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Stories My Dad Told, The Stolen Coke

My father was a plumber and an electrical repairman as well as a general do-it-yourself repairman. He taught me many valuable lessons.

My dad

My dad

Ethics

My parents were very strict about ethics. Stealing was not done. Period. My mother took us to church where we learned the Golden Rule (as Shakespeare penned it): do unto others. Today I wouldn’t think of stealing from anyone. As I was leaving the check-out line at the grocery store just the other day, I noticed that the cashier forgot to charge me for a box of tea and I just couldn’t live with myself if I left it that way. I had to bring it to her attention and pay for it. I blame (or thank) my parents for that.

Work ethics was another life lesson that my parents instilled in my upbringing. You don’t work, you don’t eat. Simple. It’s a good way to live. If we all lived like this it would be a lovely world indeed. With that in mind, I still loved the story my dad told about the stolen coke. (He called it pop.)

“Steal not this book for fear of shame

For on it is the owners name

And when you die the Lord will say

Where is the book you stole away

And when you say you do not know

The Lord will say go down below.”

— L.M. Montgomery, Emily of New Moon

Dad loved the mountains.  Here he is high in the Sierra Nevadas.

Dad loved the mountains. Here he is high in the Sierra Nevadas.

The Indiana Accent

I will try to do justice to his story adding the accent and inflection he used when telling the story. He was a southern Indiana boy, born and raised. His family accent was such that when he brought my California mother home to meet his folks, they said she was nice enough, but why couldn’t he have picked an American to marry.

As a point of explanation, my dad said there was a difference between a dog and doage. A dog is one of them little varmints that sits on your lap and is good for nothing. A doage is a hunting animal that would foller ya into the woods for a good time.

Dad telling a story with my sister and cousin.

Dad telling a story with my sister and cousin.

Kicking Dog

When you are out doing nothing in particular you were out kickin’ it with your doage. Or as Dad would say, “out kickin’ doage.” I just didn’t want anyone to think he actually kicked his dog.

My siblings and I got so used to that saying of his that we didn’t think anything of it and often used it. One day a friend called me and asked what I was doing. I replied that I was just out “kickin’ dog”. My friend was appalled and exclaimed, “YOU KICK YOUR POOR DOG?” It’s laughable to think that is what she thought because the term merely meant I was out doing nothing in particular.

The water tank behind the gas station was a low round tank with about 3 feet high walls and 5 to 6 feet across. It was used to see if there was a leak in a tire inner tube. Those were the days.

Mom and Dad

Mom and Dad

“Most people, in my opinion, steal much of what they are. If they didn't what poor items they would be.”

— Julian Barnes, England, England

The Stolen Coke

One hot summer day, ma best buddy and I were out kickin’ doage, when my buddy tol me about where we could get some free pop. We had one gas station in town and he had the habit of putting a few bottles of pop out back in the water tank ta keep ‘em cool. Ifn you was quick, you could mosy past the water tank, reach in and grab a bottle and then head for the woods out back.

Weyell, me and my buddy thought that sounded perty good sos we tried it and dern if didn’t work great. We popped the top and shared guzzlin’ it down. Fer several days acomin’ home from school we did this and was perty pleased wit ourselves.

A few days later, we was out kickin’ doage again and decided it was hot enough for a pop. We sauntered past the gas pumps to the back where the tank was. Ah reached in and grabbed the bottle and off we trotted to the woods. Ah popped that top and took a giant swig and handed it to ma buddy. After he took a swig and started spewin’ and sputterin’ that black liquid all over, I spewed ma mouthful out too. Ah tasted that motor oil first but I waddn’t goin’ let on till my buddy got a sizable dose as well. That gas station owner got wise to bottles of pop missin’ so he filled a bottle with motor oil. That’ll learnt us from pilferin’.

Life Lessons

At six years old, my daily trek to the bus stop for school took me past a corner store. It was a “mom-and-pop” type store back in those days, not the big corporate chain stores you see today. The owner knew all the people in the neighborhood and their kids. Each day I would walk past those candy stands and they spoke to me. “Come eat me. There are plenty. No one will miss just one.” Finally, the day came when I just couldn’t resist stopping and pondering the thought that no one would miss just one. I was carrying my clear plastic rain-slick in a clear plastic bag with handles it came with. I figured I could slide it into my bag and no one would be the wiser. However, my first step across the line into larceny wasn’t too wise. I must have stood there pondering long enough for the owner to notice me. Before I could leave, he stopped me and asked to see my bag. I lifted it for him to look at from the front but he wanted to see the back. And there clear as day was the candy bar I had slid into the clear plastic bag. He gave me a very effective “disappointed dad” look and told me if I put it back and didn’t do it again he wouldn’t call my mother.

That day, at six-year-old, a lifetime of larceny was averted. I didn’t like constricted feeling in the pit of my stomach at being caught. I recognized I wasn’t clever enough or stealthy enough to hide the candy between the layers of my rain-slick and knew I was no good at stealing. Finally, I never wanted my mom to find out about my indiscretion. She would have killed me.

Dad caught me on the way down.

Dad caught me on the way down.

“The petty thief is imprisoned but the big thief becomes a feudal lord.”

— Zhuangzi, The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu

Final Thoughts

Have you ever stolen anything before? Were you caught? Do you regret it? I’d love to read your thoughts and stories in the comments below.

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