1964 was a hard year for Mississippi. The Civil Rights War rolled across the South. People were taking sides. There were some heated arguments.
My Dad didn’t care for any of that. He didn’t have time for what he called “shenanigans.”
He was a working man.
He liked running a drilling rig. He just wanted to feed his family, buy a house, live part of the American dream. He was trying to survive with an eighth grade education.
If you asked, he’d tell you how much he enjoyed working on the rigs. He liked working a crew of roughnecks.
He knew how to move and build a 100 foot tall drilling rig in the middle of nowhere. He knew how to drill a hole two miles deep and line it with steel pipe. If oil was there, he could make an oil well.
The rigs ran 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He stayed pretty busy.
He didn’t have time for politics.
The holes he drilled were always on the edge of a swamp, deep in the woods or in the middle of a cow pasture. Sometimes the location would be a mile from the nearest gravel road.
Fifteen miles from the nearest red light.
Late one night, he was on his way home, wanting to spend a few hours with our family. He never talked about the civil rights war going on. He measured a man by the work he did, not the color of his skin.
It was after midnight.
Driving around a curve, on a gravel road in Southwest Mississippi he ran into a road block. Men in white sheets, wearing pointed hats, carrying bright flashlights stood in the middle of the road. They waved for him to stop.
They had a lot of questions. He didn’t care to talk to them. He was tired. It had already been a long day. He wanted to go home.
They made some threats. Something about their road and their county and their people.
He didn’t take to being threatened easily. He had spent his entire adult life working with roughnecks. Tough guys working in a tough job without compromise.
He had been wrestling with steel pipe for the past twenty years. He had arms about the size of most men’s thighs. His back was strong.
He could work twenty four hours without sleep. He was not amused at all.
Again, they threatened him. That didn’t work.
Then they tried to recruit him, asking him if he’d like to join up and be one to wear a sheet and stand in the middle of the road after midnight.
Years later he and I talked about that night.
“Mike, I looked those people, standing there, talking about hating and what they could do and what they would do. I didn’t need any part of that foolishness.” He was older, softened by the years, but still a strong man.
“Dad, what happened?”
“I told him to kiss my ass.”
Thank you Dad.
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