Daddy, Mr. Pryor & The Big Mistake (Pt. 2)

Like I said…

Like I said, locking Mr. Pryor’s utility meter shut wasn’t our smartest idea. But buying the lock at the Wide-Awake was the big mistake. How big, I didn’t really understand until the sheriff served me with a Summons to appear in Court.

“Robert, you’re being charged with a serious crime. You can have an attorney if you want one, but be in Judge Brown’s Court at 7:00 p.m. tonight. And you’d better tell your folks.”

Like I was going to do that! Mimmy might believe her boy, Bob, was a good boy, but your Papoy knew better. And, as much as my Mama fussed at all of us, it was Papoy who laid down the law. So I figured I’d keep this news to myself.

I got ahold of Jack and Ick and found out they’d been served as well. We didn’t have time to talk right then, so we agreed we’d meet early at the courthouse, come up with a smart story, and keep our parents out of it.

Just getting to the Courthouse was a Problem

So, right after supper that night, I said, all casual, “Well, I think I’ll go downtown. Same as I’d said a bunch of times without a word from my folks. But this time, your Mimmy speaks up.

“Oh, don’t go downtown tonight, Bob. Stay and listen to the radio with us.”

“Uh, what? Mama, I’d like to but I’ve got to go downtown. I promised I’d meet Jack and Ick.”

“You see Jack and Ick every night,” my Mama said, unperturbed. “You can sit home for once..”

Now, this was a pickle. I had to leave, but I couldn’t tell her why, not if I wanted to keep my skin. Part of me wondered if she knew about the court hearing, but I kind of guessed she didn’t. Knowing would have made your Mimmy mad and she never kept those feelings to herself. So I kept saying over and over that I’d like to stay home, that I’d rather stay home, that I’d stay home for every night for the next three weeks, but tonight I’d needed to leave. After ten minutes of sweating, she finally let me.

All Rise….

I drove to the courthouse as fast as I could and got there with about seven minutes to spare. Jack and Ick were mad at me being late but I think they were more scared than angry. Anyway, just as we sat on the first bench in the courtroom to try and get our stories straight, the courtroom door opens up and in walks Jack’s Dad. He doesn’t say anything but “Jack”, but we all know what that means. Jack goes and stands by his Dad. Then Ick’s Dad walks in the same door.

Well, after that, I sat by myself, on that front bench, watching everyone filter into their seats. The bailiff and court reporter, behind the judge’s bench, and other people clutching summonses in front. And Jack, and Ick, both standing by their Dads and looking pretty puny. Still, the clock’s getting pretty close to seven and I’m beginning to hope I can at least keep this from my folks. Just as the clock clicks to seven and the bailiff says”All Rise”, that back courtroom door open again and my Dad walks into the courtroom.

Well, there wasn’t any point fighting after that. Mr. Pryor testified about his power getting locked off, and the man from the power company testified about having to cut the lock. Then the sheriff talked about his investigation into the lock and the cashier said her piece. Tell you the truth, I wasn’t feeling pretty sick by then. So when the judge said, “Boys, are you sorry for all the trouble you’ve caused here tonight? “, we all answered, “Yes, Sir, we are.”

“Boys, you need to apologize to Mr. Pryor.”

“We’re sorry, Mr. Pryor./”

“Are you’re going to harass this man again?”

“No, Sir. We won’t, Mr. Pryor.”

“You boys are going to pay the Power Company back for the time their man spent cutting off your lock.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“And you’re going to pay the costs associated with bringing all these people to Court tonight.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Fine. Next Case!”

And last…

I turned up the center aisle, glad the Judge hadn’t decided to throw me into jail. As I passed my Dad, he opened his hand, and quietly said “I don’t think you’re going to need the car for awhile.”

I gave him the keys.

Daddy, Mr. Pryor, and The Big Mistake

I always connected this story with the last days of Summer, when days shorten and vacation has ended. So, as autumn begins, I start one more of Daddy’s stories, the one where he finally got caught…

It was me, and Jack, and Ick Nault, one night. We were driving around town, looking for something to do. You know how it is: late night, small town, teenagers with time on their hands. Someone always finds an idea. We found ours in an alley.

There we were…

There we were, in my Dad’s car, driving down this one alley when someone points out we’re right behind Mr. Pryor’s house. We could see his back yard, and laundry line, and his utility meter at the edge near the alley. And one of us, (I don’t remember who) got the bright idea of turning off Mr. Pryor’s power at the meter. I don’t think we’d have bothered with anyone else, except, we knew Mr. Pryor wasn’t home, and he always seemed to have it in for us. Anyway, we grabbed one of the wrenches Dad always carried in the car, twisted the power off and drove on away.

I didn’t think anything about it until the next week at school, when one of my girlfriends started talking about her job at the phone company. Those were the days when people didn’t dial a number direct, they called the telephone operator and asked her to connect then. My girlfriend worked part-time as a phone operator and she said, “I got the strangest call Saturday night. Mr. Pryor called the utility company to see why his lights were off when everyone else on the street had power. Isn’t that odd?”

I tried to act real cool, but I think she guessed I had something to do with it. Anyway, we all laugh, and the joke worked so good, we decided to try it again next Saturday. But that idea wasn’t good. We barely had ducked out of sight from shutting the power off this time, when here comes old Mr. Pryor, with a wrench in his hand, to turn it back on again. That wasn’t any fun. So we decided to up the ante.

Our Big Mistake…

Now I’ll admit we’d have been smarter to quit right there, but “smart” wasn’t in our vocabulary back then. Planning was, so we made a plan. We found out when Mr. Pryor and his family would be out of town next. We packed up our tools. And we bought a combination lock. Sure enough, when the superintendent next came back from out of town, the power was locked off at his house. Cutting the lock off meant getting the utility company and the Sheriff involved which uncovered our big mistake: buying that lock at the local dime store, a place we called, “The Wide Awake”.

The Sheriff went down to The Wide Awake with what was left of our lock and showed it to the cashier. Of course, she identified it. Yes, they sold that model lock, they were the only store that did, and they’d only sold one that year. She didn’t have to look up any records to see who bought it, she remembered that very well. It was Ick Nault, and Bob Zumwalt and their buddy, Jack. She remembered because we were laughing and hee-heeing the whole time we were buying it, and we paid for the lock with change.

How do I know what the cashier said? Because she testified to it in open court! I ended up in front of a judge over this! But how I got to court is another story right there, so I’ll pick this up tomorrow night…

The Best Storyteller I ever Knew

Storyteller with fan

There are always tributes to male parents close to Father’s Day. Check out Social Media and you’ll see all kinds of posts commemorating the sweetest, the bravest, the kindest fathers, etc. I’m sure all of those plaudits are true. But, when it comes to titles and “Greatest” plastic championship cups, I know which one belongs to my Dad. He was the first and best Storyteller I ever knew.

My Dad loved a laugh more than anything else and his jokes were many and varied. (At his funeral, Dad stories brought out as many smiles as tears.) And, as a kid, he and his buddies pulled practical jokes to make each other laugh. And by jokes, I mean the kind of stunts that could get a kid kicked out of school. I know this because he told us about them.

The Greatest Storyteller
With an early fan.

Now some parents try to keep their own children from learning what stinkers they were as kids. But not my Dad. He loved spinning tales of his miscreant past and we loved hearing him talk. After all, we knew some of the characters. but Dad had a way of talking that made you feel like you were there. At dinner, Dad would grin, start a story and pretty soon, my sister and I would be giggling, banging our fists on the table and forgetting to eat our food (it takes a lot for me to forget food!) Barb and I loved some of his stories so much, we asked him to retell them again and again. (I referred to these as “Daddy’s Greatest Hits”) Then we brought friends over to listen to him tell them again. We never got tired of Daddy’s stories. And we miss hearing them, now that he’s gone.

So, in honor of Dad, for the next few weeks, I’m going to share a few of his stories. I don’t know if I can recapture his inimitable timing or delivery but I’ll try. Anything to hear these tales again

Some people thought my Dad was a naughty, undisciplined boy because of the pranks he pulled. To me, he was just my Daddy. The best storyteller I ever knew.

A Possum ate my Internet

I know this post is late and this excuse sounds weak but my story is absolutely legit, and it started last Friday when Darling Husband asked for the new WiFi password.

Now, some would think that’s a reasonable question, given that I’m the closest thing we have to an IT department. (Terrifying thought!) On the other hand, as the household IT rep., I never change the passwords without warning. So if Darling Husband suddenly can’t access the ‘net, there’s probably a bad reason why.

No Wi-Fi

There was. Two of the three green lights on our Wi-Fi has changed to blazing red. The WiFi had power but the landline phones were out. And our internet link was dead.

Forty minutes of hold music and recorded questions on my cell phone later, and our internet provider pronounced the diagnosis. Our WiFi was dead. They would ship us a new one over the weekend. In the meantime, we’d have a nostalgic reminder of life in the pre-internet days.

Listen, I like to joke about being tied to technology, but I had no idea it was true. Okay, I couldn’t stream movies or shows so, I decided to pay bills…until I remembered my bank stuff was all on line. I couldn’t write on the blog, I couldn’t read my magazines, or catch up with the news; I couldn’t even get the weather forecast. Re-reading downloaded books worked until I ran across a word I didn’t know. Automatically, I tapped the screen before remembering the Dictionary was an on-line feature. I’m not dependent on the internet, I’m addicted!

Monday’s good news was the replacement Unit arrived. The bad news was, nothing changed. I pulled out the cell phone, spent another 30 minutes negotiating recordings and hold music until a Real Person at the Internet Provider said I (sigh) needed a technician’s visit. Could I be home on Tuesday? Was he kidding? I’d have been home if it meant missing my own birthday.

The Real Source of the Problem

As a rule, I like technicians. They’re usually smart, practical, good-humored people and this guy was no exception. With his meter and tools, he cheerfully climbed through the weeds and verified the electronic signals were getting to the outside of our house. Then he began tracing the lines.

Evidence of the Crime!

And there was the source of the problem. A Cat-5 wire had been cut. No, not cut, ripped apart, bitten right where it went under the house. The technician opened the door to look into the crawlspace.

And, just as quickly, he backed out. “Found your problem”, he said, and pointed with his flashlight. I poked my head in and, there in the corner was one of the biggest possums I’ve ever seen. At least 5 pounds, he was, and filling the space between the wall and first joist. Staring back at me. And hissing.

Now I have a healthy fear of possums. Some of them are rabid and they all have teeth. So, the three of us retreated to our neutral corners (me, the tech, and the marsupial) and reconsidered our various options. Finally, new Cat-5 wire was hung, well out of Perceval Possum’s reach. But this has taught me a lesson.

It doesn’t matter if I was raised pre-World Wide Web; I’m a citizen of the virtual universe now. I can’t exist without the darn thing. But I also exist in a universe with unpredictable weather and wild animals. And sometimes they take precedence. So, for all of you who are sick of hearing excuses, I apologize. But honestly, once a possum eats the Internet line, there’s not much else a person can do.

Miss Anxiety of 1953

I have an Inner Critic that goes In and Out with Me.

I call her Miss Anxiety of 1953.

Introductions, Please

By now, everyone’s heard of their inner child. It’s the spirit of the person you were as a kid, innocent, hopeful and kind. Well, if that’s not too New-Agey for you (and I hope it’s not) some of us contend with other inner spirits that aren’t nearly so pleasant. Judgmental, tactless, critical types that appear out of nowhere and torpedo your self-esteem. A friend of mine refers to her internal bete noir as her “Inner Mean Girl”. But, after due consideration, I believe mine has a different personality. Folks, meet Miss Anxiety of 1953.

Miss Anxiety?

Miss Anxiety, 1953

Miss Anxiety has been my constant companion since grade school and she has lot of concerns . Back then, she worried every morning that I’d be late for school. Or I wouldn’t be liked if I didn’t shut up. Or people would laugh if I tried to swing at a baseball. Later she worried when boys didn’t like me. She worried if one of them did. These days, Miss Anxiety worries about my salary, my marriage, my hair length and don’t get her started on the subject of my body! (Seriously, don’t let her go there. Even during the three weeks I wore a size 5, Miss Anxiety still fussed about my upper arms. She’s a perfectly toned size 1 and there’s simply no way to please her.)

Miss Anxiety has a similar obsession with rules and her Code of Etiquette is from the Eisenhower Era. No wearing white pants, except in the Summer. No wearing white shoes ever, they make your feet look big. Speak, sneeze, sing and laugh so softly no one can hear you and then apologize for the noise. Silence is the hallmark of a true lady. And the only acceptable way a lady asserts herself involves a candy that’s two mints in one. (By the Way, I never aspired to ladyhood, But Miss Anxiety hasn’t given up hope.) And as she is a title-holder herself, Miss Anxiety is hideously competitive. She agonizes over every teeny error I make, and every time I’m not chosen. According to Miss Anxiety, unless I succeed in everything, I’ll never succeed I Anything !!

So why did I quit fighting her?

Miss Anxiety
Miss Anxiety, 1953

For years, I loathed and feared Miss Anxiety, and opposed her at every turn.. I yelled back at her and ignored her. But She wouldn’t leave, no matter how hard I tried. Then, instead of yelling at her, I decided to listen. And I realized something incredible.

Miss Anxiety doesn’t hate me. She’s not trying to make my life miserable. Like my grandmother and mother, she worries I’m going to miss out on some great opportunity. So, she continually fusses at me. And when she thinks things may go wrong, she sets off alarms.

So last week, when I got stressed and Miss Anxiety began raising her voice, I listed to what was frightening her. And I responded.

It’s not given to understand what role we each play in the Grand Design. But we all have our parts. And I’m content to know I will play mine.

Turns out, that thought made Miss Anxiety pretty happy too.