Granny Versus the Foghorn


It was so long ago, yet I remember it as if it happened yesterday. I was ten years old at the time of the incident which had absolutely no effect on the course of western civilization, and with the exception of my mother, grandmother, and siblings went totally unnoticed. At the time I didn’t fully grasp the fact that one of those little life altering occurrences had transpired on that lonely fog shrouded road.
My dear mother had tried diligently to raise her children to be respectable. That included instilling in us the firm belief that cussing would earn the cussee a one way ticket to eternal Hell-fire and damnation. Utterances of the mildest swear words by today’s standards would result in swift punishment, which sometimes involved a rather novel use for a bar of Ivory soap. I truly believed any form of swearing to be a foul and loathsome practice, and that is why the incident had such a profound effect on me.
Another factor which needs to be considered as a bit of background information was the tragic case involving some friends of my grandmother who were killed in an automobile accident at a railroad crossing about six months prior to the incident. My grandmother told us all the ghastly details of body parts strewn down a hundred yards of railroad track, and some bits of human anatomy stuck in the train wheels. I was not prepared to deal with that degree of detail at the tender age of ten, and of course suffered nightmares for sometime thereafter.
Every year during the summer break my grandmother would come to California to the absolute delight of her three grandchildren. I don’t believe my father shared our enthusiasm, but he was decent enough not to show open hostility. During those visits my grandmother would take a side trip to Pacific Grove to visit her mother, A. D. Alsop, taking mom and the kids with her. My father of course would have to remain at home due to his work. As a child I always felt sorry for him, remaining behind like that. Poor Dad! Foolish child, little did I realize it must have been the old rascal’s favorite two weeks of the year.
One of the highlights of that summer sojourn was a drive along the coast road to my great aunts house on the Seventeen Mile Drive. On this particular trip the Monterey coast was shrouded in a dense fog. My grandmother was driving her nineteen fifty-seven Dodge Dart at about the speed of a Senate committee meeting, using the dashed white line as her sole means of navigation. Unbeknownst to us due to the dense fog, we were slowly but steadily closing on the foghorn at the northern tip of the peninsula, and the incident was now inexorably approaching. That foghorn sat right above the road, within feet of any unsuspecting motorist.
As we passed directly under the foghorn it went off! That was when I learned an important detail regarding swearing that my mother had generally passed over in her teachings. I found out that swearing in certain desperate circumstances could offer a degree of comfort and relief denied even to prayer. My dear grandmother who for all her life, except that one time, would not say "shit" even if she stepped in it barefoot, let fly with every swear word she knew. All three of ‘em! When that foghorn nearly blew her car off the road, and with the grim memory of her late friends untimely death by freight train still fresh in her mind, she yelled out, "GODDAMN-SON-OF-A-BITCH-ASS!
So there it was. Every swear word my grandmother knew in slightly over a second. I don’t know if the "F" word was in my Grandmother's vocabulary, and if so, did she consider that one to be so iniquitous that she would not utter it even in the face of rapidly approaching death. And so it came to pass on that foggy road at the very edge of the North American Continent I took the first step on my journey toward the loss of innocence.

The Great Howie

Back to Thoughts and Observations