Saturday, January 28, 2012

One day at Sunday School.

A couple of the usual suspects were acting up and the teacher blew a fuse and started chewing the entire class out.

This may surprise you but I am not one of the usual suspects. I was generally fairly well behaved as a kid because I knew that if I was disrespectful dad would probably give me nine from the sky. Today was no exception.

Dad was pretty good about playing fair. I could disagree with an adult if I saw fit, but if I did I had to stay respectful and present my argument in a civil way. A number of other adults hadn't figuredit out and thought dad was giving us too much latitude. It should be carefully understood that the adults that thought dad was giving me too much latitude were generally the ones that I had embarrassed with simple reasoning.

I'll digress here for a minute. I was wandering my way through a group at a party my folks threw one night headed out to go somewhere. I was stopped for a second by Mr. So and So who asked me what I thought of such and such which was an issue at the time. I told him I thought it would not work because it was too expensive.

He replied that the government would pay for it.

" The government gets its money from us because we pay taxes." I said.

"But what about the mint?" He countered.

"Sir, money does not grow on trees nor is it simply printed up somehwere. You ought to take the advice you have given all of us kids." I replied.

"You always tell us to get a good education. Perhaps it is time for you to take a few night courses." I answered. 'That way you would know that money is not simply something the government prints up when they decide to give some away."

I saw a sharp look from my father. He wasn't upset with me, he had the look of a man that knew he was going to have to defend his son....again.

Mr. So and so looked at Dad. "Did you hear that?" he asked.

Dad answered him conversationally. "He's right on both counts."

"Yeah, but he told me I ought to go back to school," said Mr So and so.

"A little more schooling wouldn't do any of us any harm," replied Dad. He turned to me. "Son, take off."

I turned to Mr. So and so. "Good day, Sir."

I then cleared the AO instantly.

Back to Sunday school.

The teacher was chewing out the guys that had acted up and was telling them that they'd never been in a fair fight before and that if they had their attitude would be different and they would not be punks anymore and yada yada yada.

"There's no such thing as a fair fight," I interrupted.

"What do you mean by that?" he demanded.

"I mean that if you attack me I will defend myself with any means at hand," I said, evenly. "I will do whatever it takes to stop the attack and render my attacker so that he can not hurt me any more."

The rest of the class was looking at me agape as I was not one with a reputation of going toe to toe with any authority figures. Most of the guys also knew that a pal and I had been threatened by four toughs a couple of months ago and I had repulsed them with a Boy Scout knife. While no blood had been shed that I was aware of, one of the toughs got a nice slice across the sleeve of his black leather motorcycle jacket. It had been enough to make them break off.

Immediately after that incident I told me father exactly what had happened and spared no details. He turned white and told me he would deal with it subsequently. A few hours later we got a call from Mrs Pott. Her son had been beaten by four tough and pretty severely. She described a couple of them as wearing black leather motorcycle jackets.

When my dad got off the phone he looked at me for a full minute.

"What you did with that knife bothered me. I was afraid you either were too quick or trying to be a tough guy," he said. That was Mrs Potts. Dickey got beat up pretty badly by four guys that sounded a lot like the ones that bounced you. What you did was very, very serious. There is no going back on a stabbing but in this one instance you did the right thing, but only-and only- because you had no place to run to. Don't tell anyone about this."

I didn't but my pal did. Word had gotten out.

"Fighting like that is stupid," I said. "I have never started a single fight in my life. I do not believe in it because someone gets hurt. If I am forced to fight I am going to do whatever it takes not to get hurt."

"In World War two..." he started.

"In World War two you were a medical officer with the 442nd Regimental combat team. We have all heard this before. You are going to tell us all what good guys they were and maybe in the rear they were but I bet you they were not very nice when they were up front. They would fight with what they had to work with and would sneak up and shoot Germans in the back or cut their throats while they slept. They did not fire a few shots and stand up and let the Germans have their turn. They fought to win and they did."

"What do you know about the 442nd? He demanded.

"The Christmas Tree Regiment? They were the most decorated unit in American history," I shot back. "Most of them had enlisted from concentration camps. Besides fighting the Germans they fought predjudice. I also know that they relieved a Texas outfit and recently were declared to be honorary Texans. Did you know that? You are an honorary Texan. I guess you are going to have to buy a pair of boots and get a big hat."

He looked stunned and embarrassed.

"Back to fighting. If I am attacked I will use whatever it takes to make my attacker stop," I continued.

"You mean you would use a gun? You would actually shoot someone?" he asked, clearly upset.

"If one is available," I answered. "A gun is a pretty good tool for stopping fights quickly. It would certainly keep someone from hurting me."

"I'll deal with this later," he said. I knew he was going to call my father.

Right after class I rounded up four of the guys and told them to be on call that evening. I wanted witnesses to this as I expected the call.

Sure enough, the call came a couple of hours later. I saw my dad's mouth purse. "Let me get back with you," he said and turned to me.

"Dad, I'm going to get four of the guys that were there." I said.

"You don't have to do that," He said. "You know I'll take you at your word."

"Yeah," I replied. "And have him pull that 'I'm an adult and you kid is a liar' crap? No, thank you. I want you to make good and sure you have enough witnesses so he can't squirm out of this one."

"Have it your way," he said and I headed to the phone. I called the guys and they said thay were on their way.

While we were waiting for the guys to show up I gave my dad a word for word briefing of the exchange, including the 'honorary Texan' part. When I told him about being an honorary Texan, dad grinned.

During the war dad had flown into Texas a number of times and told me he didn't care for the place very much.

As the guys came to the house, I simply told the guys as they arrived, "Go tell my father what happened and do not lie to him. I want to have him know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth."

Dad would take the guys into the other room as they came in and talk to them. The rest of us hung out at the kitchen table after they had told Dad what had happened.

Between 'interviews' Dad came out to the litchen and gabbed with us. He was one of those kind of guys that had a good, easy rapport with young men. He was not condescending like a lot of other adults were when dealing with young people. Guys liked him and respected him. He was telling Louie that he ought to think about a career in engineering or something when the last guy came in to be interviewed.

When the last of the four had spoken to Dad, he walked into the kitchen. "You guys beat it, I have a phone call to make."

We went into the dining room and sat down instrad of the living room because we knew that the dining room was closer. The door seperating the two was louvered and we knew we would be able to hear every word. Dad came and closed the door, but he was no fool. He knew why we were sitting there and he put on a poker face when he closed the door.

He dialed the phone.

"I'm sorry I took so long getting back to you," he said. "My son wanted to gather witnesses and it took me time to interview all of them. There are now four young men in the other room, not including my son, who tell me you took every word he said completely out of context and have accused him of being violent."

There was a pause.

Dad continued. "There is a sign at the Paris zoo in front of a cage that says "This animal is vicious. When attacked it will defend itself." It sounds a lot like what my son said. If he is attacked he will simply defend himself. You would do the same thing."

Another pause.

Dad again. "Well then, Let's get Kozinski and the seven of us can meet in the church hall and iron this out."

Kozinski was one of the priests. Father Kozinski was a pretty sharp cookie. Word on the street is that he didn't enter the priesthood until later on in life after he had served a tour in Korea with the 2nd Infantry Division. It would take him less than two minutes to get to the bottom of this. Everyone knew it.

There was a pause. Dad went continued. "I didn't think so. By the way, my son gave you some good advice when he told you that you should get a hat and some boots, the boots, anyway. The boots will make it easier for you to walk through your own bullshit pile. Good day, Tex."

He hung up the phone and walked directly into the dining room. He looked at the five of us.

"I know you guys were not listening in to what I was saying on the phone so I know this will not get out to the world to hear. If it does, I will personally whale the daylights out of all of you," he said.

Then he decided to let his hair down a little. "Sometimes being a kid has a few rough times because adults think they can walk all over you," he said. "Part of being an adult is being fair. Some guys are, some are not. If any of you four ever have problems let me know and I'll do what I can."

Later that night I asked Dad why he offered to go to bat for the other guys. He told me that the "I'm an adult' crap didn't mean squat to him. He simply wanted the truth.To him fair was fair and the rest of the world could kiss his ass. I later thought he had been burned once really bad as a kid but he never said anything to me about it. I wish I had asked him years later as an adult.

Shortly after everyone that had been in the class started referring to Mr. So and so as "Tex'. The nickname came aboveground a while later and just about everyone, kids and grownup alike, referred to him as Tex. Every so often someone would call him that to his face.


For the rest of his life Mr. So and so was never able to look me in the eye again.

Over the years every one of my four pals would drop by and visit my dad. They often recalled the incident and they all went out of their way years later to go to his wake after he died. One of the guys drove11 hours to be there.

I wish I could have made my father's wake but I was in the middle of the Bering Sea when he passed on. There was no way I could have made it.

I'm sure Dad understood.

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