My Daddy Taught Me to Cuss
(This story ran in the Birmingham
Post Herald on April 14th of 2002)
My daddy, rest his soul,
taught me how to cuss. Not that he sat down with me and discussed the different
ways in which to use profanity, but I learned from him just the same. You see,
he had a 1955 Ford Fairlane with a beautiful two-tone paint job. It was dark
green on the bottom and the light green on top was the color of lime sherbet.
In those early years, Ford hadn't yet perfected the automatic choke. That's
the mechanism in a carburetor that helps the car start properly in all kinds
of weather. During the warm spring, summer and fall months, the car cranked
perfectly. But come the first cold days of winter it turned into a big 'ol boat
I remember one morning in particular we had an early freeze and the frost on
the ground looked like a young snow. My daddy slowly approached the Ford, which
sat in the driveway just by my bedroom window, and I could hear him say, "O.K.
baby, I know it's cold, but I know you would never let me down." He sat
down, patted the gas pedal, and turned the key
AR AR AR AR AR AR AR. "Come
on baby, he coaxed." AR AR AR AR AR AR AR AR. Nothing. He patted the gas
and tried again. A few choice word with which I was unfamiliar came out of his
mouth. AR AR AR AR AR AR AR. Then the sound of his voice got a little louder
and the expletives became more creative. AR AR AR AR AR AR AR AR AR AR AR. He
stepped out kicked the wheel and let out a stream of dialog that had the meter
and pacing of a Beat Generation Poet, except with x-rated words. He assembled
creative word combinations never heard before. He made use of body functions,
sexual deviation, and barnyard animals, as well as talked badly about the linage
of the people in Ford Motor Company who had designed and built the Fairlane.
I'm telling you, his tirade would have made a Rap star blush.
At 5:30 a.m. even in rural Walker County, people began to notice and lights
in the neighborhood started coming on. Mother walked from the kitchen wrapped
up in her housecoat and offered to give it a try. Daddy, in a colorful way told
her to give it a try. She stepped in touched the gas pedal one time turned the
key and the Ford sprung to life. I know that it was by the Grace of God that
daddy had forgotten his pocketknife that morning because I am certain that he
would have carved her into little pieces and left her twitching on the driveway.
He jumped into that car, slammed it into reverse and backed into the gravel
road that ran by our house. With the gas pedal to the floor he jammed it into
low gear and roared off full throttle
still in low gear. That motor was
wound as tight as a weed-eater and he drove it that way all the way to the Dora
junction which is three miles away. That motor got so hot you could have cooked
breakfast on the hood.
A few days later, we had a new car. It was a 1957 Plymouth and it cranked like
a champ even when it was cold.
There have been a few times (very few) when I have been angry enough to use
the cussing skills my dad taught me, but they are there just in case. Every
day is a school day