Victor Davis Hanson // Private Papers
Was my Dad a militarist? Hardly. He was a farmer and junior college administrator, who hated war and swore to me once when I turned 18 and waited for my lottery number: “No one in this family ever volunteers and no one is ever going to refuse the draft.” I nodded.
We crawled, ran, and ran through acres of grapevines, plum trees, and majestic walnuts—squirrels, possums, hawks, crows and snakes everywhere. The town was still almost three miles away. If we saw a turtle or perch caught in the pipeline, as he washed down from the Sierra, we were told to “Put the poor fellow back where you got him.”
I, a few times, dove into the July stagnant pond to catch bull frogs and usually ended up with ear and sinus infections at Doc Nielsen’s office in Fowler. He looked cross and then jabbed me with a shot of penicillin in one of those reusable steel injectors. Sixty years later the sinus surgeon who drilled my passages out said, “Man, you have the narrowest sinus passages I’ve ever seen.” No kidding…
At seven my twin and I were human retrievers. My dad shot doves and quail (always in season and in limit). Doglike we scrambled to “fetch” them back. Once we climbed under the neighbor’s barbed wire. He was a lunatic and bully. Once he just happened to be out hunting himself at the same time and pointed a shotgun at us as we tried to find a downed dove. He screamed at us (the “twinnies” my grandmother dubbed us two) to “get the hell off my property, you trespassers, before I blow you to smithereens.”
We skedaddled back to our side of the fence sans the doves and yelled to dad, “That guy wanted to shoot us.” Big mistake. Dad was then about 36. He was 6’3”, 210 lbs. of muscle, a big Swede who was said to have been a good boxer by his friends.
After 40 missions in a B-29 over Japan, just 15 year earlier, he didn’t much care about his own safety and had sort of a terrifying WTF nihilist courage to go to the limit if wrongly crossed. In a second, I guess he thought he was back on mission 33 to Kobe or crash landing on Iwo, and so stalked over with his 12 gauge, pointed it at the bully, “So you got a gun pointed at my two boys. Ok I’m not six like them, so let’s see who is a brave man now.”
The neighbor, well, put this way, he just left. Said nothing and left. And the only time we ever heard of him again was when he stuffed nasty notes in our dogs’ collars if they strayed over when his bitches were in heat, like “Hey Hansons, chain up this dog—or else.” Some tough guy…
We took off home ahead of dad and sobbing ratted our hero out to mom (some gratitude for our deliverance)—the housewife Stanford JD whom the neighbors ridiculed with “all that education and still home in that little house with those kids.”
We thought at least she might sympathized with our melodrama. No such luck. She smiled! Smiled no less! And she said “Well, glad that was over. But served that criminal right, terrorizing you 6-year-olds. And what a fool he was to cross your dad.”