Retrospect: Life With The Old Man

My father was barely around for my early years. I saw him while growing up but it wasn't until I was dropped on his doorstep as a teen that I really got to experience his parenting skills. He irked the heck of out of me but now I'm glad I had the opportunity to have that time with him. And boy, were there some times...

Our Gang:

You all know how it is in the hood when you get into those neighborhood battles. Well, we were getting ready to have it out with some cats on the 4800 block of Huron. We fought with them earlier in the day but now we had the bats and shovels so we could really do damage. So we're sitting by an old Cutlass plotting our move when my old man walks out of the house. I try to ignore him but I see him from the corner of my eye and he has that look. I really can't explain the look but you know when your parents are at the end of their rope.

He walks in the middle of our huddle, looks me square in the face and says, 'Go in the house.' Now, I'm not tying to go out like a punk in front of the fellas but I know my old man and I knew at the moment my leash and his fuse were pretty short. So I uttered a few words and my cousin stood up to say something because he knew I was not in a position to say anything. My cousins was careful because he knew that my old man would put him in a headlock as fast as he would with me. He explained how everything got started because my cousin Rob danced with a girl and another guy didn't like it and they got into a fight and the guy's mom hit my cousin Rob in the head with a shovel and then we all jumped in it and it turned into a brawl. So now we were planning to move on the marks again.

That was enough for the old man and he went off on all of us and made my cousin and I go in the house. He yelled at me for an hour and finally calmed down when I told him that I got some really good licks in during the fight. I'm sure he was proud that his boy got a couple of shots on the mark but he wasn't cool with me sitting in the living room with bloody lip.

Pimp and my Dad

I'm still now sure how this happened but a pimp came around and asked for my sister. I was sitting on the front porch and I thought it rather strange. He asked me to get my sister and I looked at him like he was crazy. I went upstairs to talk with my sister who was 17 at the time. She looked scared but we had it out anyway. Just then my old man walks in the room. He knows something is up by the look on my sister's face. She could never hide anything which is why my grandmother always went to her first when she needed information on my transgressions. But I digress. I don't want to tell my old man that there is a pimp asking for my sister but what could I do? The cat was downstairs on the front porch.

So I tell my old man about the pimp and he damn near lost his mind. Next thing I know he pulls a shotgun from under the bed (you know country boys always have shotguns) and walks outside to confront the pimp. I'm scared that he might shoot the guy but in the back of my mind I'm screaming, "You go, Boooyee".

When the pimp sees my father he damn near pisses in his pants. He points the shotgun at the pimp and threatens to shoot him. The pimp tries to explain that his visit is not business related but that wasn't working. My cousin and I were sitting on the porch laughing. I was still a little scared that my old man would shoot the guy but then I figured the most he would do is hit the guy in the butt of the gun and at that point my cousin and I would stomp a mudhole in him.

My sister was ground for a month (my father was not one for hitting my sister). Since that day, I figure a shotgun is a necessary tool of fatherhood.

Can I Get A Ride

There is something to be said about being raised by a man who's father was a sharecropper. Anything my father didn't have as a kid automatically become a non-essential item for me. That truly was the case when it came to me and driving. The silver Ford was simply off limits to me. As far as my father was concerned, I had two really good feet and I ought to use them as much as possible.

This became a problem when I transferred to Austin High School. I lived on Cicero and the school was on Pine. Here are the directions if you are interested. It's only 1 1/2 miles but in a Chicago winter, that is a brutal walk. I took the El at times but I still had to walk to the El or wait on the bus stop. Again, when the hawk is blowing, that seven minute wait on the bus is not fun.

One of my cousins, Fuzzy, was selling a 1976 Oldsmobile. It looked like crap but hey, I was walking. He wanted $400 for the car and he even agreed to take the money in $40 installments. When I talked with my old man about it do you know he damn near blew his stack.

Pop: What you need a car for? You aint goin' nowhere but to school.

Me: But that's a long walk...

Pop: Take a bus

Me: I do but it's cold and I don't want to wait for the bus.

Pop: Too bad. I don't have money for a car then I gotta put gas in it.

Me: I'll put gas in it.

Pop: With what money?

Me: With a car, I can get a job.

Pop: You can get a job with the bus.

Me: It's only $40 a month.

Pop: You got $40

Me: No.

Pop: You can't afford no car then. I use to cut lumber and picked cotton and we'd walk five or ten miles and you can't walk a mile with a bookbag? Down south.... blah blah blah, yada yada yada.

At this point he started sounding like the adults in a Charlie Brown cartoon. I've never been able to get more than $20 at a time from the man. Oh, he purchased clothes and took us on trips. But to walk up to him and get some cash... that's like asking the devil for snow. I purchased my first car in Chula Vista, California in 1992. A 1986 Buick Century.


8 Responses to Retrospect: Life With The Old Man

  1. Rashid Muhammad Says:
    Yeah I already have a shotgun picked out for the day my baby girl is born.

    I tell you, there is nothing like having a father.
  2. SRH Says:
    I have to say, it is really an interesting read here. Topic to topic it just gets more and more interesting.

    I am way too white to get all the slang, but you have a good way of giving enough context for even whitey to follow along.
  3. James Manning Says:
    Thanks for enjoying the blog I appreciate that. Not to worry, the slang is thick at times but it's hard not to use it when I go into my past.
  4. nikki Says:
    HAHAHA! that conversation with your dad about the car is hilarious (and sadly, very familiar to this sista here...)

    he sounds amazing! i think i'm gonna tell some dad stories, too. what a wonderful idea!
  5. Nims Says:
    Great post! Totally out of my realm to this bookish Irish-Canadian girl. :)
  6. Deb S. Says:
    Great post. (Lose the shotgun.)
  7. Maverick Says:
    Man, your dad sounds like the realest guy alive...
  8. Dave Miller Says:
    Thanks man, I laughed alot and wondered if I have sounded like that to my son