Friday, April 4, 2008

On Swearing

When my Grandfather Gee was a young man, he had to milk cows. Cows are very difficult creatures as I learned when I worked on Ed Bullock's farm. Ed, who was very religious, never swore, except when we were trying to get cows out of the alfalfa fields when they somehow broke a fence and got in them, then he would occasionally (very occasionally, must say in his defence) let forth with a Big Big D. Well anyway, my grandfather was milking the cows one day and the cow he was milking kicked over the milk bucket. As was his custom on such occasions, Grandfather Gee began swearing and cussing and yelling at the cow. He was in the midst of doing this, when it suddenly dawned on him that cursing of the cow, did absolutely nothing to the cow and it didn't do him much good either. That was one of those Great Days in our family history. He always told his son (my father) from that day on he never swore and he hoped that his sons would follow suit, which my dad and then some. Not only did Dad never swear, as far as I or any of my family know, but he never practiced any near-swearing and he made it pretty much off-limits in our family. Such words as "darn", "golly", or "gee-whiz" were frowned upon and occasioned a stern reprimand. Even words that I hardly even thought of as swearing such as calling a policeman a "cop" earned a "I better not ever hear that word again in this house". When I used that word (which I hope I never have since) and got the above, I quickly pointed out to Dad that Joe Friday (on the TV show, Dragnet) called himself that. "I don't care what Joe Friday or any other TV actor says, in this house we call the police either a policeman or a police officer".

I mention all this because there were in Pocatello, I am very sorry to have to report, a good many people who could very well have profited from my grandfather's insight. For those of you who find this hard to believe I can only site the example of Ralph Hegstead Jr. , which I will herefore proceed to do.

Dr. Ralph Hegstead and his family lived across the street from us. He was a baby doctor and I suspected that Dr. Hegsted's baby's did not come out exactly when or in the exact manner that he hoped for. Of course, if you are a baby doctor I think it only fair to expect that sort of behavior on the part of baby's to occur occasionally, but with Dr. Hegstead it must have happened most of the time, because he was always very grumpy. My mother said that he charged a great deal to deliver his babies and that, therefore, she could not afford to use his services. For my part, (but, of course, I never had the courage to tell my mother this) I was grateful that he charged so much to deliver his babies, the reason being that he could afford, as almost no one else on our block could, to have a two-car garage. Naturally, it was not the two car garage that made it so great, but the fact that it required a double wide driveway, which made it perfect for a basketball court. I loved to go over to their house and play basketball. The big drawback was Ralph Hegstead Jr.

Why Ralph Jr. was so unpleasant, I will never understand. Maybe it was because his father would complain to him so much about the babies coming out wrong or at the wrong time. Whatever the reason, he was, which was hard to understand, because his sister Millie, who was a good friend of my sister, Loni, was not that way at all. At any rate, we, that is, Bucky Petersen and/or Johnny Trimming and I would be playing ball and Ralph would come out and start playing with us. It was pretty hard to tell him that he couldn't play with us, because, first, it was his driveway we were playing on and second, he was older and bigger--in height, a little, in width, a great deal, than any of us. The one thing about Ralph was that no matter what we were playing, it was essential that he win, or if we were playing on teams, that he be on the winning team. Whenever a competitor would make a basket, Ralph would swear and "give him the finger". Sometimes he would do that to one of us for no apparent reason, other than possibly he was afraid that if he went for more than a few minutes, he would forget which words or even which finger to use.

Be that as it may, no matter what I had to put up with in the neighborhood or at school with respect to swearing, I could be sure that I wouldn't have to worry about it at home, that is, until That Day.

I'll never know, I don't think any of my family will ever know, exactly what caused it. It was a Saturday and Mom was having a bit a problem getting us all to do what she wanted us to do. I can't even remember what Dad was doing, but I'm pretty sure he wasn't The Problem. I was a bit slow in doing my chores, and I will admit to occasionally slipping away and reading a book. Loni, who usually was a real eager-beaver-household- cleaner-and-chore-doer had just started reading "Gone with the Wind" and was, therefore, more eager to get back to reading that than in performing her usual eager-beaver-chore-duty. My brother, Gavin could not have been the problem. He was only 8 or 9 years old, but he always did what he was expected to do, only better. Everyone always said that Gavin would amount to something because he always did what he was expected to do, only, as I mentioned above, better. And, of course, he has, as everyone always said he would, amounted to something, but, of course, that is pretty much off-set by the fact that he has amounted to something in banking. Whenever I go anywhere, people are always eager to shake my hand when I casually (or, at least, as casually as possible) mention that my brother is in State of Idaho Governor's cabinet. If, however, after I have shaken everyone's hands, someone happens to mention that he is in charge of banking in that state, I notice that they immediately head to the restroom to wash their hands. At any rate, it could not have been Gavin who was The Problem because she knew, like everyone else, that he would amount to something, and at that time of his life there was no way to know that it would be in banking. (Actually, she seemed awfully proud of him and the fact that he amounted to something, even when she knew it was in banking, but then, that's the way mothers--or at least, my mother--are). Then there is my youngest brother, Erin. He was, as all youngest children are, terribly, terribly spoiled and a great problem right from the get-go. Everyone always comments about how cheerful and optomistic my brother Erin is. Well of course he is. Anyone who has been spoiled and a great problem from the get-go during their formative years is bound to turn out to be cheerful and optomistic. Of course, he didn't get by entirely unscathed. His problem is his name. My parents, who had given Gavin a Scottish name, felt that it would be terribly clever to give his younger brother an Irish name, little knowing that by the time it finally came across the ocean to America, it would wind up as a girl's name. Fortunately, for Erin, during his sensitive years, in school and college, no one else knew it would wind up as a girl's name either. I don't think he realized it himself fully until he found out that the reason his company, for which he was an executive, treated him so well was because the government assumed that with an executive named Erin they deserved the Female Executive subsidy. He was not amused and promptly began calling himself "E. Preston" instead of Erin. Now whenever he goes to work for a company, they immediately make him a top executive, "E. Preston" being even more impressive than "J.P." which, after all, is getting to be a bit overdone. At any rate, because he was always a great problem, it is doubtful that Erin could have been The Problem.

I suspect when the roll is called up yonder we will find out that it was either Loni or I who was it but whoever, or whatever was it, the fact of the matter is that my mother let go with the Big Big D. At first we went on with things as though nothing had happened and then all of a sudden it hit us. Everything, and everyone stopped dead. Even Erin, who was only a little baby, suddenly stopped being a big problem. There was dead silence. Then Loni yelled out in shock, "Mother!" And Mom burst out in tears, "Oh its been so so hard this morning, and we went to party last night and everyone was using that word." She sobbed for a minute then continued, "Can you all ever forgive me?" Well, we didn't know what to say. Someone, probably Gavin, muttered sure and then we sort of drifted away. I went back to my book, Loni went back to "Gone with the Wind", Gavin went back to doing whatever he was supposed to do, only better, Erin went back to being spoiled, Mom forgot all about chores and went away, I suppose to think about what she had done, and Heaven only knows the absolutely gut wrenching emotions that were going through my dad's mind. All of us could only pray and hope against hope that our mother would never do anything that bad again. Which, as far as I know, at least, she never did.


Gavin said...

I've heard this story before, but never with so much was great. And now I know why I was named after Gavin

Loni said...

kaey, this story was so fun to do know how to write a good story!