Wednesday, April 26, 2006
I’m goin’ to tell you a Daddy story. I’ve told stories about my sweet Mama in the past. I don’t have many Daddy stories on accounta he wasn’t around much.
The characters in this true story are my father whose name was Boyd; his father whose name was Bud; and my father’s older half-brother, Herbert. Herbert was Bud’s stepson.
My father’s mom and dad were widowed-with-children when they met and married in 1909. They then had four boys together. The oldest of those four boys was Boyd. The oldest of my grandmother’s first set of children was Herbert.
Apparently Bud showed favoritism towards Boyd in all ways and all things for a long time. Any time Herbert had anything that Boyd wanted, Bud would say, “Herbert, give it to him.”
Now, I’m not kidding when I tell you that these people had nothing of value. They were the poorest of the poor. Dirt farmers. So anything that Herbert would have had couldn’t have been much. Scarce resources make for bitterness I’m afraid.
One day Boyd and Bud were walking down the dirt road that led to their farm when they saw Herbert coming towards them from the opposite direction. I’ve seen this road and I can picture the scene so clearly: the sun is shining brightly on the Tennessee hills, it’s warm, and the boys are barefooted because they can’t afford to wear shoes in the summer. They’re all wearing straw hats. Herbert is around 12 years old and Boyd is about six.
Herbert is carrying something. As they get closer to him, Boyd sees that Herbert has a stick with something on it. He’s holding it out in front of him. It’s clearly something important. Boyd starts running towards Herbert, saying, “I want that!”
Bud says, predictably, “Herbert, give it to him.”
Herbert obliges. He hands the stick over to my father.
What is it you may ask? It’s shit. Shit on a stick.
My father told this story many times when he was an adult. He claimed that Bud never again told Herbert to hand something over to Boyd. But he acknowledged also that it may have been just that he himself learned a lesson and that he never again demanded things that weren’t his. Certainly as an adult my father saw that both his father and he had been unfair to Herbert for a long time.
My sisters and I used the phrase, “shit on a stick,” often. If one of us said to another one of us, “Whatcha got there?” The answer not infrequently was, “shit on a stick.” Translation: None of your bee’s wax. Hummmm...do people still say that? That means “none of your business,” and “you ain’t gettin’ it.”
So be careful out there. What looks interesting and important from a distance may be shit on a stick.