Home / You Might Not Be Able to Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd, Or So I’ve Heard

You Might Not Be Able to Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd, Or So I’ve Heard

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Ya can’t take a shower in a parakeet cage/Ya can’t take a shower in a parakeet cage/Ya can’t take a shower in a parakeet cage/But you can be happy if you’ve a mind to.
“You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd” – Roger Miller

I stood there, fists clinched, back rigid, glaring at my father. Equal parts fear and anger filled my 17-year old body. Anger and fear at the man in front of me, veins threatening to explode from his forehead, his upper lip twitching as he struggled to keep from erupting into a tornado of violence.

Anger and fear at myself for what I’d just done, struggling just as hard as my father not to meet force with force. I had no common sense at that point – I wasn’t afraid of him, or at least that’s what I kept telling myself.

My dad and I had had some monumental fights in our days but this one was about to be certified epic in proportions.

Hold on…to really get at this, we’ve got to rewind about half an hour or so from that moment.

Fade in – log house, somewhere in nowhere Alaska. It’s dead of winter sometime in February and the sun is at its zenith – this isn’t saying much as it’s winter in Alaska after all. Young buck, otherwise known as Ben, is fighting about something with old buck, known as Dad.

Those little scribes of history who write everything down for posterity’s sake? Even they don’t recall what this fight is about – they just remember it was big – HUGE. The dogs in the house had all sought refuge under beds and the rest of the children were peering through the barely opened doors of their bedrooms. There – scene set, let’s move on a little bit.

At this stage in my life, 17 years old and a rebel just looking for a cause, my dad was my favorite target. I don’t know why. Yeah, I do, we’ll get into that later.

“You think you got this whole fucking thing figured out, son?” my father screamed at me through clenched teeth. “Fine, then why don’t you just get the hell out of here and go do it.”

We were already many hours into this fight and getting closer to that moment, the moment that would change things forever and set about a course of actions that would guide me for years to come.

“Fine,” I fired back as I grabbed my wallet and car keys off the kitchen table. I stormed out of the house, slammed the big metal door, shaking the entire structure, and ran to the little tan Plymouth Colt my parents were letting me use.

I’d already dropped the transmission on this one in my efforts to learn a standard. I jammed the key into the ignition and without dropping the clutch, I jammed the car into reverse, slamming my foot on the gas pedal. The little hatchback screamed in protest as I whipped around my mom’s white GMC Safari van. My eyes closed in anger, the car shuddered for reasons I didn’t understand – I pressed my foot harder on the gas pedal, nearly punching through the floorboard, but the car wouldn’t move.

A scream erupted from my mouth and I opened my eyes to see the driver’s side door, a door I hadn’t closed, bent backwards running parallel to the side of the car – the snow pack. In my anger and frustration and rage I hadn’t taken into account the snow pack and how close my car was to it. I’d angled the car all wrong and nearly torn the door off its hinges.

I stood there, fists clinched, back rigid, glaring at my father.

The walk back into my house, up the stairs of the porch and through the door, seemed like an eternity to get past.

I stood there, fists clinched, back rigid, glaring at my father.

They’d heard the commotion of the car-door ripping from the frame. They’d looked out the window to see what had happened.

My father stood there, fists clinched, back rigid, glaring at me.

My mom, who’d heroically to this point stayed out of this challenge, interjected at this point.

“Red,” she said to my dad, “just go, we’ll deal with it later.”

My dad held his glare for a moment longer, my mother protested again, and finally he walked away. Spinning on a dime, my mother looked at me.

“And you, young man, you get your ass up in your room and don’t you move a single muscle until we call you.”

I started to protest.

“Shut it!” my mom said in such a way as to make it clear that anything more on my part was suicide.

Sometime later my parents came into my room, dad calmed down, mom icey.

“You’re going to pay for that door,” my dad said to me matter-of-factly.

“Fine,” was the only response I could muster.

I wasn’t going to fight anymore; even an idiot realizes at some point his cause is lost and I had a lot more in common with an idiot that day than a rebel.

My parents took the car to a body shop the next day. Two grand was the final number. I sold everything I had.

Everything that meant nothing to me and everything that meant something to me, everything that broke my heart when I took it to the pawn shops and baseball card dealers and every other hustle, nickel-and-dime place I could think of.

Going back to the things that would stick with me for the rest of my life, I learned two very important lessons from that. ALWAYS pay for your mistakes, and NEVER get attached to anything because you never know when it’s going to go away.

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