Health Center at Brackenridge is named, left us in 2012 at age 87.) Now the patriarch for an extended family of around two dozen, he remains our granite bedrock, our guiding moral force, the river that flows through the history of our lives.

Our city, pushing a million in population, keeps growing and evolving. But I have an Austin that doesn’t change. My father IS Austin.

Peter Blackstock is a music writer at the American-Statesman. This is part of a series of our staff's personal Father's Day stories.