It was inevitable. I wrote a story about the Baptist and some other denominations attempting to appease all of God’s children by splitting their services into “traditional” and “contemporary.” It was supposed to be funny. Arlene Hopkins failed to see the humor. She emailed, “Your suggestion of replacing our time honored chandeliers with strobe lights has got to be the dumbest thing you have ever said.”

“No Ma’am! Not even close!”

I think it was Voltaire or Shakespeare…..or maybe Leon who wrote, “To err is human. To do something really stupid is an all together horse of a different color!”

Daddy had been laboring under our burnt out washing machine for an hour. He was a truck driver by trade and only “down there” because we didn’t have the three dollars to pay Pete Joiner to come out and fix it. He had wires and hoses laying everywhere when I crawled under to help.

I was six or seven at the time. I squeezed between Dad and the bottom of the washer and grabbed a loose hose. It unloaded a pint of water on both of us. “Son, I’m busy, you go play with your brothers.”

You won’t believe this, the second hose had more water in it than the first! “Kes, you are in the way, you need to move on.” I should have figured a truck driver under a washing machine with a handful of wrenches wasn’t a good combination.

“Dad, where does this green wire go? Can you attach it to the red—”

“Kesley, if you don’t leave I’m going to whip you.”

Listen, he didn’t mean it, he wasn’t mad and he certainly was of no mind to punish me. It was an offhand comment simply aimed at getting me out of his way as he plugged through an unfamiliar environment.

“YOU’LL HAVE TO CATCH ME FIRST!”

Now, Miss Hopkins, for your information, THAT was the dumbest thing I’ve ever said! It just came out. I have no idea from where or why. But you talk about thoughtless, idiotic, brainless…..

Daddy caught me before I got off the back porch. I’d never seen a grown man move so fast! He pulled that big leather belt off and whipped me till the next full moon passed! He didn’t spare any rods, he didn’t call time out and he didn’t pause and give the ole “this is going to hurt me a lot more than it does you” spill……

You’d think a body would outgrow such dumb statements.

A couple of years later me, George Sexton and Buddy Wiggleton were playing “double dog dare you” down by the big ditch behind George’s house. Somewhere in the middle of challenging one another to eat a grasshopper, catch a fish in our mouth and dive through the strands of a nearby barbwire fence I declared I could jump across the ditch.

Stupid me, the game was to dare one of them—not volunteer to kill MYSELF! That ditch was fifteen feet wide at the narrowest part……and it was deeper than it was wide. I tried to back out immediately but Buddy reminded me “a card laid is a card played.”

I took my shoes off for better traction, got a running start and leaped almost three quarters of the way across that ditch. I was flapping my arms, trying to get a little lift when I crashed head first into the base of the wall on the far side. Buddy and George were not laughing and their eyes were big as saucers when I finally regained consciousness.

Dumb statements don’t always end in violence. Sometimes it’s even worse! I was a semi-intelligent adult when I met David Mark at the airport on his return from Vietnam. He was my little brother in name only. He was bigger, stronger and maybe even a little tougher after three years in the service, the last twelve months spent fighting in jungles half way around the world.

After hugging his neck and trying not to cry in front of him, I felt compelled to remind him who was in charge, “David, I don’t give a flying hoot about all that Green Beret training, I can still take you down anytime I want to.”

For all of our life, those words, spoken by either of us, would precipitate a fight of the first magnitude. Brotherly honor was at stake! I readied myself for the “Brawl on the Tarmac.” Dave didn’t even bother to look at me. He chuckled quietly to himself and moseyed off toward the terminal.

Believe me Arlene, I’ve stuck my foot in my mouth enough times to know the difference between a harmless little joke in a newspaper article and saying something really stupid……

 

Respectfully,

 

Kes