Being the great-grandson of the most notorious beg-off artist in Panhandle County was never a trot through the park.
My first years were years of persecution. Naturally, the panhandlers, who made up a sizeable percentage of the Panhandle County populace, did not take kindly to having their schemes so cleverly countered by the techniques and advice my forebears were selling to the panhandlees.
My early persecution took many forms. Perhaps the most common one was outhouse-tipping, a sport that was once considered for inclusion in the Olympics but rejected on the grounds that it was practiced in the middle of the night. (I must explain to my younger readers that in my time, shacks were not equipped with indoor plumbing. When nature called, we old-timers exited the shack and proceeded posthaste to a nearby small building about the size of a tall doghouse. This simile breaks down, however, when one recalls the purposes of the two edifices. Briefly put, I have yet to see a doghouse built over a large hole into which one makes a periodic deposit I shall refrain from identifying.)
Note. Nature will occasionally call at 2 a.m. This is no problem, provided one has a lantern at the ready. It is a problem, however, on a cold winter night. This explains the origin of the bedpan, a device that is still used in your better hospitals.
Many were the times during my apprenticeship in the beg-off business that I awoke of a morning to be informed by my father that our outhouse had been tipped on its side and removed from its foul-smelling basement foundation. Implicit in this information was the request, disguised as a suggestion, that I “get my ass” out there to place the edifice on its intended base.
Later I recognized that my father’s request, far from being a form of maltreatment, was merely a test in my long apprenticeship. He was baiting me into thinking practically about the problem of begging off from this unpleasant task.
This I did. If memory serves, I learned to reply that his request, if followed, would cause more trouble than it was worth. My reasoning was that the appointed task was beginning to cause me to heave my latest meal onto the walls of the outhouse, making it even more difficult to complete the task. In fact, I went the extra mile and showed him the results of my attempts to right the wrong.
He responded by extending his right hand in congratulation. Though I had left the task undone, I had passed a difficult test and was well on my way to success in my chosen profession.
It was at this point in our family history that Papa developed the habit of sleeping in his rocking chair, which was set in front of the window that looked out on the edifice in question, his lap playing host to a 12-gauge shotgun.
And those, my fellow Americans, are the days of my persecution.