By: Virgil Adams
The Jackson Herald
February 18, 2004
My Daddy was full of the s-words
I was not going to do another column about my Daddy, but it occurred to me that I ought to try to explain his colorful language.
When people are exasperated (thats a euphemism for annoyed, upset, bent out of shape, etc.) they express themselves in different ways.
Foot followed by the s-word was my Daddys way. I am positive that he didnt intend to offend anyone, and I want you to know that that is not my intention as I tell this story. If you have any qualms, just know that the s-word also stands for stuff, sex and sin.
Daddy wasnt cursing. Never in my life did I hear my Daddy curse. He wouldnt think of taking Gods name in vain. He never said damn, dam, darn or dadgumit. Shoot, I never heard him say shoot or aw shucks.
But I did hear him say the s-word occasionally. But it never stood alone; it quickly followed foot. In fact, Daddy said the two words so fast that they came out as one word, without so much as a hyphen, comma or space between them. The way Daddy ran foot and the s-word together, they sort of sounded like phooey. I dont think that is what he was saying, but phooey pretty much described the mood he was in at the moment.
A lot of people didnt believe they were hearing what they thought Daddy was saying. Believe me, he was saying it. And he wasnt particular about when and where he said it. In polite company or down at Sidneys Slough with his fishing buddies, the phrase came out when some important or unimportant happening didnt turn out to his liking.
I guess that is better than cursing, kicking your dog, running your fist through the wall, or beating up on your wife (or husband) and your kids.
Great wisdom often followed Daddys colorful expression, like the time he told me, Keep your hook in the water, Virgil, keep your hook in the water. That advice stayed with me all my life, and I believe I am a better man for it.
At other times the phrase was downright funny, like when he and Sam Burgess and I were fishing for catfish up at Danville.
Danville was one of several small towns and communities that were submerged when the TVA dammed the Tennessee River and built Kentucky Lake.
A railroad trestle crossed the river near there, and a high levee nearly a half mile long jutted from lakeshore to trestle. Riprap stretched out into the water on both sides of the levee. Huge boulders, thrown together without order, served as a spring spawning ground for the famous Tennessee River catfish. In April and May you could catch a hundred pounds of fish in half a day.
I invited Sam, a dear friend and co-worker at the University of Georgia, to go home with me and get in on the action. Daddy was ready and waiting for us with three 14-foot-long cane poles rigged with line, hooks, sinkers and floats, and a five-gallon bucket of huge earth worms in a mixture of soil and cow manure.
On the way to Danville, Daddy waxed eloquently about what a beautiful day it was going to be and how we were really going to catch em.
Come daylight we were hurling big globs of fat worms into the water and waiting for the catfish to come by for breakfast. Only they didnt come.
The sun came up. By mid-morning it warmed our backs. Still, the fish did not show up. We fished for nearly three hours. Nothing.
A gently breeze blew out of the east. Daddy surveyed the situation and said that the wind needed to change. He pointed to the west and declared, If the wind would get right over there, wed start catching em.
In less than 15 minutes a miracle happened. The Good Lord must have been listening. The wind did an about face, completely reversed itself, and started coming out of the west. The three of us anticipated a fish feeding frenzy. The fish werent buying or biting.
We fished on for about 30 minutes, for an hour, and hour and a half. Nothing. Sam did not know my Daddy very well. He didnt know that Mr. George didnt exactly like anybody questioning his prognostications. So Sam said, Mr. George, I thought you said if the wind would change, get right over there, wed start catching fish.
Whereupon my Daddy, somewhat annoyed, replied, Foot (and the s-word in the same breath) it changed too fast.
If you think my Daddys colorful language made him rude, crude, gross or socially unacceptable, so be it. I know differently. And so does everybody in McLemoresville, Tenn. (population 311 if you count dogs, cats and chickens.)
They never head him curse or even say dadgumit. They knew he was kindhearted, generous and liberal to a fault, and he integrated his farm, business and home long before integration was cool.
Unlike a lot of fathers you know, he never pitched a fit, kicked his dog, ran his fist through the wall, or beat up on his wife and kids. I know there were times when he was tempted to beat up on me, but he never did. His was a compassionate, kind and gentle discipline. His most stern admonition went something like this: Foot (and the s-word in the same breath) keep your hook in the water, Virgil, keep your hook in the water. Or keep your hoe in the row. Keep your eye on the ball. Keep your mind on your studies. Keep your heart set on the goal. Keep your faith in God. Keep on keeping on.
I forgive his occasional use of the s-word, and I hope you will forgive me for sharing this part of his life and mine with you.
Share: now thats a fine s-word. My Daddy believed in it, and it was a very important part of his life.
When I get to thinking about him, like now, other s-words come to mind. He was full of them: simple, salty, savvy, safe, secure, sacrificial, selfless, servant, self-confident, satisfied, salubrious. That was him, all right. As I close this epistle, another s-word, silent but salient, brightens my world, just as it did his. My Daddy smiled a lot.
Virgil Adams is a former editor-owner of The Jackson Herald.
By: Oscar Weinmeister
The Jackson Herald
February 18, 2004
Learning Language At All Ages
We are experiencing language breakthroughs all over our house. Sometime last week, 6-month-old Turner discovered that he can make noise with his vocal cords. Almost 3, Jack is speaking in complete sentences with unintelligible objects, and I just discovered Ive been using a malapropism for most of my adult life, maybe.
Turners verbal repertoire isnt broad. His favorite of two basic sounds is the long moan. He makes this sound if he is happy, content, slightly disturbed, increasingly frustrated, or just at a loss for anything else to say, which as it turns out is most of the time hes awake. Did I mention hes generally awake at 6 a.m., even on weekends?
There we are lying in bed in the early morning dark, listening to the baby monitor moan a gentle, Aaaaoooooohhhhhh. We know nothings wrong with him, and we know hed be perfectly content to stay in his crib moaning for another hour, but we cant cross that line and turn off the monitor, so then we jockey for who has the right to stay in bed. Based on a quick inventory of whos done what most recently, Im usually the one with the shorter list.
Turners other fun noise isnt quite so innocuous. Again, nothings wrong with him when hes doing it, but he has a great time squeezing air out making a sound like hes choking. Usually we know hes not really choking because that disturbing noise is followed by a smile and a moan.
Sunday afternoon, when Jack woke from his nap, he came into our room, climbed on the bed and jumped on my back to make sure I didnt catch up on any hours of sleep I walk around saying I never get. He was in a great mood, which is increasingly rare given his age, so it wasnt all that horrible to be on the receiving end of a Wake Up Daddy! pounce.
Then smiling, tentative, clear as a bell, he said, Daddy, can I please have some wuuhh? I remembered that he had asked for water before he drifted off, so I asked if that was what he wanted.
No. I want some wuuhh!
I had no idea. You want some what, Jack?
A desperate reply, Wuuhh! The bottom lip began to jut.
Jack wasnt the only desperate person in the room. I started grasping, Chocolate milk?
Then the deluge. A full-fledged fit had descended, and though I didnt like my predicament, I felt I had made a reasonable effort to avoid it. Im not even sure Jack remembered what he was asking for in the beginning, so I changed my strategy and tried to find something that he might admit hed want.
Do you want to put on your new shoes?
A meek answer, in between shoulder shaking sobs, Uh-huh.
All my life Ive been using a cliché the wrong way, or so I came to understand very recently. Im still not quite convinced that Im wrong, but I admit the verbal forces arrayed against me are powerful (my wife and her mother), so I can at least admit the possibility exists that Ive been misusing a phrase for my entire life.
The phrase in question as I have always used it is this, If you think so and so, then youve got another THING coming. In using the phrase recently, I learned that it is supposed to end thusly, youve got another THINK coming. I immediately swore off use of the phrase for the rest of my life, having been betrayed so deeply.
Just this morning, though, I thought of a use for the phrase, If I think Im going to get some sleep with two boys in diapers ... Finish the sentence according to your own preference.
Oscar Weinmeister is the assistant administrator of BJC Medical Center. He lives in Commerce.