Old Thunder wasn’t the greatest gift after all

By Bob Huber

In case you haven’t noticed, this is that wonderful time of year when we celebrate Father’s Day. (Pause here for drum roll.)
Warning: No matter that your daughter gave you a bolo tie with a Girl Scout emblem on it, or that your son gave you a birthstone ring made of cement, or that your wife rolls on the floor cackling with laughter, it’s the tangled webs posing as thoughts that count.
But first, let’s look into Father’s Day, its history, its wealth of tradition, its wake of electric razors and purple polka dot neckties. It began in l938, near as I can tell, when I was hard pressed to come up with a Father’s Day gift.
Always the practical one, Mom said, “How much money you got?”
“I had a quarter on Wednesday,” I said, “but my addiction to dime store candy eroded it somewhat.”
“You stole that quarter from my egg jar,” she said. “Give me the change, and I’ll think of something while you get a switch.”
You can see Mom was tender hearted when it came to my quandaries, but this time she couldn’t get her mind off that stolen quarter. She placed her egg jar full of change in plain view on the kitchen table and in her most soothing voice said, “If you touch that jar again, I’ll nail your hide to the barn door.” (That was her favorite edict.)
In desperation I turned to my friend Smooth Heine and said, “I need a gift for Dad, but I don’t have any money. What do I do?”
“Relax,” Smooth said. “I’ll save the day. We’ll make a gift.”
I should have turned away, because I’d been around Smooth enough to know that when he “made” something, I suffered. But I was desperate. I said, “Like what?”
“Like — let me see — like a man-sized BEANIE!” Smooth shouted.
I should step aside here to explain that a beanie in those days was made of a Y-shaped tree limb you spent hours searching for. You carved it out of the tree, tied strips of old inner tube to the top of the Y and added a leather pouch to the dangling rubber to hold small river rocks.
But my dad was a big man with at least 10 times my strength, so it was decided to use a dozen giant strips of inner tube on each extremity leading to the leather pouch. “I can’t budge it,” I told Smooth.
“Naturally,” Smooth said. “It’s made special for your dad. With his strength he’ll pull that leather back and — bam! — kill a bear deader’n a door nail.”
I ran to show Mom, but she wasn’t impressed. “What do you call that?” she said.
“Old Thunder,” I said. “It’s a humongous beanie.”
The next morning as we sat around the breakfast table, Dad opened his Father’s Day gifts, the first one being a fancy-wrapped present from my sister, Gazelda the Fifth Columnist.
“My, my, a handkerchief,” he said. “I sure need one.”
Gazelda glanced at me with a sly smile. (Ha, ha, dummy. Beat that.)
“And what’s in this package?” Dad said. He opened my gift and gingerly pulled out Old Thunder. He glanced first at me, then at Mom, and back at Old Thunder.
“I made it,” I said. “It’s got 500-horsepower. Let’s go test fire it.”
I won’t go into detail about how Dad fired Old Thunder, except to say his face took on a maroon hue as he slowly cocked it, and the cords in his neck stood out like spring wire. By the time he got it fully pulled, I could hear the muscles in his back snapping. I wasn’t old enough to know about paternal pride.
When he let Old Thunder fly, his stone, the size of an egg, flashed into the melon patch, exploded two cantaloupe, bounced off a fence post, ricocheted off the tin roof of the chicken house, and slammed through the kitchen window and into Mom’s egg jar causing an explosion of coins.
I don’t want to say Old Thunder was a total success as a gift on Father’s Day, because it caused Dad to walk with a starboard tilt the rest of his life. But it turned out to be a source of ready cash for me for many months.
I could always find a coin or two under cabinets or tucked away in corners of the kitchen, and that certainly made a happy, memorable Father’s Day for me.

Bob Huber is a retired journalist living in Portales. He can be contacted at 356-3674.