My father had four principal cliches.
“That’s the funniest thing they ever was.” There were at least five of them a day.
In the fall of 1954, when I was a little under negative-4, my dad’s high school football team visited Daniel High School, then as now in Central, and he said he figured trouble was likely when the bus arrived and he noticed several of the Lions’ burly standouts standing out on the field snacking on raw rutabagas. That was one of the funniest things there ever was, though conditions soon got serious.
“That’s the damndest thing ever I seen.” It happened frequently but not quite as often.
One of the damndest things ever he saw was the night in 1972 when Clinton’s Kevin Long spurred an 8-7 playoff victory over Pickens by hurdling a Blue Flame defender on fourth down and scoring a touchdown from 20 yards out. I was a ninth grader sitting next to the clock operator in a wooden stand behind the bench when it happened. I was making sure the score and down-and-distance were accurately furnished the Wilder Stadium crowd.
“If that ain’t a Dutton deal, they ain't never been one.” A Dutton deal was a complete disaster. Starting up a sports website at exactly the time sports disappear would be a classic Dutton deal.
Another Dutton deal was when yours truly, taking part in a marathon scrimmage for the first time in Landrum, circa 1974, snapped after being cheap-shotted by a Cardinals player and started a brawl. As a result, in spite of Clinton winning big, the whole team had to run wind sprints that seemed interminable on the other school’s home field. For the next few days, I got cheap-shotted regularly by my own teammates and deserved every one of them.
Jimmy Dutton, who died nearly 27 years ago, would fold his hands, shake his head and say, “Chaps love to play.” It’s what he would have said if he heard, oh, that a bunch of kids headed off to Myrtle Beach to eat, drink and be merry and brought a novel coronavirus back with them. He probably said it during the Landrum brawl, too, since he never missed a practice or a scrimmage, let alone a game.
When my exceedingly modest athletic career ended, I made up for it by writing about sports. Many have the funniest and damndest things, Dutton deals and playful chaps transpired in all the games, matches, races and meets since. Being my father’s son has not been without its struggles, but he left me with a touch of amusement in much of my writing.
Both my brother and I have stirred our pots with a unique set of ingredients and not bothered to go by any recipe. The independent streak runs through at least four generations.
My grandfather thought my brother’s athletic skills were superhuman, in part because Brack was and is his namesake. When I got myself a Super-8 movie camera and captured Brack on film leaping off a diving board, I put the projector in reverse so that my brother, who was not superhuman but quite gifted, dove into the water and then bounced out of it back onto the board. Pools had diving boards in those dangerous times.
“Good goddamighty!” B.M. roared. “I never saw anybody who could do nothing like that!”
After my father died, my mother and I were reminiscing about him at the kitchen table. We started talking about the time our two stallions busted out of their stalls and waged war on each other, which stallions were prone to do and likely still are. The smaller Appaloosa, Tiparillo, was fiercer than the quarter horse, Sunglow, and after a while, Sunglow fled, both leaped over the fence and took off on a brisk gallop in the direction of uptown. Daddy jumped in the truck, Brack and I dove into the bed, and we chased the horses, who arrived in town just as a drawing was taking place in the crowded parking lot of the Piggly Wiggly. The throng parted like unto the Red Sea as Sunglow arrived with Tiparillo at a pace that such horses are not supposed to be able to maintain. Then the two horses proceeded to run through several clotheslines in the mill village before, exhausted, we managed to capture them. Brack and I had some shoveling to do on Broad Street.
Mama and I laughed at the quarter-century-old memory, and when we caught our breaths, I said, “Maybe it’s a good thing Daddy died. They throw folks in jail for things like that now.”
My mother looked at me over the top of her reading glasses and said, “They throwed folks in jail back then, too.
“Not your daddy.”
Brack lives in Virginia. I’m still here, as is my sister, Ginger. Granddaddy died in 1981, Daddy in 1993 and Mama left us on May 28.
For better or worse, the family tradition continues. As Mama used to say, “We all crazy.”