Legacy Blog #11: The Switch

My Beloved Daughter,

You came by your love of animals honestly.  And, the fact that you really don’t cause trouble is something that you came by honestly, too.  Your old dad liked animals as much as any child.  And, usually, I only had to be told to do something by my parents once.

In the times when I did get in trouble, it was usually for doing something that I didn’t know was wrong.  Like the one time that I let your great-grandpa’s hounds loose.

I was about five at the time.  Grandpa had paid a significant sum for those hounds, all of which he was going to use for hunting.  I don’t even remember how many of them were in the pen.  I just remember that I—like any child that age—wanted to play with the doggies.

I walked out to the pen, probably talking to them all the time.  My intention was to get in it with all of them.  The moment I opened the door, they toppled me and ran off into the woods.

Grandma Davis was livid.  My dad and two of his brothers went out into the woods with Grandpa, looking for them.  They searched for hours.

They never found them.

Grandma told me to go home and wait for my dad.  She told him that he needed to make sure that I learned from my mistake.

I remember watching him walk into the yard.  He approached Grandma Pat’s rosebush with purpose, pulling his knife out of his pocket.  He cut a switch off of it and walked calmly toward the house, whittling the thorns off as he came.  Then he came inside and calmly told me to bend over the coffee table.  I did so, terror-stricken.

Each strike of that switch felt like liquid flame on my rear and legs.  I tried to hold in the tears but, when he hit me the last time, I remember screaming in agony.

He stopped with that strike.  I like to think that he realized that he’d crossed the line when he heard me scream.  As I lay on my stomach on the couch (I couldn’t sit on my bottom for three days), your Grandma Pat called him in the kitchen and yelled at him over the severity of my punishment.  Grandma Pat had spanked me before, only with the open palm of her hand.  A switch was something that she never felt should be used . . . especially leaving the whelps that it did.

Later, after I’d stopped crying, he hugged me and told me that he was sorry . . . not that he punished me, but that he had crossed the line in the punishment.  He told me that he loved me and would never use a switch on me again.

I don’t want you to think that your Grandpa Chuck was abusive.  He wasn’t.  In fact, he went beyond his promise to never use a switch on me again by simply never spanking me again.  Not that he really needed to.

One takeaway from that switch was that I had a healthy respect for my father.  When he told me to do something, I didn’t argue or talk back to him.  So maybe I just never gave him a reason to spank me again.

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