Night before we locked our doors

This column originally appeared in the Anderson (S.C.) Independent-Mail, 3 August 1987:

The night before we started locking our doors

By B. J. Trotter

When I was a kid I slept by an open, screenless window to breathe cool night air and allow my German shepherd “Jack Dog” entry to my room.

That was in a safer time, remember, when folks never shut their windows or locked their doors.

It’s not difficult to pinpoint the day my parents decided to start locking the doors to our house. It all started during the night before with a “half nelson,” and to this day the incident brings riotous laughter at family gatherings.

Around 3 a.m. on Jan. 17, 1953, my parents and I awoke to the screams of my kid brother Isaac, then an 8-year-old, “Somebody’s sleeping in my bed!”

He had awakened to find, snoring by his side, a lady wrestler, bleached blonde and clothed in a tiger-skin costume complete with tight-laced black boots.

My daddy approached this oversized Goldilocks cautiously. After some gentle and certainly gentlemanly prodding, he roused the lady – all 250 pounds of her. Had we known her strength, we probably would have let her be and checked into a Holiday Inn.

With a war whoop, Goldilocks was out of the bed and plastering my daddy to the floor with a painful hammerlock.

My kid brother and Jack Dog sniffled in the corner as Daddy struggled to get free. As my mother ran to call the police, I watched in fascination. This was much better stuff than the “Gillette Cavalcade of Sports.”

As the lady switched to a half nelson, the faint sound of sirens caught her ear. She freed my daddy, rose with another war whoop, grabbed the chenille bedspread and fled through our open door into the night.

Two policemen came to call that night, and their family gatherings probably are filled with laughter, also, as they recall the scene.

After a dozen or so “Let’s get this straights” and some apprehensive glances into the night, two of the city’s “finest” tiptoed to their squad car to radio for backup.

It seemed Goldilocks, herself a little smashed, smashed her car into a nearby telephone pole and, seeking warmth from the January cold, took our open door up on its welcome.

That night has been recalled many times.

The lady wrestler finally was ferreted out of a neighborhood washeteria by five brave policemen who found her sleeping blissfully and harmlessly in the warmth of a dryer.

My daddy who was blind but never handicapped liked to tell his own version of “The Lady or the Tiger,” saying he thought he was wrestling something just escaped from the nearby zoo.

My brother has taken some bawdy ribbing through the years about his blonde bed partner.

My mother swears she picked up some pointers that night that served her well in the remaining years of her 61-year marriage.

Jack Dog? Well, Jack Dog died after years of trying to live down the night he failed Guard Dog 101.

As for myself, I throw the deadbolts and yearn for those days of unrestricted early morning breezes when “B & E” had nothing to do with a police report and meant something good my mother was cooking up for breakfast.

Mother, Daddy and Jack Dog have gone to that great open door in the sky. My brother Isaac is 62, and when I published a family newsletter to commemorate the year 2000, he insisted this family story be included.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I remember those days too. My Dad use to say, "If anyone is after me, I don't want to have to stop to unlock a door. I want to keep running."

The night before we locked our doors, a drunk brother-in-law came to the house with a .38 pistol in his belt looking for my sister and their babies. Their last one born 10 days before my youngest sister. Mama ask if he wanted to see our new baby, which he did.

Then he said, "Damn good thing that's not my baby (a boy) or everyone here would be dead for lying to me."

Needless to say, I was about to do more than just shaking in my boots that dusky dark evening. Starts with the same letter though!