Wednesday, November 23, 2005


I referred yesterday to a comic event involving my father's favorite deer stand.

One fall day, when I was probably about 15, we were sneaking onto the boy scout reservation. I don't think we were going to hunt, but merely drive around and check things out. As I have mentioned, my father possessed a coveted key to the gates of the reservation. Our usual method of entry was to park just outside the gate, and I would then take his truck keys and rush to the gate, open it, give him the keys so he could start his truck and drive through, and then we would lock the gate behind us. This whole ordeal took about 90 seconds. I felt like a cat burgler whenever we did this.

On this particular fall day, we had just parked near the gate when the hapless caretaker pulled up behind us, blocking my father's truck between his vehicle and the gate. This diminutive man, like many who have some authority in their limited realms of influence, overplayed his hand, and his authority. He stepped up to my father's window like a state trooper involved in the middle of the crime of the century, demanding to know whether we were attempting to sneak onto the sacred lands of the scout reservation. His contempt for our status as unwashed locals was obvious, and frankly, I had never heard anybody talk to my father that way. I knew there was going to be some fireworks.

My siblings have told me that I have inherited many of my father's traits but, happily, I did not inherit his temper. The hapless caretaker experienced a dose of that temper, and, after being told something to the effect that "he didn't know his ass from a hole in the ground", and that he "would go onto the reservation whenever [he] f**king felt like it," my father lost all control. He pulled his keys out to open the gate.

He jumped out of the truck, stormed to the gate, and began trying to open the padlock. the caretaker looked on in astonishment. My father, however, could not get the padlock to open. He kept trying new keys. His face became red, dark red, and then almost white with embarrassment. I sat in the truck and tried not to laugh. I knew he was trying the keys on the wrong padlock (remember I was usually the one who opened the padlock), but the event was so comical, my shock at seeing my father making an ass of himself was too rich, and the overall event was going to fast for me to interrupt.

Finally, he gave up and got back in the truck, all the while letting loose a thundering stream of obscenities. The caretaker, shocked and embarrassed at what had transpired as well, got in his car and let us out. I tried my best to keep a poker face.

About five minutes later, after his storm had passed, he pulled over to the side of the road and looked at me. He had a dead serious look in his eye. "What in the hell just happened," he asked me. The tension was palpable. "You were trying to open the wrong padlock," I responded, and then, whether out of nervousness or pressure, I put my head on the dashboard of the truck and started laughing. I just couldn't take it anymore. If I hadn't laughed I probably would have puked.

I didn't know what to expect next but I'll be damned if he didn't put his head on the steering wheel and laugh along with me.