I first experienced this strange gift at about the age of four. I had an older half brother, seven years older than me, which made it impossible to get into an anything goes brawl as you would with one closer your own age.
I’m sure my older brother loved me, but like most brothers, he derived pleasure from making me look as stupid as he possibly could, which isn’t hard to do to a four year old.
On one very nice summer day, he decided to jump on top of a fifty gallon oil drum, dance around in circles, and make fun of me. He tucked his hands under his armpits and crowed like a rooster, which, for some reason, infuriated me all the more.
That’s when I first discovered the gift. I picked up a piece of gravel from the driveway, timed my throw as my brother was coming to face me, and let it fly. The next thing I saw was my brother’s heels disappearing behind the oil drum on the opposite side from me.
The next thing I heard was a whine and a growl, as he ran toward the house. “I’m gonna tell mama”.
At the age of four, you don’t stop to think through such consequences as to what mama will say if you just popped you brother between the eyes with a rock. The feeling of sudden terror that mama was about to hear of it moved me to race my brother to the house.
I hadn’t planned on any defense, and it wouldn’t have helped, since my brother got there before I did, telling mama how he had been alone praying for world peace, and that God would bless the most wonderful mama in the world, when I, for no possible reason, walked in front of him and deliberately hit him with a brick.
he didn’t quite say that, but the image he created was close to that. My mistake was to laugh at something so ridiculous, which made mama think I was laughing at my brother’s misfortune.
“You don’t hurt other people and laugh about it, young man! I’m going to tell your father!”
I had been spanked by my mother a few times by the age of four. I was a veteran of such spankings, and generally didn’t hold great terror of mama’s spankings.
My dad, however, had not taken a hand in any spanking to that time, and I was about to enter into a world of uncertainty in this regard. Fear of the unknown.
My dad entered the living room with my mama, sat me between them, and made me tell the story. Then he listened to my brother’s story, and got the truth from our combined falsifications.
He then escorted me into the bedroom, locked the door, and knelt in front of me.
“What you did was very wrong.”
“Yes, sir” I wasn’t going to argue. I had already learned with mama that argument didn’t work, and apparently dad had already made up his mind.
“Son” he said, “You could have broken his neck when he fell from that barrel. You might also have knocked his eye out. Do you understand how terrible it is to do something like that?”
Of course I did. That was the whole point of doing it. Teach him a lesson.
“Yes sir” I said meekly.
“Mostly I let your mother handle discipline, because you’ve been pretty good kids. You listen to us and you mind. But what you did today, that was something I simply will not tolerate”.
He then took off his belt, and I soon realized that he had not locked the door to keep me from getting out. He locked it to keep mama from getting in.
He then proceeded to pop my young behind with his belt, in measured strokes. I soon realized that his strength gave him far more power than simple spankings from my mother. It didn’t take me long to start registering some very high frequencies with my own voice, triggering mama to knock on the door and tell my father to remain calm.
Actually, he was calm, and that was far more frightening, because I learned that he could do this without getting mad. Imagine what he might do if he was actually mad?
It was at that early age I began developing a religion. “Let me live through this, Lord, and I’ll be good!”
I really had my doubts about surviving this, when my father simply stopped and replaced his belt in his trousers.
“Now go apologize to your brother” he said.
I know, this would seem terribly cruel today, but I was raised in the fifties, and people did not ‘spare the rod’ in those days. Parents talk about quality time with their children now, and as much as parents have to work, they don’t get that time.
My father, born in 1915, told me that the last thing he wanted was quality time with his parents. If they said nothing at all, he considered himself fortunate.
With episode, my father had impressed me with the understanding that some things will not be tolerated, whatever it takes to put a stop to it. I learned from that episode that if my father’s lips moved in a crowd, I’d better damn well find out what he was saying. He never had to do that again, because I didn’t want to go through that again.
Several years later, I had a baby brother whose temper matched mine. When his older brother, younger than me, would do little things designed to infuriate, my baby brother would, without hesitation, grab a rock and let fly.
One day, while we were gathered playing football, he got annoyed at an insult from his brother, and the rock connected. Acting in my dad’s interest, since dad was at work, I said “You throw one more rock, and I’m going to pop you with this football”.
That lasted for about three seconds before my younger brother created perfect incentive for my baby brother to fling yet another rock at his target.
Actually, he had caught the football, thrown it far away from me, and threw the gravel at his brother all in one motion. Then he began running for the open field, because he knew I would make good my promise.
My brother and I walked to the edge of the field where he was hiding. We both saw him kneeling in the high grass to see where we were, but he couldn’t see us. He was a full sixty yards away from where me and my brother stood.
I had retrieved the football, so I winked at my brother and said “I’ll give him a scare”.
I knew when I let the football fly that I could not possible throw it sixty yards, so I wasn’t worried about actually hitting him. Besides, when I released it, it began wobbling and spinning out of control because I had put too much “wrist” in it, trying to extend my range. I didn’t figure it would go over thirty yards at best.
Then a strange thing happened. The football began to steady itself in mid-air. It began cutting through the atmosphere like a guided missile, and I realized it was going to carry the distance. I looked at my brother, who had this frightened look on his own face, and then he ran. I would have to explain this one on my own.
I stood half in fear and fascination as the football began its ascent. Then I breathed a sigh of relief. It would go over his head where he kneeled.
Then another strange thing happened. As the football began its downward trajectory, my baby brother stood up. The next thing I saw were his heels disappearing in the tall grass.
I rushed up to him. “Are you okay?” I asked in half fright.
“Yeah. I saw you standing there, but I didn’t see the ball. I figured there was no way you could throw it that far, so I stood up”.
“I’m really sorry” I said, “I had no idea it would carry that far”.
He shrugged. “I guess it was meant to be a lesson to me”.
He never mentioned it to my dad, but we still talk about it to this day, over thirty years later. We call it the “Arm of God” story.