By Junior Johnson
This week’s story is dedicated to Donna Masson and the ladies of the Red Hat Society for their support.
You’ve heard the expression “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” I wasn’t spoiled, but Dad didn’t use the rod, or in his case the belt, very often with me. I wasn’t perfect, but when Dad issued his punishment, I learned a lesson. The following story is of two cases where I feel the belt was helpful in determining the man I’d become.
Every little country community has its share of superstitions, which turns into folklore. The one most common in ours when I was growing up was, “You don’t eat fish and drink milk.” That was taken very seriously in some households.
I have no idea how it began. Perhaps someone found some poor soul slumped over his dinner table with a half-eaten plate of fish and a partial glass of milk. More than likely he died from a heart attack, but in those days there were no autopsies to determine cause of death, and the fish and milk combination was blamed.
I was attending St. Mary’s Convent back then. The Sisters of Divine Providence did their best to mold good Christians from their students and I would like to think they did a good job with me.
One Friday night at the dinner table my mom served a platter of fried fish. As she went to pour my iced tea I said I wanted milk. She said, “You know you cannot eat fish and drink milk. It’ll kill you”. I replied, “At the Convent we have fish sticks and milk every Friday, and I’m not dead yet.”
No sooner had I uttered those words, I knew I’d messed up. I looked over at my dad and he was wiping his mouth with a napkin as he pushed his chair back from the table and said to follow him.
I timidly followed him into their bedroom as he was pulling his belt off. After about 10 good raps to my rear end, he told me to go back and apologize to mom for sassing her.
Eating fish and drinking milk may not kill you, but it’ll make it hard to sit down for a while.
My next valuable lesson took place when I was 14. We had pecan trees on our property and in season the crop was picked for money.
After school and when my chores were finished, I’d saddle up our old black mare Dolly. I’d let my little brother Terry climb on behind me. Terry was a big help because he’d fill the sack with pecans as we picked them.
One evening our pickings were pretty slim. We were near a fence that separated our property from the Little Eva Plantation where the ground was covered with pecans
The next evening Terry agreed to be my lookout as I began to fill our burlap sack.
I’d filled one sack to the limits when Terry said a truck was coming. I hastened to get my sack of pecans across the fence. We jumped on Dolly and headed home, thinking that we’d barely escaped being caught.
A normal routine for dad after a hard day in the logging woods was to stop at Luddy’s Grocery in Cloutierville to have a couple of beers with his friends and pick up whatever Mom needed from the store.
While Terry and I were home congratulating each other on our narrow escape, a different discussion was taking place at Luddy’s Grocery.
A friend of dad’s was the foreman at Little Eva Plantation. He’d seen us and picked up a sack we’d left behind. Giving it to dad he laughed, telling dad how he’d watched us scurry across the fence.
When Dad returned home he said he needed me to get something out of the back of the truck. Eager to please I rushed out to his truck, and found our other sack of pecans.
I wasn’t as hasty returning to the house because I knew what was coming. As I entered the house with my sack of “stolen” pecans dad was standing by the door of the bedroom with belt in hand.
Dad was always firm in his discipline and never hurt his children when it was time for punishment; however, when he used his belt you remembered it.
The normal licks with the belt were 10, but on that night I received an extra two. They were for putting Terry in a situation I should’ve known wasn’t right.
I’m sure there were other times Dad used his belt on my behind, but not many.
Perhaps I was not spoiled because Dad didn’t spare the rod.