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Nashville Scene Wake Up, Dad

It's high time for men to start acting like it

By Walter Jowers

MAY 3, 1999:  We daddies need to tighten up. Some of the things we're responsible for aren't getting done right, and other things aren't getting done at all.

Here's proof: Last year, the Jowers family took a little trip to the batting cage. While daughter Jess was working in the slow-pitch cage, I watched a woman walk her little boy into the 60 mile-per-hour baseball cage, put in a token, and then stand the little guy right on top of home plate. Before I could say a word, a ball came flying out of the machine and whacked the boy squarely on the thigh. He went down like he was shot, and he screamed for a good five minutes.

How does a 7- or 8-year-old boy end up at a batting cage, with his mama sticking him in front of a 60-mph projectile? Seriously sorry-ass daddying, that's how. That little boy's daddy, if he's alive, ought to be ashamed. And he ought to be made to stand on home plate himself, face the machine, and take hits until he's sterile. If the daddy's too sorry to take the boy to the batting cage himself, the very least he should do is explain to mama the important differences between home plate and the batter's box.

Another example: Remember all the hubbub a few weeks ago, about how hard it is to get a baby seat to fit in a car properly, and how the federal government is going to make up some new rules so all the baby seats will fit right?

You baby-seat worriers, listen to me: We don't need the Feds for this. This whole baby-seat crisis is a hardware problem, and a simple one at that. God help us if American daddies don't have sense enough, tools enough, and motivation enough to install a baby seat so that it fits nice and snug, and won't go flying in a wreck. If the daddies can't deal with car seats, who's going to explain how to get a chain back on a bicycle sprocket? Who's going to teach kids how to slide into second base? Who's going to sharpen the lawn mower blades? Who's going to teach the kids how to shoot a gun, and how not to shoot a gun?

Maybe it's a little early yet to place the blame for the school massacre in Colorado. But I'm going to take a chance, jump out early, and lay it right at the feet of those boys' daddies. Wherever they are, whatever they do, they should not have missed those boys spending all weekend in the garage, breaking glass for shrapnel, and loading it into 30-something pipe bombs. They should not have missed the barrel that was sawed off the shotgun, right there in plain sight in one of the boys' bedrooms.

My father, Jabo Jowers, had a long list of shortcomings. He dropped out of school in the fourth grade. He drank to excess. He built illegal liquor stills, and he dealt in stolen goods. But Jabo Jowers did not raise any trenchcoat-wearing boy. If I'd headed for school one morning dressed like Wyatt-freakin-Earp, Jabo would've either convinced me to wear something a little more manly and conservativelike a motorcycle jacketor he would've taken me downtown and had my forehead tattooed with the words, Not Jabo's Son.

I can guarantee you, if Jabo had found a shotgun barrel in my room, he would've found me, wherever I was, and he wouldn't have let me out of his sight until he'd ended whatever crisis that had started me fooling with that kind of weapon.

I know, I know. There are a lot of houses without daddies these days. And a lot of houses where the daddies aren't much good. That's why I say we've got to tighten up. There is just no excuse for a man leaving his children. You daddies, here's what I say: Even if your wife turns into a long-fingernailed, full-time shopper, or a fuzzy-headed drunk, or a screechy old harpy, you need to stay with her until your children and all grown up and leave on their own. I don't care if your wife started out as a cheerleader and has ballooned to nose-tackle size. I don't care if your secretary is drop-dead beautiful, and keeps trying to give you the Glenn Close Fatal Attraction elevator treatment. You've got jobs to do and promises to keep. So be a man. Do the jobs, and keep the promises.

The awful alternative is a world where the men don't really matter much. A world where all the kids play soccer, and nobody keeps score. A world where the dogs won't fetch. A world with car names like Achieva and Bravada, and kid names like Diamante.

It would be much better, I think, to have a world where couples grow old together, and eventually start wearing matching fishing hats. A world where these old couples can go to bed every night knowing that all their grandchildren are blood kin. A world where, when these old folks die, there need only be one old man and one old woman buried at the head of the family plot.

Visit Walter's Web site at http://www.nashscene.com>, or you can e-mail him at walter.jowers@nashville.com.

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