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Wormy trucks and raising boys

By Jefferson Weaver

Gentlemen, fix your sons.

The other night, I had stopped at a gas station to feed my ancient Tahoe, Valkyria. One pump down was one of those ridiculous, repulsive squatted trucks. It was only impressive in that the rear bumper was perhaps eight inches off the ground. A goat could have walked under the front. The puddles were pulsing to the bass like those in Jurassic Park when the tyrannosaurus rex was coming.

The driver was a white male, in his early 20s. He was wearing pajama pants and a t shirt.

Behind him was a respectable semi-sporty compact car. The young lady was about the same age. She was dressed as for an office.

Boom Truck went over to her. She handed him a card. He proceeded to fill his gas tank. He brought the card back to her, then left her to gas up her own vehicle.

When he finished, he said something to her. It wasn’t thank you. She waved a kiss at him. He peeled out, rattling windows.

I’m sure there could be multiple explanations, but she had tears in her eyes when, as I usually do with most every lady I meet, I paid her a compliment. She mouthed thank you.

I admit, for a moment, my inner Quixote wanted to see if Valkyria could tap that squatter in such a way as to disrupt its center of gravity.

Now, I know this fellow isn’t typical of all young’uns. I’m blessed to have several kids in my circle whom I know are being raised as young gentlemen, who will never drive a squatted truck or treat a lady as that punk did.

But there are far too many of these kids, and while parenting is a two-way street – and one could argue I have no right to an opinion, since I have no children – I take a biblical perspective and place most of the blame on the dads.

As a child, I feared my mother’s bottom-burning whippings, whether with a flyswatter or a convenient switch from the azalea bushes beside the front door of the church. I was Miss Lois’ Number Five, so she had plenty of years and experience tearing up tails before I came along. The sound of your first, middle and last name can still strike fear into the heart of a grown man long past his last maternal corporal punishment. Miss Lois didn’t have to switch or paddle or spank us many times. I reckon we were mostly quick learners.

But the thing I feared the most, the punishment that crushed my very soul, one that I would have traded a hundred switchings for, was hearing my father say “I’m disappointed in you.”

Nothing, and I mean nothing, hurt as badly as though short, simple, soft-spoken words.

I might take a chance on getting caught and punished doing something Mother advised against, but I never wanted to face that from the Old Man.

Papa taught me things; not just practical, physical things, but philosophical, ethical, moral things, things that were the right things to do.

With Miss Lois, I had just disobeyed her – that was bad enough, but the rewards that resulted in a scolding or a swat were often worth the price. When my dad told me he was disappointed, however, I felt like I failed him, and that I had made him fail. He never said so. He never hinted at such. He never dwelt on the lesson learned, after the test was closed.

Sometimes his anger came through in manner more typical of that era. He could and did administer a proper spanking of his own more than once, but the words “I’m disappointed” were the most painful of all punishments.

When I see kids like the driver of that  truck the other day, I wonder how many fathers have that same effect on their sons.

First off — his folks must have paid for that travesty. I cannot conceive of someone that age having enough money to make all those modifications to a truck on his own. It could and does happen, I suppose (perhaps that is why the young lady had to buy his fuel) but the tires and rims alone likely cost more than several darn good vehicles I’ve owned, combined. Add the lights to the undercarriage, plus the possibly illegal tinted headlights and fancy paint job, and I’m reasonably sure you’re looking at a year’s college tuition.

In full disclosure: we made some modifications to vehicles when I was that age, modifications which I now know were impractical if not downright stupid. We had loud stereos, cutout mufflers, and mag wheels. You could sometimes hear us coming a mile away, usually at a far higher than acceptable point above the speed limit.

However — you don’t make the kind of modifications I saw the other night in a backyard with an engine hanging perilously by a hoist made from rusty chain and hopes.

As I growled and grumbled my way home, I realized that truck was actually the perfect example of what we as men have allowed to happen to a lot of those we should be leading, teaching and helping.

You couldn’t carry a load of dirt in the back of that truck, what with the rear end dropped like a wormy hound, and with its pristine bed liner I’m sure you wouldn’t shove a lawn mower onboard (much less a half-dozen hogs at 5:30 a.m.).

Ergo, said truck couldn’t work for a living.

The headlights blind everyone else on the road, and create a safety hazard for the driver himself. Therefore, it’s reasonable to think the driver apparently is too engrossed in himself to be worried about endangering other folks.

I sincerely doubt he was heading for work dressed like that, although I could be mistaken. The young man didn’t carry himself like someone with a job, much less the two or sometimes three jobs plus school that so many well-raised young’uns have. The young lady obviously worked for a living.

The boy — yes, I am going to call him that, since manhood is more than years — had no manners, since he didn’t pump the girl’s gas first. Even if they were involved in some young romantic drama that is far beyond my comprehension, he had no manners nor consideration for a young lady.

He had no self-respect, since he was wearing night clothes in public.

But yet the young lady obviously has some affection for him. Otherwise she wouldn’t have been crying. I feel bad for her, because I am confident she could do far better — but perhaps we have allowed the style mavens to convince young women that this is not only acceptable, but desireable. I blame both moms and dads for this, since examples can be set without being shoved down a rebellious teenager’s throat. If she doesn’t realize she could do better, and deserves more than a flippant burnout and a gas receipt, then someone dropped the ball somewhere.

Until young women are taught to believe they deserve better, and should be treated like ladies, they will settle for a pajama-clad punk who uses the money she makes to feed a vehicle that, like its owner, can’t work for a living.

Again, I could have completely misread the situation the other evening, but I’m confident in my assessment. If I am wrong, I will be happy to apologize.

Seeing the tears in that young woman’s eyes, though, made me madder’n a wet goat on a chain.

My father was special in many ways, but seeing my friends and contemporaries, and the men they have become, I know he wasn’t atypical, even though he was significantly older than many of the other fathers. Most of them taught us manners, responsibility, decency and any number of other qualities. Sometimes we learned, sometimes we didn’t, but they knew we were their legacies, and someday we would be the ones responsible for fixing mistakes and helping others up, and maybe even wiping away a stranger’s tears with a compliment.

Gentlemen, fix your sons.

It’s a broken world, and the future will need men to repair it — not self-absorbed boys in tricked out trucks in need of a good worming.

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