I was reminded of his tough-guy persona when I found his three guns while cleaning Mom's bedroom last week: two Saturday night specials, and a revolver that looks like it was once owned by The Sundance Kid. Not to mention boxes and boxes of bullets. Jewelry chests filled with bullets. Sock drawers spilling over with bullets. Shoe boxes crammed with bullets.
Dude, what's with all the bullets, one might ask? Was Dad a part of a secret militia , a one-man vigilante team, or perhaps planning to overthrow the government?
Nope. He never used those guns. Didn't go to shooting ranges, wasn't a hunter, never spent a lazy Sunday afternoon pinging beer cans off a log. Only once a year would he retrieve a gun from his nightstand and that was on New Year's Eve when he celebrated the stroke of midnight with a shot towards the stars. That is, until one year when he missed his mark and accidentally shot out a street lamp. For days afterwards he laid low, quaking in his cowboy boots in fear that the police would trace the trajectory back to his house and haul his butt to jail. After that, the guns stayed locked and hidden.
As the rugged he-man type who worshipped at the alter of John Wayne, Dad had a few unique ideas about his gender. Allow me to share his manifesto; taken, I hope, with a grain of salt.
- Men who wear sandles? Gay.
- Men who wear shorts? Gay.
- Men who work in an office? Gay.
- Men who cry? Duh.
- Men who weigh under 200 pounds? Gay.
- Men who are from England? Gay.
- Men who are mail carriers? So not Gay.
How I turned out normal, I'll never know.
In my lifetime I recall seeing Dad cry just three times: when he witnessed a dog getting hit by a motorcycle; when he had to put our own beloved German shepard, Lobo, to sleep; and when he knew his end was near, and only then did he tear up --not out of fear but because he was leaving us.
Dad and I often knocked our stubborn heads over differences of opinion, oh yes indeedy. But he is also the man who stressed the importance of treating people the way I would like to be treated. "Remember," he was constantly reminding me, "You catch more flies with honey than vinegar." I learned by example.
My John Wayne father raised me to be strong and resilent, considerate and spiritual, independent and thrifty. He taught me to smile at strangers, say thank you, show kindness, be gentle. And to appreciate the simple things in life: a good book, hot drink, true friend, loyal dog.
I think he did an okay job.
Happy Father's Day, Dad.