It was while I was spreading my second slice of butter bread to accompany my spaghetti — thumbing my nose at all the keto mumbo jumbo — I thought of my late father, Alfred P. Blough. Ma …
It was while I was spreading my second slice of butter bread to accompany my spaghetti — thumbing my nose at all the keto mumbo jumbo — I thought of my late father, Alfred P. Blough. Ma and Pa were visiting from Pennsylvania, having lunch at my hovel, when we discussed how thin to spread butter onto one’s bread. Dad summed it up perfectly in simple, layman language: “I want to see my teeth-marks in the butter.”
It doesn’t take a lot of words to make a profound point.
That was Dad. My only creative writing education was a late-80s, college course at Cody High School taught by Mike Riley. One thing he always stressed to us was, “Don’t say it; show it,” and nobody did that with more simplistic brevity than ol’ Alfred P. Like when someone had a big ol’ smug smile on their face, he’d say, “He’s grinnin’ like a toad under a harrow.”
Though I had never put it into a concrete thought, in retrospect, any time I saw a toad under Dad’s harrow — or even his rototiller for that matter — its facial expression did appear to be grinning.
Sometimes his Archie Bunker comparisons bordered on inappropriate, but it was easily forgiven. During one of their last Cody visits, I was about to pull out of a side street onto Main when a rather rotund gal ambled by my car. Dad says, while grinning like the proverbial toad, “Boy, she’s a real log horse.”
I had never heard the term, but just assumed in Dad’s farm upbringing, certain horses were used to haul logs.
I’ve often told the family, “Had Dad not been slaving in the steel mill to support six kids, he could have been a comedian far ahead of his time.” The man was a natural, and when someone compliments my comedic acumen, I silently attribute it to dear old Dad. Oh, he was a grouchy old goat before he retired and took up fishing. We habitually butted heads, but sometimes out of the blue, he’d deadpan a gem out of testy irritation.
When I was maybe 15, my church buddy Chucky Kimmel — a clown who quite obviously grated on Dad’s nerves — came home from Sunday morning service to spend the day. That evening on the way back to evening church, driving by the “Queemahoning Dam” down our dirt road, Chuck, thinking out loud says, “I wonder how many frogs are in that dam?”
Dad barks sarcastically: “Thirteen, I think.”
Something about that set me off in the backseat, laughing till I nearly wet myself (which I’d nearly broke myself of at that time). I look back now and imagine Dad was probably flattered to make his disrespectful son laugh that hard. It wasn’t until his twilight years I really began to treasure his endearing humor. It’s tragic that arthritis and bursitis preceded my realization what a priceless, diamond-in-the-rough the old man was.
It wasn’t just his jokes — one of my favorites being his buddy who bought a new Model-T and was always speeding. He tried to pass on a blind curve and rolled down a steep hill. The guy pulled over and yelled, “Are you OK, Mister?” He said, “Don’t worry; the Lord is with me,” and the stranger says, “Well, he better ride with someone else; you’re gonna get him killed.”
No, it was often his penny-pinching, quirky ways that amused most. In his 70s, during that same log horse visit, Dad and his overactive bladder actually got locked in the Bargain Box bathroom after they closed; he had to climb out a window. When we’d be picking cherries on some country road when I was a kid and I had to go to the bathroom, he thought nothing of knocking on a perfect stranger’s door and asking, “I guess you don’t mind if my boy uses your commode?”
Dad ate tons of eggs and kielbasa and left teeth-marks in his butter till his punch lines stopped at the age of 89. The man was a pip. Just thinking about him makes me grin like a toad under a harrow. Literally!