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My Papa Earl is my hero

From as long as I can remember, I was enamored with my Papa Earl. Every year on his birthday, I write about him. Even though I only had him in my life for 11 years, he made the biggest impact on me.

As Veteran’s Day winds to a close, I was reminded of my favorite Papa Earl story.

Papa served in the Navy through Pearl Harbor and WWII. He used to tell me several stories of what all he went through in the Navy.

Today’s story isn’t any of those

No, today’s story happened in the summer of 1995. My mom, her husband at the time, and I were all on our boat having a Sunday funday. We stopped to refuel at the local station. As I was getting out of the boat, my mom gasped. I asked her what was wrong. She didn’t say a word, only pointed a few feet ahead of her.

Now we had seen some famous people here before. Alan Jackson will always be the first person to come to mind. Mom’s reaction was always usually the same: gasping, not saying a word, and pointing. So when she did this, I expected to turn and see someone incredibly famous. Maybe Garth! Maybe Dolly!

But not this time. This time my mom was pointing to an ugly old man.

I thought Mom had lost her mind. Maybe because this guy was so ugly, that’s why she was pointing. There’s no way this guy could be famous.

But he was

The ugly old man was Porter Wagoner

At the time, I didn’t know Porter Wagoner from Adam, but obviously Mom was starstruck. When I asked her who it was, she barely mouthed “Porter Wagoner”. Still perplexed, I asked her husband who it was. He told me it was Porter Wagoner. I was in the process of asking him who the flub that was when Mom grabbed my arm and said, “Derik! Go get his autograph for Papa! He would love that!”

Again, I didn’t know who this dude was. Papa Earl and I had talked about some of his favorite musicians before, and Porter Wagoner never came up. I was suspect that maybe SHE wanted his autograph, and was just using me because she was too nervous to ask.

Inevitably I told her no. We got back on the boat, and Mom wouldn’t let it go. “I can’t believe you didn’t get his autograph for Papa. He would have loved that so much!”

After being guilted the rest of the afternoon, I felt like I had somehow let Papa Earl down. After we got home, I called Papa to see just how downtrodden he would be.

“Papa! We saw Porter Wagoner at the boat dock today!” I excitedly told my grandfather. “You did? Well that’s neat, hon!” “Yeah! Mom wanted me to get his autograph for you, but I didn’t. Are you mad?”

His response will live with me for the rest of my life

“Porter Wagoner? Why the hell would I want his autograph? That man’s the ugliest looking son of a bitch I’ve ever seen!”

Not only was I vindicated, but I laughed all night about Papa’s response. It made me laugh writing it down. The most classic Papa response.

I miss him. Hope this made you laugh like it did me.

Happy Veteran’s Day

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