I grew up in the South, and I was lucky enough to have had both of my parents in the home with me for most of my childhood. My Dad was a funny guy, even though a great deal of his humor was of the scatological nature. My mother spent a lot of time swatting at him, and telling him to hush, but then she would laugh, because no matter how gross it was, he was funny.
I don’t care who you are, it’s funny to fart loudly in Winn Dixie and blame it on your ten-year-old daughter, dressed in her new cheerleading outfit and preening for the public. It’s also funny to trick the same unsuspecting kid into “pulling your finger” while she has he friends over for a slumber party. My Dad got a lot of mileage out of farts and fart jokes, and to this day I have the word fart posted in my office, because it makes me laugh (even though I didn’t think the Winn Dixie incident was funny for a long time).
When I was six, he gave me a cockle burr and told me it was a porcupine egg. I trembled at the thought of having my very own baby porcupine; I tenderly wrapped the burr in cotton and put it in a warm place. I checked on it every day and breathlessly waited for signs of it hatching.
After about six weeks, I tearfully took the burr to him and admitted I must have done something terribly wrong because my baby porcupine had not yet hatched. He started to laugh, but saw the awful hurt in my eyes and made sure to tell me that I didn’t do anything wrong at all, baby porcupines could only hatch to porcupine mommies and he should have told me, and he was sorry.
Shortly thereafter, he brought home a hermit crab that stayed in the cage approximately four minutes and spent the next three years scrabbling around in the middle of the night under my bed and scaring the hell out of me.
Because he was my dad and all, I believed every word that came out of his mouth to be gospel truth. Being a little kid, however, was somewhat of a disadvantage for me when it came to deciphering the jokes and euphemisms from the truth.
Daddy often exclaimed things were “finer than frog’s hair.” Because I had heard him say this my entire life, I naturally assumed that frogs did indeed have hair. I never played with frogs, and had no other information about their pelts (or lack thereof) than what my Dad said. I was crushed to find out in sixth grade, when forced to dissect a frog in science class, that they do not, after all, have any hair. I spent half an hour closely examining the frog, checking under his little arms and on his chin for signs of hair.
My teacher probably thought I was being a real smartass when I explained to him what I was looking for. (Either that, or he thought I was some weird kind of crazy.) Needless to say, when I later discussed this incident with my father he laughed and laughed and I began to question all he had ever told me. (This is when he began to question whether or not I was actually an idiot.)
My Dad died young, cancer took him in his 46th year, just a year older than I am now. I wish he could have been around long enough to see that I really didn’t turn into a slobbering imbecile, even though I played one in my 20s. I’m pretty sure he knows, and if you’re around and you’re listening, Daddy, happy Father’s day and thanks for the sense of humor. It has seen me through more heartache than drugs or money and it has remained intact, unlike the flaming go-cart of death you built for us in ’82. By the way, Momma is still mad about that one.