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Born With a Rusty Spoon: Episode 75

...P.G. emerged from beneath the TV and entertainment center with no lasting injuries.

Jessie was finally shoved outside and Hope got him into the car and took him home. Reita's little dog was so terrified by the commotion that he ran in circles from room to room barking shrilly...

Bertie Stroup Marah tells of a somewhat turbulent wedding day.

For the most part, and much to my relief, my new life was uneventful. That is until my son Kelly's wedding day. Kelly and Maria were to be married in a small church. The reception would be held in their new home.

The day before the wedding an incident occurred. Kelly, Clint, and P.G. were celebrating the upcoming occasion. Earlier that day they enjoyed a few beers. Kelly was driving the golf cart that P.G. used for irrigating on the ranch; Clint was riding shotgun; P.G. (or Dadaw as the grandkids called him) had the backseat to himself. In their levity, as they were driving along a canal bank, Clint glanced back to discover that Dadaw was no longer on the cart.

"Stop the damned cart," Clint yelled, "we've lost Dadaw." Kelly braked hard and backed up to find P.G. lying flat on his back. He had barely escaped a plunge into the canal.

The next day, the wedding went smoothly, and the celebration flowed over to the reception at Kelly's house, when I was forced out of retirement from my job as family peacekeeper once again. Ripples in this small pond of happiness appeared when Tell and my son Monty started slinging verbal pot shots at each other. Tell provoked Monty with a stinging comparison, "You're just like my boy, Randy." This was clearly not meant as a compliment. Randy was a con man and even Tell knew that. From that point, the tension increased in proportion to the consumption of "gorilla juice," which is punch spiked with alcohol. It was never clear who spiked the reception punch as no confession was ever offered.

Jessie's appearance at the reception only exacerbated the situation. He had not been there long when he exchanged words with Maria's father, Lynn, who had remarked on the size of Reita's overweight friend, Joanie. Petty bickering continued when Jessie defended her right to be fat. Jessie did not realize that Lynn's voice box had been replaced with a mechanical device. "Why don't you stand up and talk like a man," Jess challenged, in response to Lynn's suppressed speech. At that point, some of the other guests eased Jess outside. Soon thereafter the reception drew to a close and Kelly and Maria departed on their honeymoon. I organized a quick clean-up of the reception area, herded my bunch to the door before more fighting could take place, and bid goodbye to Kelly's new in-laws.

My family, along with Gloria and Tell, continued socializing at Reita's house. Mama, Grandma Counts, and Phyllis sat on the living room sofa, chatting with Phyllis's children, Clint and Kammy. Gloria and I were in the kitchen preparing refreshments. Jessie, Tell, Sam, and Monty were talking around the table.

The squabbling resurfaced when Tell and Monty once again began needling each other. What started as low rumblings, exploded into a melee that can only be described by dissecting the events, most of which were simultaneous. Tell and Monty's bickering resulted in them pushing each other over in their chairs.

Jessie eagerly jumped into the fray. Reita ran into the kitchen to break up the fracas and slapped Jessie in an effort to get him under control.

"Jessie, shut up and leave well enough alone!" she ordered.

"Don't do that, little sister!" Jessie said hotly, and then he slapped her with the same force she had used on him.

Then Sam intervened on the pretense of protecting Reita. "Damn you, don't you slap my wife!"

This was a move Jessie had longed for. He could not tolerate Sam and thought he was pretentious and lazy. He welcomed any opportunity to fight him. "You little phony, I've always wanted to kick your ass."

They started wrestling, and Reita, in an attempt to intervene, broke most of her long fingernails to the quick. Tell and Monty, realizing they were "up to their asses in alligators and fires of their own starting," forgot about their own feud while they tried to break up Sam and Jessie.

As they tried to separate the two men, the kitchen table collapsed and one of its legs went flying. Glass broke, scattering shards. Somebody bumped hard against the washer, knocking it so far out of place that the dryer toppled sideways. There was plenty of shouting, cursing, grunting and groaning as the group moved clumsily in mass toward the back door.

Earlier, when Mama saw Jessie was "on the fight," she had called his wife, Hope, to come get him. In the middle of the battle Hope arrived. She did her best to stop the fight by pleading with her husband, but he failed to respond. At that point Hope fell to the floor, pretending to faint.

"Jessie, for hell's sake, stop fighting and take care of your wife," I screamed. "She's fainted!"

"She can get up on her own," Jessie yelled back. "I'm gonna kick Sam Allen's ass." He grabbed Sam by the shirt and ripped the collar off. I finally helped Hope to her feet and got her out of the kitchen.

Mama rose from the couch, where she had been sitting with Grandma Counts. She was aiming to get control of Jessie. She caught him in a bear hug and dragged him to the front door.

Jessie reached up struggling to tear loose from her, but she kept her grip. At that point Monty entered the living room. He mistook Jessie's attempt to free himself as an attack on his grandmother.

Monty ran into the hallway off the living room hidden from the view of those in the living room and grabbed a long stick that Reita was using to prop up a banana tree in its pot. He ran back into the living room to rescue Mama from Jessie's pummeling and from her ringside seat on the couch, the only thing Grandma Counts could see was the end of the stick, which she mistook for a gun barrel. She didn't see who was holding the stick and in the confusion, she screamed, "My God, Sam Allen's got a gun." When Reita tried to take the stick from Monty she was accidentally jabbed hard in the belly.

In the meantime, P.G., who was decidedly wobbly himself, from his share of gorilla juice, decided to help get Jess under control; and, in joining the fray, bumped into the entertainment center. It fell on top of him with a crash.

Phyllis, who had also joined the efforts to control the mess, wound up with a bite mark on her shoulder and a footprint on her back.

P.G. emerged from beneath the TV and entertainment center with no lasting injuries.

Jessie was finally shoved outside and Hope got him into the car and took him home. Reita's little dog was so terrified by the commotion that he ran in circles from room to room barking shrilly.

After the riot, we took inventory of the damage. The kitchen table had no legs, chairs lay strewn everywhere, and glass shards covered the floor. The living room was littered with the entertainment center equipment and Sam's shirt collar lay in the middle of the debris like a white flag of surrender. Gloria and I were in the kitchen crying and wringing our hands, washing dishes and hoping for some semblance of sanity to return, if only for a moment.

The day following the melee Gloria and I tearfully recounted the debacle on the telephone. After a while we stopped crying and apologizing for the bad behavior of others, and started laughing. I bought a new entertainment center for Reita, to replace the splintered one. Tell repaired the table and replaced the broken window glass while Grandma sat on the couch and continued to harp at him for his part in the whole affair. Reita found Sam's collar in the trash and sewed it back on his shirt. She cried for days and had to apply medication to her ruined fingernails.

Reita and Jess were estranged for a good twenty years as the result of this act of folly. They finally reconciled after Reita divorced Sam for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which was that he wouldn't hold a job. Because the divorce was less than amicable, brother and sister now shared a mutual dislike for Sam, the designated culprit.
I would have to say that my family's penchant for settling disputes with fists, not words, sorely tested my skills as peacekeeper.


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