Shit Talkin’ is an acquired skill; everybody does it, but only the best of us can do it well enough that the target never forgets what was said to them at their own expense. I know this first hand because – growing up with a brother five years my senior – I was on the receiving end of it as far back as I can remember. This being the dog-eat-dog world that it is, you are either the giver or receiver of shit talk and the only way to graduate from being the latter to the former is to master the skill yourself. I can assure you that, with a handful of PHDs in the art of talkin’ shit under my belt, “Old Man” that I am, I can talk shit with the best of them.

I have written elsewhere that I have probably several bazillion pictures stored on my computer, covering decades. Almost all of my content over the years displays cover images drawn from this inventory, and sometimes, while I am searching for one picture to lead one of my stories, I come across another, which takes me back and reminds me of something I hadn’t thought about for many, many years. Such is the case with this story I’m about to tell.

I have several grandchildren and have been incredibly fortunate to spend extensive amounts of time with five of them, up close and personal, as they have grown from newborns to the amazing people they are today. I deeply admire and respect each of them; they are very different from one another yet incredibly intelligent, humble, respectful (mostly), well-mannered, and seriously proficient shit-talkers (I confess to proudly being a major contributing factor to that) with hilarious senses of humor. And if I had five lives to give, I’d happily sacrifice each of mine to save theirs. But…

In the summer of 2014, only a few months before my third stroke that would prevent me from ever doing this again, I decided to take my four youngest grandkids on a camping trip. My three grandsons, ranging in age from 12 to 8, along with my 4-year-old granddaughter, all piled in the car for what would be a 4-hour drive to Pittsburgh, New Hampshire, and a campsite on Lake Francis.

Lake Francis State Park is located in northern New Hampshire, near the Canadian border. It was more or less “created” by mucking around with the Connecticut River to facilitate the construction of a series of flood zones and dams to establish a hydroelectric system in that region. I have been to that place several times, and remember that it was beautiful, raw, remote, and – on the clearest of nights – you could see the space shuttle Drifting by so many countless miles above you as you lay on the ground, taking it all in, and understanding and appreciating just how small we all really are in the universe.

Once we got the car unloaded, set up the tent, and fought over who was going to sleep in which spot before laying out the sleeping bags and putting things in place, the kids did with the kids do; the boys got busy fighting and roughhousing, and my little lady looked on quite sure the boys were already out of control. Purely by accident, this image shows the kids from left to right in ascending age, and the first boy on the left – the trip was more or less a birthday present for him because this trip took place right around his birthday – is the star of the comic hilarity that transpired during our time on this trip.

I have explained elsewhere, so I won’t repeat the story here, but my grandkids all call me Djiadji (pronounced jah-jee). I think they enjoy most of all calling me “Old Top” or “Old Man,” and while I understand some might consider that a lack of respect, I tell them all the time I consider it a badge of Honor. I used to take every opportunity to irritate them by intentionally playing the “when I was your age” card to set them off, get their eyes rolling, and whining out loud, “Here we go again.” Now that they’re all grown up, just so I can keep the shit talkin’ torture alive, I love throwing the”kids these days”card every time the opportunity presents itself.

The first day or two was the normal camping trip, more or less, especially with the boys, but the little devil on the far right of the above picture – the one with the spoon in his mouth and that look in his eye – had started to show signs of being completely over the dynamic of being pushed around by the older two boys. Looking back on it now, I can’t say that I blame him; as the youngest brother in my own family, I was all too familiar with being pushed around, manhandled, and talked shit to (and about) whenever my older brother had an audience. He eventually came around to the idea, unwisely he would tell you now, that he could manhandle the Old Man. That was his first mistake. It was not his last.

It started with”your mom” jokes. Then it was “your dad”jokes. The kids all laughed, and I laughed right along with him… Making sure to point out which of his jokes were hilarious and which of them sucked terribly bad. With every one of his jokes that I told him sucked, the older boys taking my side, the more he kept trying to up his game. Next up? Away we go with the “you’re so old” and “you’re so fat”jokes, and he starts regaining his control of the audience and getting the older boys to chime in with their own versions. I laughed right along with them but started telling him he better be careful, or I might have to embarrass him in front of his whole family. I probably shouldn’t have said that, but with my handful of PHDs in talking shit, he had no clue what I had already decided I was going to do to him.

A day or two before we were going to have to break camp and go back home, kids sleeping soundly in the tent as I was rustling up some grub for breakfast, I decided that day was going to be the day for my little man’s life lesson. I knew the plan was to sit on the rocks and do a little fishing after breakfast, so I worked out in my head how my cuddly little 8-year-old grandson was going to get his comeuppance. I sat quietly, enjoying my cigarette, coffee, and quiet contemplation, and started calling him out by name to help me finish making breakfast. I fully expected more shit talkin’ about whose job it was to cook, and, not disappointed, I upped my game and started picking a fight with him about being a baby and hoping he hadn’t pissed the sleeping bag… Enjoying every moment of the other kids making fun of him because I knew that , like me, he was not much of a morning person. Let’s just say that when he finally came out of that tent (he came out last) he was spitting nails and throwing everything at me that he could think of in his not-yet-awake state of mind.

I made sure to be sitting, legs out at that picnic table, and let him walk by me a few feet. When he turned around and made some other wisecrack, I launched off that bench like my ass was on fire and was on him before his brain could even process what was happening. I scooped him up, laid myself down on the ground on my back with my arms wrapped around him, and rolled us over on our side as I wrapped my legs around his legs and said, “Call me that again, I dare you.”

His eyes were so wide that I thought they were going to pop out of his head, and the same could be said about the other kids sitting at the picnic table watching the whole thing unfold. He squealed, started apologizing profusely, and swore he’d never talk to me like that again. And then he looked at me and said, “I almost peed myself,” and I gave him a big hug, and we were all rolling on the floor laughing hysterically. And, once the tears of laughter were all wiped clean, and we were sitting at the table eating breakfast, he looked at me in total awe and amazement and said, “I’ve never seen anyone move that fast in my entire life” to which I replied “never underestimate old top, son – I may be old, but I ain’t dead, so think about that the next time you start running your head.


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