This doesn’t have anything to do with art, animation, career, or anything, this is just a memory of my Great Grandpa I stumbled upon yesterday, and I only now realized how unusual it is. I’m curious if anyone out there has similar storytelling traditions in their own family.
A bunch of great grand kids would sit around my Great Grandpa, a few Grandparent and Parent generation around the outside, grinning at each other like they were all in on some inside joke. There were a few famous family narratives- the escaped convict, the cougar, the relative’s haunted farm house, the mad dog…. All of which were probably a combination of truths and improvisations building with each telling for the past 60+ years. One that just stood out to me as particularly bizarre was the downfall on the chivalrous gentleman-
Southern cultural lessons were packed into the explanations and backstory of these narratives, like a history lesson wrapped around a kernel of truth. Great Grandpa would start,
in the horse and wagon days, my Grandpappy, which is your great great
GREAT Grandpappy, and his friend Adam, grabbed themselves a
couple dates and went to the old country dance.”
Then would usually come a bit of an aside about the setting, ALWAYS complete with an over explanation of the technology, because to Great Grandpa, and older people in general, the younger generations have less than zero concept of the world before their birth.
”Back then, there was no phones, not television sets, no electricity at all, not even lights on the inside at night. They had to do everything by candles and oil lamps. Now, there wasn’t much to do back then, especially at night, so the country dance was about all they had going for them on a Friday night. But, they had these dances every once in awhile when the weather was warm, so they’d ask the girl from the next farm out to the dance. And they didn’t wash but about once a month back then, in a big washbasin the whole family used one after another. So they’d spend all day, get ALL dressed up, cleaned, get their finery on, and then they’d go. Well, Grandpappy’s friend, Adam, came up to my Grandpappy, soon as the dance began, and told him ‘I gotta go to the bathroom.’ And my Grandpappy, being a ROUGH and TUMBLE country boy, said,’ well, go ahead, right behind the barn there, and relieve yourself’. But Adam’s family owned the country store, and he was much more of a town boy than a country boy, and was raised to be more of a gentleman. Well, he said that it wouldn’t be right to relieve oneself, even out of sight, with all the ladies around, it would be impolite and would just be TOO EMBARRASSING if he were to get spotted, so Adam told Grandpappy he’d hold it.”
A dramatic pause, it added validity to us kids at the time, tension. Great Grandpa was probably just making up some new detail or something.
“Adam was doing alright at first, although my Grandpappy could see him squirming around all night, dancing with his legs close together, sitting with his legs crossed like a girl, all to keep from peeing his pants. And he might have been alright, except…. The girls, the dates, you know, were having SUCH a good time, that they didn’t want to go home! They wanted to stay out late with the boys at the dance.”
to get home late in those days meant BIG trouble. Not like now, you
might catch a REAL woopin’ from your daddy back then, even when you
was almost grown. Or, you might never get to leave that farm again.
So, if these girls were willing to stay out past curfew, just to
spend more time with Grandpappy and Adam, then this was a rare
opportunity. A gentleman like Adam was not one to turn down a couple
ladies. So they stayed, and they danced some more, and then when it
all wrapped up, they headed home under the stars. Adam and his date
was in one buggy, my Grandpappy and his date was in another. Right as
my Grandpappy and Adam was about to fork off to go their own separate
ways for the night, he noticed Adam wasn’t looking too good and
remembered he’d been holding it the whole time. My Grandpappy,
having probably peed behind a bush 3-4 times throughout the course of
the night, new Adam had to be in bad shape. Kids, buggies were slow!
Real slow! It’s not like riding in a car, no! It’d take a couple
hours to get the miles down the road to Adam’s house, and HERS, the
dates, was past that in the opposite direction! So my Grandpappy said
‘Adam, stop that buggy once you get into those woods, and tell your
date, that your Momma told you to pick her some berries on the way
home. You get out of sight behind some brush, and you relieve
yourself.’ Adam was looking pretty pale at this point, and he said
he’d stop and pee only as a last resort, because there wasn’t
much a chance of his date believing the story about the berries. But
kids, stubborn as Adam was, there wasn’t a chance that he was
stopping with that lady in tow. And Adam sure wasn’t gonna stop off
home to use his outhouse neither. Well, Adam gets her home, kisses
her hand goodnight, whips his buggy around and BOOKS IT home…. And
they found Adam… next morning… on the side of the road… DEAD
FROM A RUPTURED BLADDER!”
Shock, giggling, and ‘ew’s from all the kids.
“So kids, the moral of the story is, don’t stand on ceremony, if you gotta go, GO! Speaking of which, I’ll see you kids later!” And, just like that, he’d shoot up, chuckling, pretending to be rushing to the bathroom. Grandparents, Parents, and the older, already indoctrinated kids exploding with laughter.
Looking back on this, all I can think is- Wait what? Was that a real story? Was that whole elaborate bit of performance art building up to the punchline of the fake pee break? It’s possible this instance of my Great Grandpa’s absurdist sense of humor was infectious enough to become a family tradition, even while being fully made up.
Or, was this bladder story some version of a real event? It Is equally possible this strange tale of some long dead dude’s very personal injury has been morbidly enjoyed, for over a hundred years, by my family; that it all started with my apparently gossipy great great great Grandpa. There is also the possibility that some long buried family incontinence caused this lesson about peeing frequently to be passed down via folktale for generations. Whatever the case, this and the other stories in Great Grandpa’s catalog felt like an initiation: ‘Welcome to the family, you too will be laughing at confused children someday,’