FRONT-PORCH GOSPEL: This life story begins in 1973 (kind of) – part 17
To say I was still ‘wet behind the ears,’ as Red reminded me daily, is another big understatement from this summer of ’73.
I didn’t understand anything. Or, at least, that was what I was told.
It would mainly come from Doocy and would be in the form of a question, such as, “Pup, don’t you know nuttin’?” I was curious enough, though, that I would ask him things, even though I knew that the likelihood of getting my head chewed off went up substantially.
“How long are these brick they’re layin’ on the house,” I asked about mid-morning when Doocy, leaning on the shovel that was stuck half a foot into the sandpile, finally stopped going ninety-miles-an-hour to take a swig out of his water jug.
“Pup, those brick there gonna be seven and five-eighth inches.”
“Why seven and five-eighth?” I asked, emphasizing the ‘five-eighth.’
“Because them’s whut you call ‘mod-ja-la brick,’” he said, “and mod-ja-la brick gots to lay on eight inches.”
He emphasized each syllable of ‘modular’ carefully as if he was trying to teach me to spell it. When he said ‘eight,’ he held up eight fingers, which, I noticed, was perfect for him since the last two fingers on his right hand were webbed. He just had to bend the two webbed ones down a little and show the thumb and other two fingers to get to three. I almost smiled at that thought but wasn’t nearly that brave. I wasn't always the smartest out there on that brick job, but a little common sense paid me a visit every now and then. So, instead, I probed with another question, which definitely was a case of pressing my luck further than I should’ve.
“If they lay on eight inches,” I said, noticing he was still holding up those three fingers, “why are they seven and five-eighth inches?”
“Pup,” Doocy said, now waving that webbed hand like a Georgia politician would, “How’s you gonna lay on eight inches? Ain’t cha gonna put some ‘morter’ in-b’tween the brick? The morter in the head joint is three-eighths of an inch, so if you do yore math you’s gonna see that all adds up to eight inches. Doesn’t they teach you nothin’ over at thet Granger High School?”
I started to respond with “It’s La Grange High,” but he caught my words, thankfully, before they came out of my mouth and said, “Ain’t got time for any mo’ of that, you need to run to the truck and grab me a brick hammah so I can clean out this mixer.”
I got to the truck and opened the toolbox on the driver’s side of Red’s beat-up red pickup truck and grabbed the first hammer I saw and started hurrying back. Doocy saw what I was holding in my hand before I was halfway there, and I noticed he immediately starting shaking his head and grimacing.
About fifteen feet from him, he said sternly, “Whut’s thet, Pup?”
“What … what do you mean?” I stammered.
“Whut ol’ Doocy mean is whut is thet you has in yer hand?’ he said, and the fact he switched to the third person made me even more nervous than I already was.
I was about to answer that it was a hammer, but he caught my words again and said, “Whut you got there is a claw hammah. Bricklayers don’t use a claw hammah. I told you to brang me a brick hammah. Not a sledge hammah, claw hammah, ball-peen hammah or a rubber mal-let. I wants a brick hammah.”
Of course, I was already to the truck by the time he got to his last ‘hammah,’ and I found a hammer that had what looked like a chisel on one end and didn’t look like any of the ones he mentioned. I held it up for his approval, and he shook his head in a combination of side-to-side and up-and-down, which told me he was only half-happy. But half happy was a half more than he had been since he first laid his eyes on me early that morning.
He took the hammer, leaned way down into the mixer until it looked as if it would swallow him up whole like a whale, and he started beating the old mortar out from the day before like it was a drum.
After a minute, he stopped the drumbeat and ‘tumped’ the mixer over, and then grabbed the hose pipe and washed it out until that mixer was “clean enough to eat out of,” as he would say. Occasionally he would look at me with almost half a smile while I watched him, and that little glance was about the only term of endearment I would see from him for a while.
But the terms of endearment would come, have no doubt about that. Terms of endearment unlike any you’ve ever seen from a rough, rugged gentleman such as Doocy Dew would come as sure as the storm clouds would blow in about lunchtime that day, and a Noah-like downpour would fall on that red clay with the fury of Red Williams himself.
Part 18 continues next week
Coach Steven Bowen, a long-time Red Oak teacher and coach, now enjoys his time as a writer and preacher of the gospel. And, after a ten-year hiatus, he’s also returned to work with students at Ferris High School as well.
In addition to his evangelistic travels, he works and writes for the Church of Christ of Red Oak at Uhl Road and Ovilla. Their worship times are 10 a.m. Sundays and 7:30 pm. Wednesdays. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call or text (972) 824-5197.