MOMoirs - Oct 2014

October 14, 2014

Posted By: Shaunescy


As a kid, I spent a fair amount of time living in fear, thanks entirely to my father and his ability to spin tall tales.

There was the slime monster, who lived underneath our dock; the hook monster, comprised entirely of old fish hooks, who lived in our boat house and would scratch me with his rusty self, resulting in a trip to the ER for a tetanus shot; and across the road, there were saber-toothed snipes, gnome-like creatures with giant teeth who would eat me alive, given half the chance.

While I’m sure the monsters and saber- toothed varmints were my dad’s way of keeping my trouble-seeking self safe and in places where I could be easily observed by adults, I am embarrassed to admit that I spent a good deal of my childhood cowering underneath towering pine trees armed with a big stick, waiting to clobber any saber- toothed snipe who dared come near me.

As an adult, I have inherited my dad’s ability to turn a blissful, flower-filled meadow into a scene from Nightmare on Elm Street. And yes, I do it all in the name of keeping my children safe. For instance, during a recent trip to Georgetown Lake, my boys saw their first prairie dogs darting madly across the road. “What are those?” they wanted to know.

I took them into the grass and pointed out the holes in the ground. “Those are prairie

dogs,” I said to the boys. “They’re also known as ‘Piranhas of the Prairie’ and are very dangerous to cattle. If a cow is minding her own business eating grass and somehow places her foot in one of their holes, in no time at all, the entire colony descends upon her and, with their sharp, rat-like teeth, they’ll strip all of the flesh off a cow’s leg in seconds.”

I made my best rat-face to illustrate a rat gnawing off flesh.

“So be careful,” I continued. “The last thing I want to have to do today is pull you out of one of these holes with nothing but a bloody leg bone left.”

In other words, be careful of those prairie dog holes, boys, and don’t twist your ankle in your haste to get to the water.

But my boys were not just careful; they actually stood frozen, in sheer horror, and refused to move until I carried them to the lake — one in my arms and the other riding piggyback.

My dad was not just an expert at telling horror stories; he also had a colorful way with language. He often suggested that I get my head out of my butt (but with a saucier word than butt). And he didn’t just sweat, he sweated like a whore in church, an expression that got me into trouble during vacation Bible school one summer.

As a result, my use of language is just as colorful as my dad’s — something I try to watch around my boys, which is easier said than done. Recently, I brought the boys with me to a hair appointment. Mike entertained himself by reading the book he brought. Left to his own devices, Peter very methodically went through every woman’s magazine in the salon to find the perfume samples, which he then rubbed all over himself.

We had to roll down all of the car windows on the way home because of Peter’s nauseating mix of approximately 75 different perfumes.

“Peter! You smell like a $10 hooker,” I told him.

“What’s that?” he asked.

“Hhhhmmm...just someone who wears a lot of perfume,” I responded.

We stopped at the grocery store on the way home and Peter had the opportunity to try out his new language skills while we waited in line behind a woman who, much like Peter, had apparently bathed in perfume that day.

“Lady, you smell like a 10-cent looker,” Peter announced flashing her a big, toothy smile.

The lady just looked at me, confused. “That’s a pretty big compliment,” I told her.

“Thank you,” she said to Peter, still confused, and turned back to her groceries.

Colorful language and monsters that are fit for the big screen: if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then my dad is probably blushing like a bride on her wedding night.


Sara Groves lives in Helena where she is mom to Mike and Peter. She coordinates the early literacy program, Ready 2 Read, at the Montana State Library and also works as a freelance writer.

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