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.

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.