A HOLE IN THE FLOOR
Sometimes, at least for a kid, the simplest things can turn into a giant mess. The example of that is a small hole in the floor of my back porch. The hole in question was not very big at all. Couldn’t have been any bigger than an old silver fifty cent piece. For those too young to remember, the coin was worth fifty cents, of course, but most times it was said to be a half dollar. Anyway, that was the size of this particular hole. I wanted to clear that up because holes will come in many different sizes and shapes. This little guy was in a pine floor board and created when a knot fell out and dropped down to the dirt floor under the house. As kids, we always called that area, our basement. Really though, it was only a dirt floor under our unfinished back porch. Dad had left this floor like that for many years. Normally there would be another layer of boards on top of the subfloor and then some ugly carpet, since it was still the nineteen fifties. The house that this hole belongs to, is where I have lived most of my life. Nearly seventy years old and it was carefully hand built by my dad. Every piece of wood here has his stamp or imprint on it, in some fashion or another. Many years in to the future of this story, my parents would vacate this house, and I became the owner and guardian of thousands of memories. Episodes that can be recalled, mostly by me, in that flash of time it takes lightening to strike. When that mysterious process happens, it enables the images of those memories created. The good and bad times, from our daily living, will come alive and dance in my head. No matter where I look in the house or outside in the yard, flashes of inspiration rush to greet me like the quick flash of lightening on a stormy evening. Sometimes the flood of those times fly to me in a jumbled mess and my brain tells me to sit and think for a few minutes. I like to do that more and more since I have retired. I don’t have big collections of coins, stamps, or even those pesky “Beanie Babies,” from the king of fast food places with the big yellow arches. I often think I should put together a collection of some sort. Maybe some old collector cars from the era of my teen years, the muscle cars of the 1960’s. Some of my friends have such things. My wife however cannot see past the small single car garage that comes with this house. That’s alright, I don’t have the energy anymore to shuffle parts around and tend to the daily upkeep and dedicate the proper time to those things. I have plenty of time to recall all the good and bad times, in the “house of dad.” Like most everyone I know, we had both. But this story is a very simple one and only has four little boys and a dad as the main characters. As it turns out dad was one very unhappy parent. We didn’t understand his reaction back then and it still seems a little over the top to this day.
The temperament of the times was definitely us against him. Four little boys and neighbor Mike made five. It’s hard to remember whose idea it was first. Instead of opening the door and walking twenty feet to the bathroom, logic told us we would be better served by peeing into that little hole and then the urine would dry up in to the dirt under the house. Not a problem for us. We were prolific thinkers and pressed for time, especially when we played monopoly on the floor of the porch. So, picture this and try to do it through the eyes of a young boy between eight and thirteen. Whoa, I know, that’s tough for even me to grasp, and I was the youngest of that bunch. Well now wait, my friend Mike is two months younger. He seemed older and wiser though, because his dad had a pin ball machine in their basement. I mean, really, come on.
Anytime nature called to “release the hound,” well, to the hole we would go. Now, I never understood why the closest cousin to my age always had to go when I did. Sixty years later though, I get it. It’s like when a new dog urinates on the exact spot the first dog did. It’s clearly a case of domination. He always wanted to be the boss and make sure that I knew. Trouble was I didn’t know it back then. It was just fun to pee down the hole and try not to miss. Splatter on a hard board will bounce. If you are too close, well, let’s just say we were always bare foot in those days.
Five little boys, urinating in that hole three or four times per day each. Wow, that’s maybe a gallon of urine a day. Speckled into the dirt four feet below with no ventilation whatsoever. We never smelled anything. But one day dad, “went below” as he called it. We did not pay much attention. Dad’s did what dad’s did and we didn’t want to know, not really. He might have required some help and none of us liked it in that dark space under the house. Spiders, lots of spiders. That’s is what dad always told us was down there. So, in a way it’s his own fault. We were just killing spiders.
So, dad “went below,” and we played monopoly on the screened in back porch. We might have been five feet from our porch latrine and dad, well, he was on the same sniffing level as gallons of urine that had poured in and soaked into the dirt below. My oldest cousin was just making a deal to buy board walk from his little brother for two thousand dollars and his get out of jail free card, when Richard, the oldest cousin had to pee. Of course, he went for the hole and released the fire hose. I know what you are thinking. Why did Richard have a fire hose and I just had a small dog? I never thought it was right either. The big dog or the fire hose, never arrived for me, even later in life. So, we were startled by a huge pounding noise on the floor below us. We thought dad might be having a heart attack or seizure. The floor beneath our bottoms vibrated like a base drum and the ear shattering howls and bellowing from below sounded like a raving lunatic had taken refuge in our basement. But, the real question for us was, did dad get upset because of the stink under the floor or did Richard’s fire hose spew forth onto dad’s head when he was below? We kind of thought it was the last one, because when we all ran outside dad was under the front yard garden hose washing his face. Now the cousins, as usual, they all stuck together and didn’t squeal on Richard. They were brothers. Understandable.
We were all lined up like inmates that had tried to escape. Backs against the garage wall. It was nice though that dad had let us get in the shade. I think that was one of the hottest summers on record. Worried looks flitted from one to the other. Spanking? Were we in for a spanking? Nah, dad never raised a hand to us. Just when we thought we were off the hook, mom came through the garage door. Solemn looking and carrying the official spanking device. The wooden, red handled, steel bladed pancake turner. She carried it in her left hand, but the punishment was always delivered by the right hand. Mom was the official coordinator of all corporal punishment. She told us to turn around and drop those britches. It seems funny now, we never wore pants. It was always britches. But of course, we knew what she meant and it was not funny at all. Richard got his five whacks with the steel blade and never said a word. He was like that. A man even at thirteen. It was good that he was a man early in life, because eight years later he would perish in a car wreck. When it was all finished, she had delivered twenty five whacks with that steel blade. Yes indeed, in case you were wondering, Mike got his fair share too. That’s the way things were back then. You misbehave at someone else’s house, you get punished there and at home. I was the only one that whimpered. It was because the pain was unbearable. No, my feelings were hurt, that mom would spank me, her only true son. My guess is she never even considered that. Anytime I was punished it felt like she never did understand the difference.