"Big Poppa" in NYC

I heard the plug for the Father's Day show and had to tell this childhood story.


My mom was a teacher with summers off and my dad was salesman. Dad always saved up his vacation time to take our family on some grand adventure. We always drove, and we always pulled our pop-up camper - no planes, no hotels. It was the summer between 5th & 6th grade for me (8th & 9th for my big brother), and I was 11 years old. We loaded up in our Ford Econoline van, hooked up the Jayco camper, and left Arakansas on a tour of the Eastern U.S. - Colonial Williamsburg, Hershey, PA, Washington D.C., NYC - then back through the heartland to see the Brickyard in Indianapolis, IN. The main attraction was a week stay in NYC.


We camped across the river at a campground in Jersey, and we would take a bus to the city everyday and see the sights. One night we stayed late and went to see Cats. The show was amazing, but it was the late night walk back to the bus station after the show that changed how I looked at my dad forever.


I don't know what time the show let out, but it was well after dark in the middle of summer. It blew my mind - it was the middle of the night, and there were people everywhere doing anything you can imagine. My brother and I (11 and 14 years old) were taking it all in, leading the way back to the bus depot. Mom and Dad were a step behind us.


As we came up to 42nd street, my brother accidentally stepped on someone's foot. The man was wearing dark canvas slip-ons. Craig apologized. This man was out of his mind lit up on something, blitzed. He grabbed my brother and started yelling at him, "You owe me $5 for my shoes. Give me my money. Give me $5..." It seemed like the world stopped. The next thing I knew -




My dad decked the man.


I freaked out thinking we were all about to die and ran across 42nd street giving no mind to the traffic. From the opposite corner, I looked back. It was all over. It was the mythical "two-hit-fight" - my dad hit the man, and the man hit the ground! Everyone was looking at my dad; Dad didn't say a thing. He took my mom's hand, grabbed Craig, found me, and took us to bus station.


I had never seen my dad throw a punch in my life. He's not violent, he's not aggressive, he's not particularly big, just a regular church-going salesmand married to a kindergarten teacher living in the town in which they both grew up with two kids and a dog, but a line had been crossed. I suppose I had always thought it, but from that point on I knew it - "If I'm with Dad, I'm safe."