Don’t Let A Rotten Apple Ruin Your Sauce!

Growing up my dad had some acquaintances that were not so savory. One such man was Gilbert Snead. I don’t think I ever saw the man sober, and he was an obnoxious drunk. Whenever the two of them drank together, it often involved guns and or fights.

My mom, sister, and I were with him one time while they were target practicing. I was probably only about eight or ten years old at the time of this incident. We were down in the bottom by the creek below Gilbert’s house. He dared my father to shoot a beer can off his head. We begged and begged my father not to do it. Drunk and stubborn, he was not about to turn down a dare. Gilbert smugly placed the Pabst Blue Ribbon can on top of his head. My dad lined up across the field like shooting cans off of people’s heads was a daily occurrence and aimed his .22 pistol.

We screamed for Daddy to put the gun away. We just knew he’d kill Gilbert. Not that I liked Gilbert, I just didn’t want my Daddy to be carted off to prison for murder. About the time the shot rang out, Gilbert’s eyes enlarged to about the size of dinner plates, and he fell “lifeless” to the ground. We hollered some more. I’m not really sure that the sounds actually escaped my throat. I was so scared, my knees were knocking and I felt like someone had jerked my stomach right out of my body. We didn’t see blood as we reached Gilbert, and he started to stir. Apparently, Gilbert didn’t really think Daddy would shoot at it, and had fainted. My dad went off to find the beer can. We were mortified. He was quite proud. Yeah, bulls eye…hole dead center on the can. Duh, he knew he wouldn’t miss. After all, he’d been shooting the little gum balls (about the size of a quarter in diameter) off the sycamore trees all day. Gilbert would point to the exact one for Daddy to shoot at, and he’d smither it every time.

In those days, my father was what I would call a rascal. Gilbert was a mean man and really brought out the worst in my father. He talked him into doing things I don’t think he would ever have imagined on his own. He never harmed anyone else. He just took really stupid risks that he would never have attempted had he not been egged on.

I did not witness this incident, but Daddy told me about it. Once, Gilbert was standing in the ditch in front of Daddy’s van so it put him lower than the height of the van. Anyway, he got angry at my father for something and was going to shoot him. My father saw he was cocking his gun, so he aimed between Gilbert’s eyes but about six inches above his head and fired. The bullet pierced the van and shards exploded off the van hitting all along Gilbert’s forehead. It made him so angry he stormed off to his house.

Another time Gilbert came to our house late one night while my sister and I were alone. You have to remember that we lived out in the country and there was no 911 to call for help. And if we had called the Sherriff’s department, it would have taken them no less than thirty minutes to reach our location. Gilbert rolled his old car in our driveway, spitting gravel everywhere. He stumbled out and fell up the steps. He cursed and grumbled and kicked at the door for my father to come outside. We were petrified. He finally went away. After my mom got home, he came back. My mom went out and chased him away with threats. She may have had a gun in her hand, but I don’t remember. I only remember being too afraid to go to sleep that night.

Gilbert was always trying to hurt my father physically by pulling knives or guns on him. Once my dad caught Gilbert stealing from him in the van. I don’t know what he tried to take, but Daddy rammed his head into the dashboard. My father may have been wild and rough around the edges, but above all, he was honest. He worked hard, and did not take what did not belong to him. He expected the same behavior from others. To his knowledge, Gilbert never stole from him again. However, that did not reform him.

I think the final straw that ended the relationship between my father and Gilbert was when he sold my father a gun. Shortly after the purchase, a deputy from the Sherriff’s department showed up at our door to confiscate the gun. Apparently, it was a stolen good. My father handed it over and explained where it came from which they already knew. Bottom line was that my father lost the money he paid for the gun.

Gilbert died many years later. I don’t know whether he ever changed or not. I am glad my father did. Daddy still drank and played his poker for years. One day Daddy picked up a bible and read it. Then, he read it three more times. Daddy then became baptized as a Jehovah’s Witness. I might not agree with the tenets of the religion, but I can honestly say that it has changed my father into a mild and mellow man who would never dream of carrying on the way he had. He’s expressed regrets about his past but he’s made his peace. You may be shaking your head in disbelief at his behavior, but personally, I am proud of the man he has become. My father is a colorful character who is well loved in his community and family. I love him very much, and I wouldn’t trade him or my past for anything. I think that had he been the way he is now, our childhoods would have been vastly different, but I would be no where near the person I am today. The experiences of my childhood shaped me with values and resilience and helped me determine my future.

44 thoughts on “Don’t Let A Rotten Apple Ruin Your Sauce!

  1. Susan, we all have experiences in our lives that have made us stronger and made us the people we are today – I believe that 40 years ago, life was very different and people lived in a different manner. My dad, like yours, had his wild ways and drank – came to himself and stopped when he was in his late forties,,, but, with all that went, I learned much and know that I am a better person because of my dad and his ways – you are too! Love your stories!!!!!

  2. I think this is another wonderful story about your family and life Susan. Every family has their demons, and secrets. I would hurt a lot of innocent people, if I was to write about my family’s childhood demons, people who had nothing to do with the things that happened to me and my siblings. Nobody’s life is perfect sweetie, if it was, we wouldn’t be as strong and wise as we are today. When we give our heart and life to Jesus, He opens our eyes so we can see the changing in our life that we need to let Him help us work on, and in return we become a change person. I admire your father for taking that step in his life. I have to admit he had me worry too when he shot that gun, so I can imagine the terror that you, your sister, and mom felt. You should love your dad, and enjoy him for the rest of the time the two of you have here on earth. Life is too short to let the demons of the past take away your joy. Thank you for sharing this outstanding story with us sweetie.

  3. You described Gilbert perfectly. Dad and Ronnie used to chase him out of Briar Fork for stealing. He was banned from coming in so he would sit on the guardrail across from the store and drink. You never knew if he had a gun or a knife on him. He was a very bad apple!

  4. What a great story, SC!

    And you summed it up so perfectly….

    “I think that had he been the way he is now, our childhoods would have been vastly different, but I would be no where near the person I am today. The experiences of my childhood shaped me with values and resilience and helped me determine my future.”


    This is why I believe that everything happens for a reason. We GROW from them.

    Brava to your dad!

    And brava to YOU!


  5. I love the way you tell this story. I think Gilbert Snead could be a great character in a short story.

    I also enjoyed the honesty of this post, acknowledging your father’s past and the man that he has become. And the fact that you have the courage to embrace his past, shows how much you love him.

  6. I think it’s wonderful how your dad has come to live a life of peace. He probably wouldn’t appreciate the life he now leads if he hadn’t lived such a rough and tumble past.

  7. Suzicate, you have told an amazing yarn! Gilbert sounds like a nightmare, but young men playing tough with guns scares the hell out of me. So lucky nobody was killed! Fools!

    Your Dad sounds like a very interesting man. He wasn’t perfect, but then none of us are!

  8. Susan, I have been thinking all day about your and this story. I have been thinking what a wonderful book you could write by using your father as the main character. Man what a good bood this would be.

    • Funny, you should say that. he has been telling me his stories, so that I can work on a memoir of him. He knows it is in the plans! I just hope I can get it all down in good timing. At any rate, he is loving telling me his stories and hearing the comments from the people who read them.

  9. Hi SuziCate – no one is perfect, but what is important is that as we grow we learn how to make the best of ourselves and in so doing make the best of life also for those around us. Your Dad sounds like an amazingly colorful character who has brought so much to your life and has not been afraid to admit his mistakes and make life for himself and all of you better. Amazing stories.

  10. Ha. I WAS shaking my head . . . you caught me! But is was NOT at your father’s behavior in particular it was more at the time. Ya know, times have changed? That kind of thing. That was a different time.

    I am glad that your father survived that crazy friendship.

  11. I love your blog, Suzicate. It is so refreshing to read. You always bring your life to…well…life. : ) Your father does sound like a colorful character, and I am glad that you love him so much! I would’ve passed out if someone tried to shoot something off of my head, too, btw.

  12. I’m glad Gilbert got out of your lives. I completely agree with your pride in your father’s change, because it sounds amazing and it’s wonderful that he made his peace with his past.
    I’m also glad that Gilbert never hurt your dad or any of you – if your dad wasn’t quick enough, it sounds like it might have happened many a time. So it was a good thing that your dad was such a “rascal” as you call him, if only because that put him at a place where he could protect you.

  13. Interesting, isn’t it, how people sometimes choose friends that add that edge of danger to their lives. And then reality sets in, if we’re lucky, and if we’re really lucky those we love the most are still there. But then, life was different when your father was young. And how great that he recognized what was really important to him.

  14. Didn’t he also shoot one off Delton’s head? I seem to remember he either did or was going to….I was pretty sure he did. He did so many things it’s hard to remember sometimes…

  15. Too close to home there Suzicate, sounds a lot like what my growing up years were like.

    I’m proud to see how your father turned out and that he was a good shot 🙂

  16. Holy Moly, your father sounds like a patient man to maintain that toxic friendship as long as he did. It sounds like you had a very colorful childhood, I love the way you tell it. I’m glad your father found his path. Also, that he was such a good shot, I would’ve hated to read that it ended other than how it did!

  17. I am glad you got to see your father evolve into someone that was more calm. I hate alcohol and alcoholic behavior. It is damaging, demeaning and just downright unpleasant. I find no excuse for this behavior (bad behavior) even if it is considered a disease.

  18. Your father was quite the sharpshooter! Perhaps his fantastic aim (and control of force) in combination with his honesty was what made Gilbert a little too comfortable — he had faith that your father wouldn’t deliver the lethal shot/blow, given who he was at heart.

  19. It’s quiet fascinating how our experiences from our childhood can help us become the people we are today!
    That Gilbert sure sounds like quiet the character but I’m happy your father chose to shoot the can instead of him 🙂
    And I doubt if Gilbert ever changed…

  20. Wow, that was a crazy story. Nuts! I knew a guy like Gilbert… full of testosterone and nobody could talk him down from anything.

    So glad your dad made it through the crazy times ok and calmed down a bit. 🙂

  21. Wow! You know, back in the day out in the country, that kind of behavior was completely normal. 🙂

    Age and wisdom definitely mellow a man, but he did what he had to, keeping his family safe and not walked upon. Very good man indeed!

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