December 04, 2004

Revisiting Childhood

My father is not well at the moment. I have been spending some time with him while he is hospitalized.

It strikes me as odd how his memories of my childhood are so vastly different from mine.

Despite our differences, there is no doubt that my father is proud of me and loves me dearly. Because I have been caught up with my own life problems and own issues arising from my relationship with him, I forget to consider his feelings for me.

Earlier today, I was sitting with him and waiting for his oncologist to come by when one of his old friends popped in to say "Hello." For the sake of anonymity, I shall call him Mr. Robichaux because I am, after all, in Louisiana.

Mr. Robichaux looked vaguely familiar to me, but I had no specific recollection of having met or visited with him before. I introduced myself. He shook my hand, gave me a hug, and told me he knew who I was.

With a smile, he looked at my father and said: "This is the fiery one, the attorney, non?" While weak, my father smiled as brightly as he could and faintly nodded.

Our visitor sat in the chair next to mine and patted my hand. He told me, "Mais oui, I know you well. I have been keeping up with you since you were not much bigger than a nutria rat."

With a big smile toward my father, Mr. Robichaux told me that he had two favorite stories about me. Surprised, embarrassed, and more than a little curious, I smiled back and kept quiet, hoping he would say more.

The first one he said had to do with me, my sister, and target practice. Oh, no, I thought. This was not good. In that story, I was probably ten or eleven and my father had just bought new pellet rifles for my sister (who was three years older) and me.

Despite her seniority, my sister was physically smaller and weaker than I was. The pellet rifle she received was a .177 caliber single shot rifle that "broke" in the middle. The "break down" of the rifle "cocked" it and allowed it to be loaded.

Mine was a Sheridan Blue Streak .20 caliber pump pellet rifle (which I still have and use). It requires a little muscle to pump now and was excruciatingly difficult back them, especially if little fingers got in the way. I hated it and was pissed my sister seemingly got a better rifle that I did.

Shortly after receiving our new weapons, we set up a target at the base of a ten to twelve foot levee at the pond, a good 100 yards from the back of the house. The target was a card board box filled with Styrofoam with a paper target taped to it. I was very competitive with my sister and she was smoking me.

Her rifle was much easier to cock and load and I was half-assed pumping mine because I was mad. My pellets were not even hitting the target because I was not pumping the gun more than once or twice.

The more we practiced, the angrier I became. At some point, I had had enough. I put the rifle down, walked into the house through the back door, secured a second weapon, and returned to the target.

I put a shell in my new weapon, heaved the gun up to my shoulder, pulled the trigger, there was a very loud BOOM, and the target was instant confetti!

The noise brought my father running out of the house. He snatched the shotgun from me and gave me the mother of all butt whippings I have ever had. THAT was the last time I have EVER fired a shotgun. And, yes, I deserved the butt whipping.

If you're still with me, Mr. Robichaux's second favorite story also involved guns. When I was twelve, our closest neighbors lived about 300 yards from our house. These neighbors were the Nelsons.

There were four of them, two parents and two kids. Pat was a couple of years older and Mark was my age. Mark was a wuss. He was always threatening to beat me up or do this or do that, but when it came time to put up or shut up, he was never anywhere to be found.

One afternoon, I overhead him tell another kid on the school bus that if my dog got into their chickens one more time, he was going to shoot my dog! I found that unacceptable and unbelievable because the Nelsons had no fewer than nine dogs at their place and there was no way my dog could enter the yard, much less make off with a chicken with all those mongrels running around.

Later that day, I put my dog on a leash, picked up my .22 semi-automatic (I had been upgraded), and headed out to the neighbors' house in search of my nemesis. I did not have to go far. Mark and one of his friends were in the back pasture. I waved him over to the fence line.

When they walked up, I told Mark to get his rifle and I was going to give him one shot. I told him I was going to tie my dog to the fence post and he had one shot and he better make it good.

Mark looked at me incredulously and asked if I was kidding. I told him I was not kidding, but be forewarned, hit or miss, after his one shot, I was going to wipe out every one of his dogs.

He ran home.

The most interesting thing about the second story is that I NEVER told my father or anyone else about what I said to Mark for fear my father would tan my hide.

After Mr. Robichaux finished visiting with us and bid us adieu, I asked my father how he knew about the Mark story. He told me Mr. Nelson came to him a day or two after the incident and told him what happened. My father added that he (Mr. Nelson) was so ashamed of Mark's behavior that he had given HIM a butt whipping for being such a wuss.

All a matter of perspective, I guess.

Posted by Christina at December 4, 2004 10:22 AM

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