My father often faced difficult moral questions posed by us kids — you know, like “Dad, why don’t you just tell the neighbors you don’t know what happened? That way they won’t know it was me who ran over their fence with the lawn mower.”
His answer was always “No, it just isn’t right.”
He didn’t say that just because there were no witnesses, or that the mower had left little evidence. He said it because he knew it was wrong to lie and he didn’t want us to lie either.
But instead of saying “No, because you’re not supposed to lie,” he would simply say “It isn’t right.”
Dad let us figure out the rest.
His method was often ambiguous, but it was the correct one. It was how he encouraged us to make our own choices — even if he had to give us a thoughtful “it just isn’t right”-push.
While my father was teaching us valuable moral lessons like that, he was also busy working us like dogs — although he never thought so.
Apparently overlooking every child-labor law on the books, dad had us working each summer picking rocks.
Yes, you read it right, picking rocks.
Just like a chain gang, we’d pick rocks out of our admittedly rocky lawn and load them up in a wheelbarrow and dump them in another part of our lawn.
At times, we wondered if we were simply moving last year’s batch of stones to next year’s location. I can’t prove it, but I think that’s the case.
Dad ran a pretty tight sweatshop and I liken the experience to what prisoners did way back when, especially in old “Droopy” cartoons.
Cartoon prisoners were always smashing rocks and hauling them somewhere. However, they also got to hit one another with sledgehammers.
My brother, my sister and I never had that much fun picking up lousy old rocks.
Those long summer days did prove one thing — I should keep out of the way of my sister.
In an act of cartoon physics, she rolled a big stone on my thumb and broke it.
Hey, I guess that IS kind of like hitting someone with a sledgehammer. She’s so lucky — she learned the value of hard work, like all us kids, and whalloped me good, just like a cartoon.