One of the constants when I was growing up was that my dad liked to drink and have a good time. I’m not condemning him in any way. Those are just the facts. He also had a group of friends that he liked playing cards with. For a while there it seemed like he was gone all weekend almost every weekend playing cards at one friend’s house or another.
Our mother got married very young and although I think she knew and knows our father loved her very much she also had a jealous streak a mile wide as evidenced by my sister’s post here. For a while there, my dad had his friends come to our house to play poker. I think this was our mother’s attempt to “keep him at home”.
This would make for some very interesting weekends and stories to say the least. It seemed once these guys got started playing nothing pretty much stopped them and they could go pretty much for the whole weekend. They would occasionally move to the living room to allow my mother access to the kitchen so she could cook them a meal and they would eat and go right back to playing.
We lived in a trailer. The land was not level so one side, the side where my parent’s bedroom was sat on the ground but the opposite side, where my bedroom was sat a good 5 feet off the ground and you could pretty much walk underneath that end. In fact, I remember several times some of my dad’s friends standing out there drunk as skunks laughing and singing “Peggy Sue” to the top of their lungs outside my window. Some of these friends actually lived several hours away at the beach and would just come in for the weekends.
The back door was halfway down the hall between the kitchen and my bedroom and was a good three to four feet off the ground and when we first moved there we hadn’t put any steps up yet so if they got drunk, which they generally did, and forgot, they were in for quite a shock when they decided to “step outside and take care of business” as they were wont to do. I can remember many a night hearing (from the safe confines of my bedroom) one or more of my dad’s friends yelling (after I heard the heavy thud of their drunken body hitting the ground) “G D Pete! When are you gonna put some steps out here?” And my dad roaring with laughter in answer to them. I think he rather enjoyed watching them limp back to the table brushing the dirt off their pants. Maybe he thought it threw them off their game and gave him an advantage?
I do remember if there was something I wanted to do coming up, I would always wait until his “poker parties” to ask him (after he was pretty drunk) because I had a much more likelihood of him saying yes then. Not sure if it was because he was drunk or just trying to get rid of me but either way, it worked for me!
I remember he would usually wear a hat of some kind when he was playing to shield his eyes so that they couldn’t “read his face”. I have some pictures of times he took it one step further and not only had on the hat but he’d let me and my little sister “dress him up”… again, I don’t know if it was all the beer and shine or if it was just so we’d be happy and then leave them alone. I also seem to remember my brothers coming home lots of times to play with them.
There was a bar between the kitchen and living room and that’s where they guys put their beers, cigarettes, etc. to keep the “playing surface” clean pretty much. There is one particular night that stands out in my memory. My brothers had come home to play and my oldest brother did not smoke but he did chew tobacco. I remember my dad used to always fuss at him about it being such a nasty and disgusting habit.
I think partially to keep my dad from fussing he would spit his gross tobacco “juice” into an empty beer bottle. I mean it was dark brown so you couldn’t see it inside it, right? Yeah, I think you see where I’m going with this. Sometime during the course of the evening my brother set his “spit bottle” on the bar, you got it, right beside my dad’s beer. My dad grabbed the bottle and turned it up and swigged about half of it down before he realized what he’d done. He got the funniest look on his face, cursed at my brother that he was gonna kill him as soon as he got back and ran out the front door to throw up. My brother ran out the back door even though he knew the step wasn’t there because he was scared my dad really would do it and my dad’s friends sat there around the table having a great laugh at both their expenses.
And as terrible or gross as that may sound, I was actually jealous. Jealous because my brother got to join in the “fun” and I was never allowed because I was a girl. I think I would have chanced the beating just to be “accepted” into their inner sanctum. To be considered “one of the boys”. Maybe that was why I loved riding motorcycles? But that is for another post. In the meantime… enjoy this Poker Face.