Sunday, October 28, 2012

Happy Birthday, Pert

Raymond Harold "Pert" Woolum 10-28-1930-June 1, 1996


Had my father not died sixteen years ago, he would have turned eighty-two years old today.

One of the really fun things about returning home to Kellogg is running into the many people who knew Dad and are eager to tell me how much they enjoyed him.

Even more fun is when I meet someone who doesn't know me but knew my dad.  It happened on Labor Day just last month.

I was at a get together and met one of the Waldo brothers, either Dave or Jon (I confuse them), and when Ed introduced me to him, we shook hands and it happened.

A slow smile came over his face.

"Jesus Christ.  Are you Pert's kid?"

"Yeah.  I sure am."

"No shit.  Man...." The smile grew.  "I loved that man.  We had more goddamn fun on that golf course....."

He shook his head, chuckling.

"Yeah. Dad told great stories about you guys."

Those stories Dad told were never about golfing success.  They were stories about wild drives, lost balls, coolers of beer, epic failures, and time spent at the 19th hole.

Whether Dad was on the front nine, the back nine, or at the 19th hole, he loved to give his friends shit, laugh at stories and stuff that happened, and make grandiose statements.

 Dad loved it when people gave him shit.

Jake loves to tell me the story about when our friend Boob brought a Japanese kid home to Kellogg from the U.S. Navy.

For reasons I'll never understand, Dad started calling this young soldier "Chicken Yamaguchi".  I think Dad used to tell a joke that went something like, "Do you know the name of the only surviving Kamikazi pilot?"  The answer:  "Chicken Yamaguchi".  Go figure.  But I think that joke is where the name came from.

Anyway, Boob's friend asked Boob, "Who is this guy and why does he keep calling me Chicken Yamaguchi?"

Boob answered, "He's a family friend.  I've known him all my life.  Just go over and call him a Fat One-Eyed Son of a Bitch.  See what happens."

So, the kid did that and Dad laughed and laughed and put his arm around the soldier and said something to the effect of "You're all right, kid" and before long was inviting him to have dinner at our house, stay with us if he ever needed a place, and probably was ready to put him in his will.

Dad was overweight.  That's why people called him fat.  He was blind in one eye and loved being called Fat, One-Eyed, and a Son of a Bitch.

On the golf course, he'd hit a lousy shot and someone would flip him shit about his belly.

Dad's classic response:  "Keep it up, pup.  Just remember, it all turns to cock at midnight."

I must have heard him tell that one a million times and every time the words "cock at midnight" escaped his lips, no matter how many times friends and fellow golfers had heard it before, they laughed like he'd said it for the first time.

Dad's death makes me think about a heaven of my own imagining.

I imagine Dad in a place in heaven reserved for perfect bullshitters.  Mike Turner is there.  So is Art Listoe. And Dick Costa.  Bob Turnbow has gained entry. Many more Kellogg men are there.  Recently, Floyd Williams and Ralph Braun found their way to a table or a corner of a bar where weak coffee is served and the bullshit flies.

It's what Dad lived for:  shooting the shit, giving people shit, and getting shit back.

He loved his friends and he loved to laugh.

It's why when I meet people back in Kellogg who knew my dad, but didn't know me, they get a far away look, smile, shake their head, chuckle, and say, "No shit. You're Pert's kid?  I loved that man."

3 comments:

Christy Woolum said...

Even though I wasn't around when the real bullshit flew on the golf course or at the zinc plant, I can only imagine. I love him for protecting us "women" most of the time from the coarse side of life.Remember that corner is full of dogs also. One of Bob Turnbow's favorite lines was "If I come back to Earth I want to be a Turnbow dog."

raymond pert said...

You know, I forget about the protection thing...that protection sure ended once I stepped foot in the Cell Room...man, I heard dad cut loose with language I didn't know he knew! I didn't know Bob Turnbow used to day that about being a Turnbow dog. Ha! That's a good one. Here's hoping Snug is healed of his anxiety in this little corner of heaven!

Lura said...

I have the dubious honor of barhopping all over Kellogg with Uncle Pert and your Aunt Ruth. What a great time. Everyone in every bar (and I think we hit them all) knew him and were quick to bs and swap stories. He introduced "his wonderful niece" at every waterhole to anyone who would pay attention. Good time was had by all...especially me. BTW, Grandma Woolum, Aunt Lila, and MIWW were waiting at home for us.