Posts Tagged ‘taternator’

The Summer of ’93, I think it was.

I had not quite met Cruel Wife at that time, being a few months off before that particular Life Story.

There was to be a gathering in my hometown at my folks’ house and everyone was going to be there.  As it turned out my nephew wanted to come and my brother dropped him off in a town on the way and a college buddy/roommate and I picked him up.  The roommate from college, who I’ll call “The Wetback”…

GOV’T CORRECTNESS  POLICE AGENT:  Stop the presses!  STO-O-O-O-P THE PRESSES! Hey, there’s a blogger named… uh… Lemur King… he just used the “W” word… the derogatory term.  You want us to send out a team to bag him and tag him?  What?  He had a disclaimer?  Sure, I’ll read it to the guys…

(and it read like this)

Yes, I called one of my dearest friends “The Wetback”.  We’ve known each other since roughly 1988, we’ve roomed together off and on over the years first in college and then when he moved into the same town I did years later.  His parents were originally from Mexico.  His mom was my second mom.  She was fantastic and she did a great job raising him and his siblings largely by herself, and I miss her terribly.  You could meet her once and you felt like you’d known her forever, she was so genuine.  Cruel Wife could attest to that.

It happened that one day in college we had a particularly rough term, finals were looming, we were on edge, and I needled him with a family joke.  We were watching TV and he noted something that actually was very profound.  A minute later I said “Not bad for a wetback.”  Now, in (most of) my blood family you can say just about anything as long as the other person knows that you mean anything but that.  I would never say this to someone if I didn’t know them and care about them.  Strange but true, that’s the way I am.  I can say to Cruel Wife things that would sound like the most awful stuff and people will be horrified, but they should know that if I had actually meant it, she’d have killed me.

Case #1: She was pregnant.  Lying on the bed on her back to take the load off her back.  I ran into the bedroom with a spray bottle screaming “Keep her wet until we can get her back in the water!  GO GO GO!”  (spritz spritz spritz)

Case #2: She would waddle by (pregnantly) and I would affectionately call out “Moooooooooo”.   And she would mooo back.   One of the church ladies was pissed at me, until Cruel Wife said “relax, he doesn’t mean it and he says that sort of thing if everything is ok, if he stops, something is wrong”.

And she is right.  I mock the situation, the circumstances, the facts, the scenario, I don’t aim to hurt the person.  If she thought I’d meant it, I’d be dead.   She is too good of a shot with a .357 Magnum.

So a few minutes later, his arm pistons out, shoves me violently off the couch and I slam into my butt, causing (additional) minor brain damage.  Very quietly in a Clint Eastwood kind of way (which I really envy to this day) he mutters “Don’t call me a wetback.”

A week later I left my shoes out in the middle of the floor.  Wetback tied the laces permanently through the rungs of a chair.  I cut them off since I was late for class and I used my knife, which was then plunged through Wetback’s calculus book through half the thickness, and left there as a message.   A week after that, we traded punches over and over for about 45 minutes, leaving each other black and blue over 50% of our arms.  It was pretty damned awful looking, my arm, and one of my profs said “WHAT happened to you?”   I pointed at The Wetback and said “He did it.”  Our prof said “WHY?”   The Wetback pointed at me and said “He did it” and raised his shirt arm to show his awful bruises, which didn’t look as bad given that he has dark skin.  Our prof just shook his head and went away because we hadn’t really answered his question.

Three years later, he moved in for a year when he got a job in the same town I lived in.

Fifteen years ago he was the best man at my wedding.

I’m calling him The Wetback.  Get over it.

GOV’T CORRECTNESS  POLICE AGENT #2: Whoa?  Really?  It says that?  Ok, we can’t wax this guy – let him go.

So where was I?  Oh yes, The Wetback (hereinafter just ‘Wetback’) and I picked up my nephew, who we will call… The Teacher.  Yes, that will work nicely.  We drove six or so hours to my my folks’ house and crashed.  It was a good trip but three guys in a Jeep’s front seat is too friendly for that long of a trip.

Next day was bright and sunny, a great Oregon summer day.  Fourth of July, or was it the 3rd?  Must’ve been the 3rd since we found a hardware store.

My brother-in-law, who we’ll call my brother-in-law (oh fine then, if you must have a name let’s call him BiL) brought a buddy of his along who I will call Six Cans Short of a Six Pack (SCSSP) because the man is totally insane.  So BiL and SCSSP are telling me, Wetback, and Teacher about a New Thing.

We hadn’t heard of one, anyway.

Lemur King:  A Potato Gun?  Oh.  That’s great.  Great, guys.  We carry little plastic pistols around, stick ’em in a spud, and shoot little potato pills at each other.  Great.  I’m going to go get a beer, let me know how that goes.

SCSSP said “No, no, no, no, no…” and starts sketching on a pad of paper what he’s talking about.

I whipped out my wallet and said “Yep, I got cash, let’s go.”

We got the parts mostly to his specs except that I insisted that we make everything a bit bigger.

We were just finishing putting it together when my grandparents drove up.

So Granddad gets out of the car and says “What you got there, Lemur?”   Grandma shakes her head and goes in with the wimminfolk.

“Lemur” was not my grandfather’s name for me.  He used a name that no one else used, it had no profanity laced into it, and he was the only person I’ll ever allow to call me by that name, even as close as it is to my real one.  This was a cool thing.  Just sayin’ he didn’t call me “Lemur”.

Also, Granddad gets to keep his official title.  No false stage names – I respect him too much for that.

Sketches of my grandfather…

  • Telling me when I got hurt in the mill “No offense, Lemur, but there are easier ways to get out of work, and this wasn’t the smartest way, either.”
  • After announcing our engagement, Granddad asking if Cruel Wife’s family was rich. I said no they weren’t rich. “Well, you let me down, Lemur, you were supposed to marry a filthy-rich gal and keep the family well-cared for.” I don’t think it mattered in the least as long as she gave him a big hug whenever we came to visit. Cruel Wife and I came out one time, and Granddad said “Come here and give me a hug. All my girls give me a hug.” She hugged him and gave him a big smack on the cheek and said “I’ll give you one better.” Granddad looked a bit surprised and gave her a smile.
  • One year granddad had been telling mom not to grab a crab the way she was doing it (had been for years).  I heard him tell her several times that one day alone.  Then there was an “AAAAAAH!” and mom was on her knees as this crab mangled her index finger.  Granddad got up really slow and calm-like, reached into his pocket to get his knife, picked the blade he wanted, stepped  over and grabbed mom’s now-bloody hand and pried the claw open.  He whipped the crab around violently and gooshed it silly against the pier.  Then he went over and sat down again and said softly “I told you, Joansey, not to grab ’em that way.”   Boy, let me tell you, that was a thrilling couple of minutes.  Her anger rolled off of him like water off a duck’s back.  He was a master and I wasn’t even a grasshopper.

I said “Granddad, this is a Spud Gun” and bursting with pride I held it up so he could inspect it.

It was black ABS 4″ pipe, the combustion chamber was about 2-1/2 feet long, it narrowed down to a 1-1/2″ section that was about five feet long, maybe six.   Picture a seven to eight foot long black bazooka that fires potatoes.  It glinted darkly in the sunlight.

One of my favorite memories of my granddad, who I’d kill to see this day, was sitting on the deck figuring out the best way to fire this new toy.  Let’s see, he’d have been mid 80’s about then, so you have him, myself, Wetback, Teacher, BiL, SCSSP, and my dad.   Have we named my dad on the Folly yet?  I don’t think so.  We’ll call him Sparky even though we probably won’t use the name in this posting.  So here’s this old gentleman sitting with us younger fellas discussing how much Aqua Net hairspray should be used, how tight the potato should be in the barrel, hand positioning when lighting it, etc.

We learned as a group of men with varying amounts of beer do, through trial and error, and eventually happened upon the perfect mixture to send a potato on a ballistic trajectory that ended up about 150-200 yards away.  It was amazing.

Much like the horrifically dangerous time before seat-belts and bicycle helmets we somehow managed to survive this, too.

I clearly remember our failed attempts to hit a cow down in the field.

GOV’T BOVINE PROTECTION AGENCY AGENT:  (dropping his surveillance equipment with a gasp) Whoa!  Whoa, whoa, whoa!  He said WHAT???  Did he say what I thought he said?  We’re gonna go down there and…

GBPA Agent #2:  (Sipping his Diet Tab)  Easy, killer.  This family does this sh*t all the time.  They’ve got a grandfather clause, we can’t touch ’em.

GBPA Agent Chorus:  Aw, man!  This SUCKS!

GBPA Agent #2:  I’m telling you, leave ’em alone unless you like lots of paperwork and public apologies…

Where was I?  Annoying fellas, aren’t they?

Oh yes, I clearly remember our failed attempts to hit a cow down in the field.

Granddad said, “Aim it down a few degrees next time, Lemur…” We did and on the next shot or so, we hit ourselves a cow.  Amazing, the things you can learn from your Granddad.

The cow leapt up in the air about five feet, which is good for a cow at-rest.  Bovine inertia is not like other inertia.   Four hooves went in four directions and then it came down and hit the ground running.  It stopped, went back to where it was, and found a warm meal waiting for it.

Also amazing is how this story started as a story about a spud gun, but ended up about my granddad.  I can think of much worse ways to end up.



The cow was not permanently harmed and in fact got a warm meal of fries for it’s trouble.

The spud gun was christened “The Taternator” and was used that day to fire everything from potatoes, rocks, crabapples, and a handful of mustard packets.  It was last seen in southeastern Washington, west of Walla-walla and has not been seen since.

The cow and its companion were very tasty with ketchup and a pickle.

The Taternator features in several more stories before the time that it was lost.

Lemur’s granddad, Buck, lived for eight more years, lives on in his family’s memories, and is sorely missed by Lemur.

This story is the starting place for a concurrent story called “Cutting the Mustard”.

The Gov’t Bovine Protection Agency now checks that lids of each and every shipment of Play-doh is tightly secured prior to shipping.  They are *that* good.

Lemur and Wetback continue contact to this day.

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