May 06, 2009
Originally published November 12, 2003
My dad was a quiet man, may Bejus rest him where he lays now. He had one hell of a temper, but he seldom raised his voice. He'd whip my ass in a minute if he thought I had it coming (and I usually did), but he would defend his family to the death if he believed that he was right.
Only once in my life do I remember hearing my father make a threat to someone. It's a long story, but I had a five-iron in my hand and I was threatening to kill a grown man who lived next door. We were becoming kind of loud. His juvenile-delinquent son had spray-painted my car and was trying to peek in the windows at night. I almost caught the little shit once, and that's back when I was a weight-lifting football player.
I told that old man, "If I had caught your boy that night, I would have wrung his fucking neck. And if you take one step closer to me, you're going to be wearing this five-iron like a necktie." I meant every word of it, too.
"You don't have the nerve," that fat bastard said.
"Take another step and try me," I replied. I was coiled and ready. I was going to beat the shit out of that man with a golf club. I drew the club back... then I felt a firm hand on my arm.
"Put that that back in your bag, Rob," my father said. "you're not on the golf course now."
"Shut up, put the golf club back in your bag and go inside the house. GO NOW!" I went. When my dad addressed me in that tone of voice, I listened. He was serious.
I was 17 years old. My dad was 40. All the windows were open in the house, so I heard every word my father said. He poked a finger in that fat bastard's face.
"You need to go back into your house right now. I am one second away from kicking your ass all over this yard. If you open your mouth, I'll do it right now. And if you EVER threaten my son again, I'll kill you. Do you understand me?"
I suppose that the fat bastard did, because he turned around and went into his house. Dad came inside with a clenched jaw and veins throbbing in his forehead. He was pissed off.
"Pop, I could have handled that," I said.
"Yeah, and I'd be bailing you out of jail, too. You would have hit him in the head with that golf club if I hadn't stopped you. Right?"
"Yessir. I was getting ready to hit him."
"That's why I stopped you. I knew that you would hit him. You didn't need to do that."
"But, Dad, I heard you threaten to kill him."
"Did I kill him?"
"Then forget about it. This problem is solved."
And it was.
But I believe to this day that my dad was prepared to beat that fat bastard's ass all over the yard, and he meant every word when he said, "I'll kill you." My father didn't fuck around about things like that. He was a Harlan County coal miner for a lot of his life. He told me many times, "Don't ever promise anything that you can't deliver."
If my dad said, "I'll kill you," he meant it. He loved his family like a rock.
And he always delivered on his promises.
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