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Friday, March 19, 2010

IF I DOOD IT I GET A WHIPPIN

I think that was an old line from the Fannie Brice "Baby Snooks" radio show from the 1940's. Did you ever do anything as a child, or teen that you knew was going to get you in trouble, but you did it anyway?
I know I did it dozens of times, but the first time that sticks in my mind was when I was around five and I was sitting in the front seat of the car in between my parents. I have no idea where my brother was because we always sat in the back with me on the right and him on the left. He might have been asleep in the back and my parents had allowed me to sit in the front seat with them, I don’t remember. We were sailing through the Hill Country of Texas in our two tone, pale green and white, 1957 Mercury Monterey when I asked, “Daddy, what would happen if I turned the key off while we were driving?” In a very serious voice he said, as if trying to teach me a life lesson, “That would be a very bad thing to do son because the engine would shut off, then we’d loose the power steering and the power brakes it might cause us to have a wreck.” I grew silent and sat there watching that key chain swing back and forth, back and forth, back and forth in the dash. I was transfixed, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, the key chain with the “God Of Mercury’s Head”, went back and forth, back in forth, until I just couldn't help myself. I leaned forward and turned the ignition off, we must've been doing at least seventy.
My father was only thirty one, still young and quick, he shifted the car into neutral, restarted it, and shifted it back into drive, then he slapped me hard on my bare leg saying, “Sammy don’t ever to do that again! You could’ve caused us to have a wreck!” I was happy the slap didn’t hurt that much and it was worth it just to see what would happen. I knew I'd get in trouble, but I just had to see for myself and we didn’t wreck like people did in the movies. No tires squealing, brakes burning, no crash, hubcaps flying off, doors flying open. So I knew my father had been wrong. Why did your parent’s always warn you about things that never happened?
About that same year when I was five and Danny was three, my father planted these huge “Elephant Ear’s” on the side of the driveway going to our garage. Once they’d reached a pretty good size and height our best friends from next door, Ava and Alonzo Gonzales, convinced us they would make great umbrellas. I said, “But it’s not raining.” and they said, “We can use them for parasols like people in the movies while they were walking in the park to keep the sun off them.” Well, that sounded good enough to us, so we broke them off at ground level and walked around in the sun twirling them around like the people did in the old fashioned movies probably singing the “Easter Parade” song from a late night TV movie, until there were none left, just an empty flower bed. We’d pretty much forgotten about it by the time my father arrived home from work. He stepped out of the car and immediately looked at the flower bed along the drive way. “Boy’s, what happened to those Elephant Ears I planted?” We stood there silent wondering what to tell him. I think I muttered something about, “We didn’t know, or maybe space men had taken them during the day while we weren’t looking.” Hell, it happened in the movies didn’t it? Or something equally as unconvincing. He said, “If you tell me the truth you won’t be in nearly as much trouble, if you lie about it you’re going to be in a lot of trouble.” I stood there wondering what he meant. Was the truth going to get us a whipping and a lie a really big whipping? Did one mean a belt and the other a paddle? Did one mean pants on, or pants down?” Then after thinking about it I realized we’d never gotten a spanking with a paddle, or with our pants down like I’d heard other kids had received, so I said weakly, “We used them for umbrellas.” He than said, “Thank you for telling me the truth. You’re not going to get spanking’s this time because you didn’t lie, but don’t ever do that again. Do you understand?” “Yes, daddy we understand.” Wow, was it that easy being a kid, screwing up and then admitting it? No, but it’s seemed a good life lesson for my entire life. My father once reminded me when I was around eighteen that, “Not everyone tells everything that happens to them in their lives the way we do some people keep secrets.” I remember thinking that was strange because couldn’t everyone read your mind and know what you were hiding anyway, so why bother?”
It was one of the last times I remember him actually being fair before his drinking over took all our lives while we lived in Germany.

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