On this Memorial Day Weekend I find myself again thinking of Otto and Viola.
They continue resting well on this magnificent day, perfect for the visit because I’ve not sat with them for some time.
They entered my mind lately due to a number of reasons, primarily from this holiday and recent thoughts of my heritage. The mischief of this Red-Headed Irishman prolongs the smile on my face and the laugh in my heart; quite the joker, Otto is known in this small town for any number practical jokes. I like to think he is the foundation of my positive attitude through adversity.
On the day my Mum brought my Dad home to meet the family, Otto asked without a wince, “Ever seen a mongoose?" With curiosity and a desire of meeting the real people of this family my Dad said, “Nope, you got one?”
First point in tactics, if any Irishman ever asks you to see the unusual- be apprehensive before answering!
Otto replied, “Certainly, got 'em out in the wood shop 'cause Mum won’t let 'em in the house.” The two men walked out the door on their way to the wood shop while my grandmother barked, “Now Otto! Do you have to do that now? The young man just got here.” Otto responded, “This’ll only be a minute”, as the two continued their way around the house heading toward the back corner of the property.
The young man, Henry (but everybody called him Tim), was tall, handsome, and the US Navy taught him to live without fear- That is, until he met Otto.
In the out most rear portion of the land stood a small, narrow, tool shed painted white and contained all the required apparatus for the various wood projects Otto employed. Inside this small tool shed was a single path from the entry to the rear; the left side along the entire wall was a well built, sturdy work bench; while the right side stored the power tools and not much room for anything else. “Close the door behind you, Tim, we wouldn't want this critter get out- Mom’ll have my hide”, Otto instructed. Tim, with all good intentions fell for this serious, but lovable Irishman and heeded every request; all the while, Tim never knew he was sealing his own fate by allowing Otto lead the way.
A Master Craftsman from a life on the farm, combined with every tool of the day and the spirit of a true Irishman, Otto pulled from the shelf a wooden box approximately three feet long, ten inches high and wide with a screen over half of the top. On the lid and sides of the box was the clearly obvious writing of warning, “Handle with Care”, “Danger Mongoose”, and “Do Not Open”. As he pulled it down, Otto had to hold the box tightly as it shifted in his hands before he placed it on the floor between the two men. Tim, standing toward the rear of the shop, had an escalating inquisitiveness over this creature he had only heard tales. “Now you be careful,” Otto said, “This here animal is the only thing that can catch a Cobra, mid-air, in a strike”, as he watched Tim’s face.
Tim leaned down for a closer look at this box to examine what lies behind the screen on the lid.
Under the screen Tim saw a bed of grass leading to a wall separating the inside of the box into two compartments. This wall made of wood had a small hole the animal could use as an entry into the private portion of its home and Tim could see a animal tail extending out, resting on the grass. “There really is something in here”, Tim stated with exciting amazement. Otto smiled and asked, “What did you think I brought you out here fur”? Otto continued, “He’ll come out, he just needs a little coaxin”, as he tapped the sides of the box.
No movement was all Tim noticed. Otto said, “Here, let’s try this again- so you watch closely.”
Tim drew closer to the screen, as Otto tapped slightly harder this time.
In a rush, the top of the box flew open and out came this fur-ball of a creature heading directly toward Tim’s head. Tim sprang to his feet and the animal’s path did not deviate. Out of reaction, Tim began to climb onto the work bench to his side and the animal was still quickly approaching. “What the Hell”, were the only words from Tim’s mouth.
In that immeasurable moment with Tim sitting on top of the work bench and Otto rolling on the ground laughing, two things happened- Otto knew this young suitor was perfect for his baby girl and Tim knew he needed to remain on his toes around this Red-Headed Irishman.
The box; made of wood, grass, a bed spring, a latch on the lid, and a piece of twine tied to a fake mink’s tail, was my Dad’s initiation into this Irish Clan. Otto, did not wait for the, in his words, “Howdy Do” in testing this young man.
Inside the main house two women waited nervously for the men and the outcome of being associated with Otto. Relief was found by all as the two men walked into the house laughing and ready for anything the night is about to present.
I think it is time for Otto and Viola to hear about Police cars and Golf Carts- Today; I’m going out there for a visit.