Expensive memoriesJanuary 19, 2011
In my memoir, The Thrill of the Chase, I told the story about getting a spanking in junior high for running across some stupid desks. Then that night my father gave me a spanking at home because I’d gotten a spanking at school. Usually I didn’t get more than one a day. Twice was rare and it was kind of an unwritten rule. So if I got a licking in the morning I could relax and be my normal self for the rest of the day.
My father mostly had me figured out and was surprisingly intuitive. For that reason it was hard for me to roll something past him. For instance, sometimes he’d sense that I’d committed a misdeed of some kind but wasn’t positive. Maybe he’d suspect that I’d ditched school to go fishing with Herbert Persky, or some other miniscule infraction. I never lied to him. On those occasions he’d send me to the back hedge to pull a switch the thickness of which I figured was commensurate with the seriousness of the alleged violation.
One of my secret tricks was to put a leaf from the hedge in my mouth and chew on it. It was truly a bitter taste so it helped take my mind off of what was about to happen.
Anyway, the size of the switch was critical to the process so it was always a test of wits, me against my father. I quickly learned that it was not in my best interest to pull a switch that was unreasonably thin because he’d go out and replace it with one that was exaggerated the other way. But if he was just medium mad I’d pick a medium-thick switch and forget the leaf. No big deal.
On rare occasions my father would underestimated what I’d done and he wasn’t really mad. That meant I could pick a thin switch and it’d be a waltz-around. But always during the dance I’d exaggerate the severity of the inflicted pain. That was another secret I had. And a thick handkerchief in both back pockets was good too. I was developing techniques that would serve me well when I got to high school.
But if my father was really, really mad he’d head for the back hedge himself and I knew I was about to be a star player the World Series of switchings. The velocity with which he slammed the screen door on the way out was indicative of the rigorousness of my impending whipping.
Sometimes I knew my father was mad at something else and was taking it out on me. I could tell because what I’d done didn’t merit the punishment, like the time I locked my little sister out of the bathroom. Those lickings never hurt because I knew he was just blowing off steam. I was always willing to help if it made him feel better. Besides, I was so far ahead a good hanging couldn’t catch him up with me.
It can’t be just a coincidence that I never drank, smoked, did drugs, cussed or got pierced and tattooed. Maybe we should reintroduce spanking into our school systems. I’d vote for it. What do you think?
After retiring from the Air Force in 1970, I built an art gallery in Santa Fe that my wife and I ran for seventeen years. Since then, my energies have been directed toward excavation of a large Indian pueblo and writing books about art and exploration. I hope you enjoy my blog!