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Daddy, the Teaser

Daddy was a child of the Great Depression. He had few toys. The few he had were, more likely than not, homemade. Besides, there was little money to buy such frivolities and little time for playing. He had to go to school, and he had to work, helping his father make ends meet for the family.

He was the son of a farmer-country store operator. For a time, he lived above the little store his father owned at the corner of Hill and Fort Sumter Roads in the rural community of Halls Crossroads, just across Black Oak Ridge from Fountain City and, beyond, Knoxville.

But that is not to say that Daddy had no fun. In high school, he was part of a modeling club, the members of which scratch built their own model airplanes from balsa wood. (He's third from the right on the back row of the accompanying photo of the clubmembers showing off their works in progress.)

Daddy also had a bicycle, and he sometimes rode with neighbor boys, such as his cousin Kyle Arnold and the Coomer brothers, Charlie and Bud. Far from their minds as they played were thoughts of adulthood and their ultimate careers: milk deliveryman (Charlie), mortician (Bud), air force crewman (Kyle), and farmer-brick mason (Daddy).

Daddy loved to tease. That required no money, no toys, and little time or effort, but it brought him great enjoyment.

I can still see him tickling the hair between our dog's paw pads while she was sleeping and laughing giddily when she'd kick in response. He also enjoyed practical jokes. One cold day, a man working with him, having forgotten his coat, complained of being cold. Daddy, straightfaced, told him he should go into the house under construction, find scraps of fiberglass insulation that were laying around, and stuff them under his shirt and down the sleeves. The man did so and itched all day. Daddy laughed then and every time he recalled that incident.

Daddy's teasing and practical jokes originated in his childhood, and he intended them to be good, clean fun. That was how he showed that he liked someone. If he didn't like someone, he just let them be. No joking. No teasing. But not all of his jokes or teasing ended up with his laughing at the expense of someone else. Sometimes the joke was on him. Like the time he and Kyle were gathering eggs and Daddy locked Kyle in the henhouse. Daddy laughed then but not later!

You'll find the end result of that escapade (as well as other stories of Daddy's childhood) in Chapter 2 of my book Look Unto the Hills: Stories of Growing Up in Rural East Tennessee ().

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