A word of warnin’: This tale contains a bad word. If you are offended by bad words, read no further.
I was raised in a household where it was not only illegal to use bad words, but it was punishable by death. My momma would not tolerate the use of bad words, even words that really aren’t that bad. I mean, I wasn’t allowed to say golly, gee, darn, or nothin’ like that.
Heck, I couldn’t even say heck. So I didn’t, well I didn’t when Mom was around. I really didn’t know any really bad words, except the ones I mentioned earlier, because I’d never heard any. Well, that all changed one night at the movies.
When I was a little biddy kid, and I mean little, we went to the movies. I can’t remember what the movie was, but I remember the star of it. It was John Wayne. I loved John Wayne. Still do. John Wayne was one of my childhood heroes right up there with my daddy, Tarzan, and Davy Crockett.
Well, the movie had been goin’ for about 30 minutes, and ol’ John had already killed a couple of dozen Indians, shot a half dozen rustlers, and kissed a horse or two, when my life was changed.
He was talkin’ to some ol’ cowboy about somethin’, when he said a bad word. Now, I’m not goin’ to say this bad word, I’m gonna spell it. It’s H-E-L-L. As soon as it was out of his mouth, my mom turned toward me, grabbed my collar, and whispered in my ear.
“I don’t want to ever hear you say that word, you hear me?” she growled. I swallowed hard.
“Yes ma’am,” I said.
“I mean it,” she reiterated.
“Yes ma’am,” I repeated.
In a few minutes, John said it again, and Mom whipped around and looked at me really hard like. Man, I got the message. And the message was H-E-L-L must be the baddest word in the world, and obviously John Wayne was the only one allowed to use it.
Heck, I’m even afraid to say it now that I’m all grown up. I figure if I say it, Mom will jump up out of her grave and beat the crud out of me. We could say crud.
Now, if mom hadn’t made such a big deal out of that word, I probably wouldn’t have even given it a second thought, but Man, I couldn’t get it out of my head.
The very next morning was Sunday, so like every Sunday, we went to church. We belonged to a little old country church that had 14 pews, 7 on each side.
There were almost as many people in the choir loft as there were out in the congregation. We had a little old preacher that was probably as nice a person as you could ever meet, and it was a great place to worship.
Now, like I said, I was a little bitty kid, so I didn’t get to sit with my buddies, I had to sit with my mom, dad, and sister. We had our own pew, like every other family there.
My dad sat on the far left end of the pew next to the window. Mom sat next to him, then me, and then my sister Teri. Mom sat between my dad and me so she could elbow Daddy, and pinch me, in case we needed it. She didn’t worry about Teri. She was the good one in the family.
Well, bein’ a little kid, my attention span was about as long as a grain of Uncle Ben’s rice, so after about five minutes of preachin’, I was gettin’ antsy. I’d already made three paper airplanes out of church bulletins, and played a dozen games of tic-tac-toe with myself, and won every one of them, and was tryin’ to figure out what else to do, when I heard the preacher say that word. Yep, he said H-E-L-L.
I straightened up and braced myself for what I was expectin’ to be another encounter with my momma, but nothin’ happened. I slowly, without turning my head, looked side to side. Nobody was doin’ nothin’. I mean the preacher had just said the baddest word in the world and everybody was just sittin’ there.
I slowly turned my head and looked at Mom. She was listenin’ to the preacher and had a sweet little smile on her face. I leaned forward a little and looked at my dad. His eyes were halfway closed and he was gettin’ close to the point of gettin’ elbowed. I leaned back.
Surely, I must not have heard what I thought I heard. Then all of a sudden, the preacher said it again. Again, nobody did nothin’. Do you know what this meant? Yep, it meant that our preacher was badder than John Wayne. I mean he said the baddest word in the world, and my mom didn’t even flinch.
I had found me a new hero. I sat there dreamin’ that our preacher and I would become best buddies.
We’d sit around talkin’, lettin’ a bad word slip every once in awhile, and laugh about it. Well, it wasn’t long before we got our chance.
When we pulled up to church the next Sunday morning, everybody but me headed off to our Sunday school classes.
Oh, I acted like I was goin’ to mine, but when nobody was lookin’, I sneaked into the preacher’s office. He was standin’ with his back to me shufflin’ some papers on his desk when he heard the door open. He turned and looked down at me.
“Why hello Rusty,” he smiled. I closed the door.
“Hello Preacher,” I smiled back. “How the hell are you?”
Have you ever seen one of those movies where the main actor has done somethin’ and he realizes that he must have done the wrong thing, and the camera is in his face, and he stays were he’s at, but the background starts backin’ way off until it is like he standin’ in a desert or somethin’?
Well, that happened to me. And have you ever heard the expression havin’ one’s jaw drop? That preacher’s jaw dropped, and bounced off of the floor like a Super Ball.
The next thing I knew he was all over me like a Spider Monkey. He was hittin’, kickin’, and bitin’ me like I was the rat that just ate his cheese. Then, he picked me up by my collar. My little feet were runnin’, but they didn’t have the traction to get anywhere.
I could feel his hot breath on my face. His eyes were bugged out of his head. I wanted to cry, but I had forgotten how.
“Where did you hear that word?” he growled. Slobber was foamed up in the corners of his mouth. I swallowed hard.
“You said it last week in church,” I whined. Then he got a funny look on his face.
“Well…..” he stammered. “Well….. Uh….It’s OK if I say it,” he said, “because I’m a preacher.” He then put me down, and I lit a shuck (that means I got out of there, for you Yankees out there).
Fortunately, he didn’t tell my mom what I said. If he had, we wouldn’t be havin’ this conversation. I’d be strummin’ a harp somewhere. But I learned my lesson, yes siree. And the lesson I learned this. If you want to say bad words, you need to become a preacher.