Firing from the Lip

A collection of thoughts, stories, tall tales, half truths and opinions from the Heartland of America.

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Location: Missouri, United States

An irreverent but loving grandfather of five and father of three, I enjoy writing of family, love, life, and the never ending fascination of it all.

Friday, February 10, 2012

In The Way They Should Go

When I was young I was the proud great-nephew of twin Aunts named Elzie and Elsie. My Grandmother’s sisters on my mother’s side, they were funny, charming, and a balm against the inevitable hurt feelings and fears of childhood.

At 93, living in a care center here in town, their husbands long dead, the old sisters once again shared a room as they had in their youth. Full of laughter, fun, wisdom, and stories of the old days, they were a joy to visit.

My father went to see them at least once a week, to make sure they were doing alright and weren’t doing without anything they wanted and, more importantly, to keep them tightly held in the bond of their family. Too many elderly are placed in homes and forgotten. My beloved great-aunts would never suffer that fate.

Dad was running late and working evening shift on the day I remember so well. He had little time but had promised his Aunts that we would visit. To my father, a promise made was a promise kept, come hell or high water, and so we set off.

He was preoccupied and lost in his thoughts as we strode down the hall toward their room. I, hurrying along beside him, barely noticed the old woman sitting alone in a row of chairs in the aisle. As we passed she reached for my father's hand and, as he stopped, startled, she asked, "Oh, honey! Did you come to see me?"

I saw the hesitation in Dad’s eyes and knew he was thinking about the shortness of time we had to visit as he looked down at this lonely old woman. It didn’t last long, the hesitation, because he smiled, patted her hand, and said "I sure did, hon. I've been wondering how you were?"

The old woman smiled joyously as Pop sat down next to her. She held his hand and talked about her children, how she missed seeing them, and how glad she was that Pop had taken the time to come visit. I sat and listened, wondering where he knew this lady from, and anxious to see my aunts.

After they’d chatted a few moments he asked me to run and tell my aunts that we would have to come back tomorrow. He had to go get ready for work. I was more than happy to go see them and they asked where Pop was? I told them and they both smiled and said, "Bill always had a good heart."

As we were pulling out of the parking lot, I asked him how he knew that lady? He thought for a moment and answered, "I don't know her, son. I just didn't have it in me to tell that old woman 'no' when she asked if I had come to see her."

My father looked over at me and said, "Donnie, there are few things worse than being alone in this life. Your aunts understood. They know I'll come see them soon. That old lady has probably sat in that aisle many a day, hoping that someone would come to see her and suffered disappointment after disappointment. Do you understand what I mean?"

"Yes, sir. I think I do." He smiled, winked at me, and we drove home and he hurriedly gathered his lunch and patted me on the back on his way to his truck.

As time went by I came to understand more fully the lesson this shy but loving man had tried to impart on that day. He wasn’t preachy. He wasn’t ‘do as I say, not as I do.’ He simply lived the best way he knew how and, in his way, loved his fellow man as the Good Lord asked us to do.

There is a scripture that reads in part, "Train up a child in the way that he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it."

I don’t know if that’s entirely true. God knows I have departed from the lessons of my young life many times and have suffered from it but, as I grow older, I find myself drawn more and more to that solid foundation and ever grateful to that quiet and gentle man who walked a path I could watch and learn from.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Cedar Posts Don't Give

When I was 14 my dad and I had our first major disagreement. The first serious skirmish in the war of teen rebellion...

No matter how kind and decent a man treats his son the time will come when the young buck feels moved to lower his head and poke his budding antlers into the old man's posterior.

As much as I loved Dad I had it in my mind that we should now find ourselves on more or less equal terms. I felt that I had reached the age of answering only to myself in most matters. No longer needing, or desiring, the constant guiding hand of my parents. I was a man, dammit, and I demanded respect!

My parents bore the changes in me with a combination of bemusement, amusement, and frustration. My mother, God rest her soul, was determined to simply ignore the fact that her son was growing up. I suppose poor Mom was living where Dad often said she did; in the state of denial. When I attempted to enlighten her on the new and challenging situation we found ourselves in she would just pat my hand and say,

"You'll always be my baby."

Talk about a slap in the face! She just didn't get it!

"!!! I am a MAN!"

When my mother passed away I was married with three children. I was still her baby. Some battles can't be won.

Poor old Dad, having been a boy himself once, was a bit more understanding. That's not to say that he liked the changes in me, he didn't, and he let that be known from time to time, but at least he recognized and acknowledged that things were different. He continued as he always had. Trying to be patient, to offer sound counsel, to be a good father to me.

When I began to get under his skin Dad would go off to his shop and find solace in working on a car, all alone. Looking back, I realize those must have been lonely hours for him. To his credit, he kept trying. He gave me more and more freedom. He allowed me to make my own mistakes and he tried, Lord, how he tried, to be patient.

We were in the kitchen on that fateful day when I finally wore my father's patience out. Had I studied the signs I would have known better. Dad was sitting at the table with his his notebooks and ledgers spread out before him, working on the taxes that he paid quarterly. The government must have had Dad confused with Rockefeller because their idea of a 'fair tax' on this poor working man was a heavy burden for him. At any rate, it was a good time to watch my p's and q's, but, as the old saying goes, "fools go where angels fear to tread..."

I was digging in the refrigerator for a snack when Pop said,

"Dinner will be in a bit. Why don't you just wait?"

Using the obnoxious tone of voice only a teenager can possess I smartly replied, "I don't want to wait. I'm hungry now."

You would have thought that I called his Momma a bad name. My Dad's face got beet red, a flush ran all the way up his neck, and his eyes bulged out! He began to speak, almost a whisper, at first, but each word got a bit louder, building to a cresendo of anger I hadn't known the old man capable of.

"That's it! That is By God it! I have taken about all I'm taking from you!"

Standing up, leaning over the table, the old man continued to express his fatherly displeasure at my conduct of late.

"You mouth your mother, you disrepect me, and you think I'll put up with that? You think I'll take that from my own son? I'll be damned if I will! I'm done! Do you hear me, boy? I am DONE!!"

As he yelled out that last word he brought his fist down on our kitchen table and broke it in half. As his papers, coffee, and everything else fell to the floor with a crash I stood by the door, trembling like a virgin bride. A wiser kid would have fallen to his knees and begged for mercy, and I admit the thought crossed my mind, but wisdom had not yet come to me. As I stood there, staring at Dad in his rage, a little voice whispered in my head.

"'re a man, remember? Are you gonna' let him talk to you like that?"

"Not now, we'll chat later. I'm a little busy now."

"Chicken! Your Mom was right! You ARE still a baby!"

I made my decision. I didn't care how big he was, he wasn't getting the best of me! As Dad glared, I forced myself to smile at him and said, "that was cute." I had expected a reaction. Lord, did I get one. Did I ever.

My father, displaying a fleetness I didn't know he possessed, came after me. It was like facing all four of the Horsemen from Revelations simultaneously. In that split second, as he kicked that table out of his way, I realized the wisdom of a hasty retreat. As a friend of mine once said, "A good run is better than a bad stand."

Realizing I had made a major mistake, I decided to compound it by yelling, "You'll never catch me, fat boy!" and running out the back door with my father in hot pursuit. As I fled for my life through the yard I couldn't resist looking back over my shoulder to see how close Dad was. He was a man of many talents but he wasn't fast afoot. I mean he just flat could not run. Figuring I had the old goat beat I laughed, and turned around to finish my run to daylight...


Did I mention my mother didn't own a clothes dryer? Strange, isn't it? All the money Pop made, but no dryer for Mom! I know what you're thinking. What the hell does that have to do with what we're talking about? Simple, really. The lack of a dryer made it necessary for Mom to hang our clothes out on a line to dry. Did I further neglect to mention that Dad had put cedar posts in to serve as clothesline poles?

I turned around from taunting the old man just in time to run smack-dab into one of those posts at full tilt. Now, when I say I ran into it, I don't mean I grazed it, or I glanced off of it. I mean I center-punched it. I must have looked like Wile E. Coyote in those old cartoons. I hit that thing and my arms and legs went straight out. I don't remember hitting the ground.

I woke up on my parents couch with my old man sitting there grinning like the Cheshire Cat. "You weren't all that hard to catch, boy." he said, with a chuckle.

I had broken my nose, had both eyes bruised black as coal, and had a knot on my head that stuck out about two inches past my eyebrows. Pop said, "hold still, son." He leaned over, grabbed my nose, and popped it back to where it belonged.

Thankfully, my Dad had a sense of humor about the whole affair and the ingominity of knocking myself out was the extent of my punishment. Pop still laughs as he remembers that day and delights in telling my children about it. I've tried to tell them that their grandfather spices a story up a bit, now and then, but I think they enjoy knowing that their Daddy wasn't perfect.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

What DO You Know, Pa?

Brendan and I were discussing his trip to Chucky Cheese Pizza last Sunday. He had a wonderful time at his little buddy's birthday party and wanted to tell me all about it.

"I didn't eat much, Pa. I was too busy playing all the games! I had six trillion tickets and all I got was a little red ball?"

"Six trillion, huh? That's a lot of tickets, bud."

"I know, Pa. I worked hard to win them."

"Did Mommy carry them for you?"

"Yes, Pa. I needed Mommy to hold them so I could play!"

"Glad you had fun, buddy."

"Yeah, me too, Pa! Pa? What makes those games work like that?"

"I don't know, bud. I've never been there."

"You've never been to ChuckyCheese?"


"Gosh, Pa. Mama didn't have your birthday there?"


"I guess you're too old for that, huh Pa?"

"Too old for what?"

"Birthday parties."

"I guess so, buddy. When you're my age, they're not as fun as they used to be."

"You are pretty old, Pa."

"Watch it, sucker."

Brendan laughed and climbed on to my lap to eat a hot dog. As he ate, he asked why his hot dog was 'square.'

"I don't know, buddy."

"Pa, what do you know?"

"Not much, I guess."

"I guess not."

I could have explained to him that Oscar Mayer packs them so tight they come out square looking, but where's the fun in that? Far better to receive a pitying look from a four-year-old who just can't understand how you can take care of yourself at such an advanced age as 45.

God, I love that little boy.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

I Sold A Story!

I sold a piece to entitled 'Dead Broke and Underground.'

It's up on their story blog now. Stop by and read it, feel free to leave a comment!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Do I What?

"Brendan Tyler! Get back here and put your pants on! Right now!"
I chuckled as I heard my daughter scolding Brendan and the rapid thud of little feet running up the stairs toward my office.
"Yes, baby?"
"Wanna' see my butt?"
"Is this a trick question?"
"No, Pa! I got new underwear! Look! Spongebob!"
"Hey! Those are pretty cool, buddy! Maybe Pa will get some?"
"You're too old, Pa."
"Gee, thanks. I'm cutting you out of my will, you know."
"What's a will, Pa?"
"Never mind."

Brendan has moved up in the world! He has boxer briefs now, and loves them. He wanted some because Keenan wears them, and Lord knows, if Keenan does it, it must be cool.

Our family is going through a difficult time, but any day that begins with Brendan running into my room for his good morning hug is a good day.

I love you, baby. I guess I'll leave you in the will after all.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Each New Day

An ancient wise man once wrote, ‘there is nothing new under the sun.’ The Teacher was beaten down by a life filled with thrilling ascents to glory and crashing falls into despair and hopelessness, and had concluded that ‘all is vanity.’

But was he right? I don’t think so.

I believe each day brings forth something new under the sun. The brilliance of the sunrise may look like yesterday, but there are subtle differences in the Lord’s pallet of color each morning. Sunrises inspire me, they always have. I love sitting on my deck and soaking up the first new rays of another day of my life. Breathing the cool, crisp, air while watching the fog gradually thinning, then fading into nothingness is like lifting the veil of a new bride. The hint of beauty revealed for those who would seek it.

Many of us have been blessed with new life in our families this year. Some are parents for the first time, excited and a bit frightened by the responsibility for another. I remember that feeling well, the wondering if I will be good enough, if I have enough heart and patience. I did and I do, and so do you. Just enjoy them as much as possible because the time passes far more swiftly than you know. The days of tea parties and kickball games don’t last long. Treasure them, they are the memories you will hold fast to in your later years, long after the laughter has faded away.

A lucky few have become grandparents for the first time, and know the joy of seeing those special little faces napping gently in your arms. It is a moment you will never forget, the first time you gaze at your grandchild. Your heart melts and you find yourself wrapped around a very small finger forever. The two nicest things I’ve ever been called are Daddy and PaPa. God, it’s wonderful isn’t it? Nothing new under the sun? I daresay, he was wrong, there is something new, and beautiful, under the sun each bright morning of our lives.

Some of us have lost someone we love this past year, and are dealing with that loss as best we can. Our loved ones can see the sunrise from the other side of the veil now. They can watch as God creates the dawn. They can see the Creator’s sovereign right hand drop slowly as he gently and tenderly lays the sun to rest at the end of each day, and they can still share our lives and our love for them. I believe they remain with us forever. Nothing is stronger than love, and a heart full of love and devotion never dies, it simply takes on a new and majestic form in Heaven alongside the Father and the Son. We mourn for them, and we feel the pain of their absence from our presence, but we will be together again someday. I still talk to the loved ones I’ve lost in my life and I believe they can hear me. They cannot answer, but perhaps they smile when I say their names, and know they are remembered and loved.

There is something new under the sun this morning. It’s the opportunity to make it a better day than yesterday. To say I love you, or I need you, to someone special who would appreciate hearing it. To hold someone in your arms for a moment, to share the warmth of your heart with them, to treasure them. I look at each new dawn through the eyes of a child receiving a gift from a loving father. Each day is special, each day is ours to fill with what we will. The choice is ours.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Love in the Afternoon

A recently released study claims that an overwhelming majority of Americans have engaged in premarital sex. In homage to premarital sex, family lore, and heart-pounding adventure, I bring you this tale of young love and an unexpected encounter with the Bull of the Woods. I call it Love in the Afternoon.

When my parents were courting they often double-dated with my mothers sister, Faye, and her boyfriend Jim. Aunt Faye was everything Mom wasn’t. She was outgoing, brassy, and bold, enjoyed a cold beer or a shot of bourbon, and could cuss like a sailor and fight like a man. It took a man with guts to date my Aunt Faye, and Lord knows, my future uncle, James Davis, had guts.

Jim was a rough-houser, a down-home country boy from way back in the woods with an engaging smile, a ready laugh, and sparkling eyes full of mischief. Not much bothered Uncle Jim. He could get along with you, or not, and smile either way. He’d grown up a sawyer’s son and worked in the mills and on the farm all his young life. He was an immensely strong man and wasn’t afraid of much of anything. He was a bit afraid, perhaps, of my grandfather, who’d threatened to take a shotgun to the young lad if he got out of line with his daughter.

Through mom and Faye, my dad and Jim met, and became as close as brothers for as long as they lived. The two had much in common. Daddy wasn’t afraid of anything or anyone either, and like Jim, he wasn’t one to shy away from a fight or a cold beer. My father always laughed as he told me about meeting Jim. Faye introduced him, and Jim looked up and said, “Damn! You’re a big sonofabitch, ain’t ya?” Pop said he laughed and shook Jim’s hand, and the bond was immediate between them.

The four of them liked to steal away in Jim’s old Buick out to the country to go parking. They often found themselves along Halter Road, a little strip of gravel that survives to this day, and one which I made much the same use of growing up. The best spot on Halter was at the top of the big hill. From there, you could see a car coming from a half-mile away and it gave you time to get yourself situated before unwanted attention was paid to you by the authorities or an angry father.

One lazy Summer afternoon, the four found themselves at the top of the big hill enjoying a beer and each other’s company. Faye and Jim were a bit more, shall we say, ‘advanced,’ in their relationship than Mom and Pop were at the time, and Faye let it be known that they’d like a bit of privacy.

Pop led Mom off, and they took a hand in hand stroll down the hill to the creek that ran through the bottom of the hollows. I don’t know exactly what pop had in mind, but being young myself once, I can make a pretty good guess. My mother was a chaste woman, and Pop didn’t get very far in his youthful attempts at amour with her. Momma believed in ‘ring before fling’ and suggested they cool their feet in the creek to get Pop’s body temperature down.

As the two young lovers sat, soaked their feet, and talked on the moss covered rocks of Halter Creek they had an unexpected visitor. The old farmer that owed the land had a big, black bull named Samson. He was a huge old bull, thick and wide with a bit of an attitude. He was the King of All He Surveyed. On this particular afternoon he surveyed my parents cooling their heels in his creek. The old fellow seemed to take offense at this trespass, and wandered over to lodge a formal complaint.

Wrapped up in each other, the two lovers didn’t see Samson coming. Being a polite bull, he announced his presence with a deep huff, and Mom looked up to see him standing just ten feet away on the other side of the shallow creek. My mother was a woman prone to quick reaction in time of doubt or fear. When it came to the ‘fight or flight’ instinct, she had a double portion of ‘flight.’ Grabbing her shoes, she took off running as fast as she could back to the car, leaving poor Pop to fend for himself. Pop didn’t know what to do, so he took off running after mom. Poor old Samson didn’t know what to make of all this but he must have thought, ‘hell, if everyone else is gonna’ run, I may as well too,’ and took off in hot pursuit of my parents.

Reaching the car in a panic, my mother jerked the door open and dove into the back seat. Right on top of a very busy - and buck naked - Uncle Jim. Jim thought it was my grandfather and he let out a screech you could hear from a mile away. The poor boy thought he was a dead man! Faye was screaming at Mom to get the hell out of there, Mom was screaming ‘you go to hell, there’s a bull out there,’ and wouldn’t budge, and Jim was trying to get his pants on before Mom saw something she shouldn’t.

While this was going on, my poor father was rolling on the ground laughing. It didn’t matter that Old Samson was just a few yards away. Pop couldn’t stop laughing at the funniest thing he’d ever seen. Samson himself seemed to think this was worth watching, because he just stood there pawing the ground and taking it all in.

Poor old Jim lost about five years off his life when Mom landed screaming on his back. Faye was mad at Mom at first, but when she found out the whole story she laughed til’ she cried. She told Mom, ‘I wish I’d seen you coming, Mary. I’d have locked the doors just to hear you scream.’ I told you Faye had a mean streak!

I remember my Daddy and my uncle telling me this story while my Mom’s face got red as a beet and Faye laughed. Jim said, “I’ll tell you what, son. I’m glad it wasn’t your granddaddy. I’d rather have taken my chances with Old Samson.”