Whittle: Daddy was a pistol...
By DAN WHITTLE
Daddy Whittle was a pistol and as his youngest child, he’d boast to his farm neighbor buddies…“Little Danny is my last golden bullet.”
I didn’t know what Daddy meant by that, but it made my little boy overall galluses swell with pride.
Daddy, the farmer, would get sweaty and dirty when toiling in the soil of our farm, but when plowing the fields, slopping the hogs and milking the cows were over, he got cleaned up and dressed nice, and not just on Saturday go-to-town nights.
“Your Daddy is a dude,” is how farm neighbor boy Harold David Bryant assessed my father’s image as he would oftentimes dawn his best suit and tie, especially in winter non-farming months.
When those fancy store-bought suits and highly-shined Buster Brown dress shoes came out, you could bet that Daddy didn’t have farming on his mind.
That generally meant he was either headed to a funeral or over to nearby Cairo, Ill., where they had the Club 18 and floating riverboat casinos on the mighty Mississippi River.
You see, Daddy was a gambling man.
I know these things, for Daddy sometimes used Little Danny as his excuse to leave the farm and go gamble in our little farm town’s two hidden gambling rooms at Moore’s Mercantile and Nath Hewitt’s Barber Shop.
Mother, who didn’t approve of Daddy’s gambling, liked it when he took his youngest son to town, because that generally meant he wouldn’t venture to Cairo, Ill., to do his most serious gambling.
I knew about Daddy’s gambling up close and personal, for when he took Little Danny to town, that meant I got to sit on his knee while he played some serious “stud poker.”
Daddy had two rules for Little Danny: “Don’t say a word while I’m holding cards in my hands, and don’t tell your Momma where we’ve been.”
And I never violated Daddy’s two gambling rules.
Although I was only 6 when Daddy perished in a grinding car crash on Oct. 25, 1950, I vividly recall Daddy’s unusual sense of humor.
Sometimes during winter months, Daddy would earn extra cash by tearing down houses for rich folks who lived in nearby big city Sikeston, Mo.
One day, Daddy came home toting two slightly-used commode lids. And since we knew he had been tearing down a house belonging to this Catholic family, Daddy let us young’uns go to town bragging that we now had two smooth-sitting Catholic commode lids in our outdoor shack out back at the end of the path.
Being 1947, it wasn’t long before some neighbors, who hadn’t been to our farm house in months, would show up either in their farm trucks or on wagons pulled by mules.
“We’ve never seen Catholic commode lids before,” was how farm neighbor boy Kenneth Abernathy assessed our new farm outhouse status symbols.
“Why, they ain’t coming to see us,” assessed older brother, H. Van. “They’re just coming to sit their fannies on our smooth-sittin’ new-fangled Catholic commode lids.”
Daddy’s unusual brand of humor really surfaced in 1946, when this rich Sikeston family donated a dog to us farm folks. Being half bulldog and half German shepherd, needless to say it was one well-built stocky and stout-looking canine.
Coming in the wake of World War II, Daddy decided to name our new dog “Hitler,” which drew some consternation from farm neighbor A.J. Neel.
“Why do you want to name him after that German tyrant Adolph Hitler, who doesn’t deserve to have a good farm dog named after him,” A.J. Neel pleaded.
“With a name like Hitler, he’ll have to be one tough and mean dog to get through this world in wake of World War II,” Daddy assessed.
Well, the name must have worked for it was “Hitler” that Daddy credited with saving his life in 1949 when an enraged male boar hog took Daddy down out in the pasture.
I remember Hitler bolting from our front yard to clear our barn-yard plank fence that was head-high to a grown man, to hit that hog with such force, it cleared Daddy from the hogs slashing and gnashing long tusks.
“Hitler saved my life,” I’d hear Daddy bragging to our farm neighbors.
These are a mere smattering of recollections I have stored in my little boy mind’s-eye vault of treasured memories of Daddy Whittle, a man judged by our farm neighbors to be “a pistol.”