I think my father has always secretly wanted to be a redneck. Certainly he doesn’t have the appropriate pedigree–the eldest son of very literary Irish parents, born in New York City and raised in other, equally large and culturally diverse cities along the Mississippi river–growing up he never had opportunity to put a car up on blocks in the front yard or rock on a crickety old front porch admonishing folks to get off his land. (Although, I do recall that he once built a still that blew up or something.) Perhaps that is the lure for him. Or perhaps he’s just a little quirky.
But really, he’s got redneck wannabe written all over him sometimes. He loves those “You Know You’re a Redneck If…” type emails and claims to identify with many of those things. He likes to fish, he’s got a pickup truck, he’s always talking about his pigs and chickens and their antics, hanging out with old farmers, claiming that one of these days he’s going to make whistle-pig pie (which is apparently something like a groundhog pot pie), drinking moonshine and cheap whiskey (ok, you got me there, it’s more like expensive Irish whiskey)… Ok, so maybe he’s more of a metaredneck or postmodern redneck. But he likes to shoot things with an old rifle. Now that’s gotta get him some RN points.
Sunday, for example. I called him to do my duties as the good daughter I am and wish him the bestest Father’s Day ever. So we’re chatting and it’s all nice. But a few minutes into the conversation I hear a clattering on his end, which sounds like the phone dropping, followed by what sound like gunshots, and then an exclamation of “Crap!” followed a few seconds later by “Hi, sorry. I’m back.”
I suppose you can imagine that, as used to him and his sometimes curious hobbies as I am, I was concerned. Hearing your father drop the phone and curse while gunshots are being fired can be a less than calming experience. And, well, to be honest, he’s really pissed neighbors off in the past, so you know, you can’t be too careful. So I asked him, sweetly, calmly, and with genuine concern, “What the hell are you doing?”
“I’m out in the back pasture.”
Translation, he’s hunting groundhogs.
Yeah, the man has some weird obsession with playing God over suburban rodentia, especially ground hogs. I remember while growing up, the crazed look he would get upon finding some new zucchini plant or row of swiss chard in the garden had been digested by a woodchuck. He tried things like bigger and better fencing and putting up plastic owls. They dug under the fence and knocked the owl on its ass. Score 1 for the groundhogs. He took it as a statement. Nay, as a declaration. If it weren’t for my mother’s reasoned argument that poisoning the garden would also render the carefully tended vegetables inedible to their intended audience, I’ve no doubt we would have been finding bloated groundhog bodies throughout the neighborhood.
I also have a memory of a post on the back porch upon which he’d drawn little pictures of groundhogs with X’s across them, one for each kill. He has the mentality of the soldier in Apocalypse Now who wore a necklace of his dead enemies’ ears when it comes to these critters.
So we chat more. There are many things we can talk about. He mentions again the whistlepig pie. There is some discussion that maybe the old saw that anything you stuff with cheese and deep fry is going to taste good might also apply to groundhogs.
A few minutes later, there is a similar sequence of events to the ones described above. Phone drops…shots…only this time, “Got the bastard!”
Happy Father’s Day, Pa.