As with most family traditions, ours found my sisters and I enthusiastically waiting for the question that arose each Sunday after church service, "Where do y'all want to eat at?"
Without a moment's hesitation we blurted in unison..."Kentucky Fried Chicken." My father's countenance would melt as his head dropped low between his shoulders, murmuring quietly to himself, "Not Kentucky Fried Chicken...again."
You see, my dad spent several years as a young teenager working hot, sweaty afternoons after school in a chicken slaughterhouse. He would mumble dreamlessly about standing ankle-high is stanky-old blood and guts which stagnated to a slow drain that emptied into the nearby creek.
Every shift he tried to slip away before the plant manager would call him out to give him the ceremonial four plucked birds to take home, as he was a friend of his father's who knew of the family struggles with all them youngins and their dirty little mouths to feed.
He couldn't reject the daily gift as he swung the eight feet interlocked between his fingers back and forth on his four-mile walk home. Yeah, my dad had a reason to pass on chicken, in any form.
Dad never went to college, nor anyone else in his family. He used to say, "College is for the John D. Rockefeller's in this country." He probably began to sweat as I approached college age, considering he was no John D. Rockefeller or close to it.
I rushed home from high school one day to announce the results of my career aptitude test. My dad leaned over my shoulder as perspiration beads glistened upon his forehead.
As I methodically opened the envelope exposing the prize that lay inside...the results are in... I have a natural aptitude to be a farmer. "Hot dog", my father shouted as he slapped his knee. Woo-wee, and to think for a second there I was gonna have to pay for college or something. With a slap on the back and a hardy, "let me know how that one turns out," Dad left me to my own devices on my career in farming.
One time he bought us an 18 foot in diameter above ground pool. I thought it kind of small until Dad revealed he and his favorite slave – me – were going to dig 18 feet across, 6 inches down into the coral rock, and extract every shovel full of dirt which will be filtered through quarter inch wire mesh, then redeposited back into the same hole.
I was pretty sure I'd be earning future prison chain-gang credit for that chore. Digging by the inch made that pool turn out to be huge in retrospect.
Then there was the time when I asked my dad if he would buy me a car so I could get a job. He queried, "Do you have a job?" No, but if I have a car I can get a job.
He realigned things for me.
"Get a job. Ride the bus to your job. Save your money. Then buy a car."
I got a job, rode the bus, saved two hundred dollars, bought two VW bugs for $100 each – neither ran and worked night and day to combine two wrecks into my first operational car.
My dad made me "need" everything I ever "wanted.” He provided a safety net, but never let me lay down in it. He taught me... the point of collapse was after the job was completed, not before.
And I honor him every time I write an article by using W.J. Butcher...that's his name...I'm the second. A shadow to the original.
W.J. Butcher (II)
The Precinct Press is authored by W.J. Butcher, a retired 26-year veteran of the Atlanta Police Department. Send comments, kudos, and criticism to: email@example.com