(Reprinted from today's Times and News-Star)
For a memory mix of tragedy and comedy, nothing beats one about getting a whipping from your parents.
Corporal punishment in the kitchen, den and bedroom – basically wherever your dad could catch you – went out with vinyl records and the rotary dial, it seems. Daddy saying “Boy, I’m gonna tear you up when we get home,” and then actually doing it, you don’t hear that much anymore. It was music to our rears.
Sounds of my childhood…The wailing. The kicking. The screaming. The good old-fashioned belt roundhouse. The innocent switch. The handy flyswatter.
Today’s kids don’t know what they’ve missed.
A few months ago during his North Louisiana Summer of ’11 Tour, my dad relaxed on his daughter’s couch and asked my two sisters, all nostalgic and everything, “Girls, remember the only whipping I ever gave your brother?”
We waited for the punch line. My dad whipped me like Grant whipped Richmond, except with more regularity. I know it. My sisters know it. The American people know it. But daddy’s forgotten, like an old ballplayer forgets games simply because they were so routine.
My dad could whip with the best of them. Hair brush. Garden hose. Hot Wheel track. But the belt, that was his true medium. He could flash the leather. All Conference, first team.
“For years momma whipped me with the same pair of house shoes she’d had since before I was born,” a buddy told me. “When I got to be about 8, I told her she needed a new pair, that that pair had stopped hurting five years ago. Probably shouldn’t have told her that.”
Another friend whose dad worked at his elementary school dropped a Webster’s Dictionary in a roomful of napping custodians one summer during a lunch break, just to wake everyone up. A coach passing by witnessed it all and said to my then-little friend, “I can give you five licks here or I can take you across the street to your daddy.”
“Tear me up right here,” my friend said. “Please.”
You did not want the heavy artillery brought in if you had an option. Better to be whacked with small arms fire. Back then, well-meaning teachers and neighbors didn’t mind being the first wave in when we got out of line.
“Lot of times I’d hear my name and just walk to where my dad or mom were and bend over,” one of the guys said. “I knew I’d done something. Didn’t always matter so much what.”
“I once got whipped really hard on a school trip and came home and told my dad it was too hard,” another friend said. “He told me to drop my pants. You could still see the marks. My dad just shrugged.”
It took a limb loss to get penalty yardage in your favor back in the day. But then, we were always guilty, and our sins were no secret. Grownups tattle told.
“My little brother in third grade signed our dad’s name to one of his tests he was supposed to take home,” my buddy said. “The teacher asked him, ‘You get your daddy to sign this?’ He said yes ma’am and that he knew he needed to do better and all that. Milked it. She asked him three times. After the third time, daddy walked out from behind the cloak room.”
He figures what gave him away was signing his dad’s name in red crayon.