He was a big man, and he was a religious man. He never cursed around strangers. He reserved that delightful pastime for us kids when we worked us on his construction jobs. He did not curse at home, just on the job. Daddy was a Deacon in Trinity Baptist Church, the kind of basic hell-fire and brimstone Southern Baptist church found all over Dixie.
Daddy did not drink. He learned his lesson during Prohibition when, as a young man, he got hold of some stuff affectionately known as Jake Leg, which was bootleg alcohol that could make you very sick, or even paralyzed. He was sick for days, and my mother gave him such a dressing down that he straightened up, fast.
He did not put up with others drinking around his family. Most of all, my mother would not let him put up with anything that smacked of non-religious behavior. There was no drinking, dancing, partying, or breathing outside of the Baptist Church allowed in my young life.
We lived at the last house on a dead-end street. Occasionally somebody would drive into our little neighborhood out of confusion, and turn around in one of the nearby driveways, and leave. One Saturday morning, things got exciting.
Running down our dead-end street, being chased by a dilapidated pickup truck was an old man, huffing and puffing for all he was worth. There was an old, ugly, toothless woman driving the truck, cussing the old man to beat the band. The old man was drunker than three sailors on leave, cussing back at her while running, and drinking from a bottle of whiskey at the same time.
It was a sight to behold, and a scene for the ages. It was a testament to the ravages of alcohol on man and woman, alike.
The old lady’s name was Mrs. Theade, and the man was her husband. I don’t know what the problem was. How in the world they ever got married was probably a mystery, even to themselves.
There was a bunch of us dead-end kids playing in the street that Saturday morning. With all the noise and commotion, we got out-of-the-way real quick. My, oh my! Was there ever a commotion. All the dogs, children, and parents in the neighborhood knew something was going on. We never got anything like this on our street.
At the very end of our street was a big, stout wooden fence painted in white and black stripes to warn wayward motorists that they could not go any further. The old woman managed to crash the truck into that fence, breaking the top two-by-twelve-inch plank. The old man was even louder in his cussing, now. I think it was his truck, and one of the headlights was smashed.
My Daddy didn’t like what he heard. As a good Christian, and a man with a family to protect, he took action. Did he ever take action.
Daddy took to the street faster than a two-hundred forty pound man should have been able. You see, he was a carpenter, and worked everyday in an environment that demanded heavy physical activity. He was still relatively young, and possessed great strength. People did not mess with my old man.
Before we knew what was happening, Daddy had snatched the whiskey bottle away from the old man, and smashed it on the sidewalk in front of our neighbor’s house. I can still smell it. I think my mother could, too. She didn’t like whiskey, or those associated with it.
After his whiskey bottle and truck had been smashed, the old man increased the level of cussing, and made my Daddy the target.
You didn’t cuss my Daddy.
After breaking the old man’s whiskey bottle and taking a cussing, Dad picked up the old man by the collar with one hand and shoved him into the cab of the pickup. It took quite a man to pick somebody up by the scruff of the neck with one hand. That was my Dad. Then, he made sure the old woman got herself, her man, and the truck out of our neighborhood, pronto.
Mom was really embarrassed by the whole affair. She was a Super Baptist, and whiskey was high on her list of sins. Even possessing the stuff was bad. Having to smell it was not on her list of pleasantries, either.
She made Daddy sweep up the broken glass, and wash off the sidewalk, making sure the crime scene was clean.
Several weeks later, Mrs. Theade killed the old man. Daddy felt pretty bad about that. He felt that the old man might have been running for his life, and he had intervened in such a way that the old man’s early demise was guaranteed.
My Daddy was a big man, and a good man.
I miss him.