I was quite disgusted when I was in junior high to find surprises in many of the drinking fountains around the school. Those in my age group probably saw the same thing – it was not pleasant, in fact it was gross. In just about every drinking fountain, some junior high boy must have thought it was cool to spit their chew of tobacco into the drinking fountains making it pretty well unusable until it was cleaned. I remember coming home from school and complaining about this disgusting habit to my parents. They agreed that it was pretty bad…but as they told me, there are worse things.
My mother didn’t remember her grandfather terribly well. He died when she was four years old. She did remember visiting at his house not too long before he passed away. He sat in his chair across the room and would spit his tobacco to the spittoon across the room. My mother understood that this was not something that she wanted to get hit with. It didn’t sound very good and she was pretty suspicious of the smell. So, she sat in wait – trying to time her run across the room to miss it. She stopped and started a few times and then decided to make her dash. She took only a few steps when she felt the unmistakable spat on her face. I can’t say that he did it on purpose…although it wouldn’t surprise me. It really is too bad that the only memory my mother really has of her grandfather was getting between him and his spittoon.
My father lived near his grandparents when he was young and there were many rides to town on the back of the truck with his uncles. My great grandfather wasn’t a good driver. He had to learn to drive a car by trial and error. Granddad grew up riding and driving horses…I’m not sure who taught him how to drive. To be honest…if the pupil is the example of the teacher – the teacher was not sufficiently qualified. So, Dad and his uncles would be riding in the back of the truck holding on for dear life as Granddad didn’t believe in taking the trip slowly. There were lessons taught in the back of that truck. The most important one was to pay attention to the motor. If Granddad was shifting, then it was time to duck behind the cab of the truck. When he shifted, he would let “it” fly. If you weren’t behind the cab…you would get a rude surprise.
Dad told me though that his mother got back at of the neighbors. My grandmother had a thing about cleaning windows…and while the men were talking and she was trying to find something to do…she decided to clean the old neighbor’s truck windows. So she rolled them up and cleaned them so they were crystal clear. They were so clear that when the neighbor started down the road, shifted and then spit out his tobacco…he found that the window was closed and had an unexpected blowback.
Occasionally, I still see the remnants of this disgusting habit in unexpected places. It isn’t as common as it was in my youth. However, I must admit that I have never experienced getting hit in the face as a little kid or having to worry about ducking behind the truck cab to avoid an unpleasant surprise. I have to admit that after hearing my parent’s stories of their experiences…the exclamation “Watch out!!!” takes on a more significant meaning.