I filed it under knowledge I might need someday. Surveying my creation, if there was a day to use that information, it was the summer before first grade. I ran as fast as my legs could carry me into the house and up the stairs to my bedroom to the shelf that held my few books.
There was “The Guinness Book of World Records.” I struggled with the words but I always delighted in its photograph of the obese, bearded twin brothers on mini-bikes. The problem with that book is it was too bulky. The brick-like shape would have stood out too much. “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” — Loved the book, but it did not seem right to use a book with a character in it named Fudge in this particular situation.
I finally settled on three comic books. Sgt. Rock, Batman and the Green Lantern had better save my backside and I meant that literally. I stuffed them into the back of my pants and began the slow march down the steps to the television room where my father had fallen asleep on the couch.
The idea had come to me from a humorous tale that my grandparents enjoyed telling about my Uncle Dave and what a scamp he had been as a child. It seems that my uncle had gotten in trouble for something; no one could remember quite what, but it was something major. Whatever it was and it varied from retelling to retelling, my Grandfather decided he needed a spanking.
Well, Grandfather started going to town on his posterior and my Uncle Dave did not flinch. When my Grandfather finished the punishment, low and behold, my uncle had a book in the back of his pants. The pages of the Sears & Roebuck had taken the brunt of his punishment.
Upon hearing this story, I thought to myself that this was information for life. I want to make this perfectly clear. In today’s world, putting a hand on a child is verboten, not allowed. Back when I was a child, it was part of raising a child. Even back then, there was a world of difference between a spanking and a beating.
My father was too kind and gentle of a man to even give his boys a good spanking. No marks. No redness. No long-term psychological damage. Our spankings were more wake up calls, grabbing our attention so whatever we did would not happen again.
In this particular situation, I was worried that he might have forgotten he was a loving and good-natured man. As I marched into the room and stood before him, I knew that I had probably crossed every line possible, drawn some new ones and then kicked dirt on them as well.
“Spank me,” I announced in the most masculine voice a first grader could bellow. He opened his eyes and looked at me with a puzzled expression. “Spank me, just spank me,” I repeated. “Why?” he asked. “Spank me. When you find out, I am going to get spanked anyway. So, let’s just get this over with.”
I was hoping my candid honesty, coupled with the fact that he had no clue what I had just done, would turn into some George Washington and the cherry tree myth. The future Father of Our Country could not tell a lie when his father had discovered that someone had taken an axe to his beloved cherry tree. George admitted what he had done and got off light.
George’s father was not my dad. Much to my shock and chagrin, my dad got up and went to the bathroom and came back with the brush, his instrument of choice in the education of our backsides. (It was hollow inside, which caused an amazing loud noise when it found its mark. The sound was more terrifying than the discomfort inflicted.)
There was a second when my father looked at me when I thought he was going to hug me and thank me for my willingness to admit I deserved punishment. Instead he put me over his knee. I learned something very important in the brief moments that followed. My Grandfather must have been an idiot if he did not notice a catalog in the seat of his son’s pants, because my dad certainly noticed three comic books. They were removed. I was spanked.
As the final blow came down, I thought to myself, it could have been much worse, especially if he knew what I had done. Punishment over. He had maintained his kind and gentle disposition.
Less than an hour earlier, I had been playing in the unfinished basement. After nailing a smaller piece of wood to a large piece of wood. In my mind, this transformed it into an aircraft carrier. It just needed a touch of paint and I would be taking on the Japanese navy in short order.
We had dozens of paint cans that Noah probably used to paint the ark. They had been there long before we had moved in and were rusted to the point that a person could have gotten lockjaw just by looking at them. They pretty much all appeared to be dried out.
They were all hefty. Soon I was Charles Atlas doing curls with them. I found a piece of white clothes line rope and hung one of the cans from a pipe. Muhammad Ali and I went 12 rounds that afternoon as I jabbed, bobbed and weaved my way to victory. I truly was the greatest.
You know where this stupidity is going, Olympic shot putting time! Now, another child might have simply heaved a can or two across this room, that no one has been in since Lincoln was shot. It would have been weeks or even months, maybe years, until someone noticed a couple of cans where they shouldn’t be. Even then, the perpetrator could easily have been dead for 150 years and I could maintain my innocence.
No, I took them up to the roof of our two-story farmhouse. There might have been a dozen of them. In my best Olympic form I began to chuck them out onto the grass below. I was particularly proud with my first couple of tosses. I was able to launch them beyond the sidewalk. The first few cans simply hit the grass with a thud.
Then one hit the sidewalk. The lid popped off and nothing happened. The paint had become a solid mass, probably decades earlier. The sound of it hitting the sidewalk was magical to my young ears.
The fourth throw hit the sidewalk perfectly. BANG! The lid flew off the can and to my shock, paint followed. A LOT OF PAINT! Paint covered the sidewalk and the grass. Paint seemingly covered everything! I was in major league trouble.
The Jackson Pollack painting I had just created was not going to go over well. Scurrying down the ladder, I grabbed a bucket and ran to the nearby pump. Water only seemed to add to my new creation. This is how I wound up with my father spanking me for a crime he had no clue I had committed. He discovered my masterpiece minutes later. It would take two or three years of rain, snow, summer sun, foot traffic and everything nature could throw at it, for it to vanish.
Shockingly, it took him only minutes to spank me again!