January 15, 2016

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Sometimes we can learn from what’s not exactly true

Cynthia DewesSome time ago, there was an article in the local newspaper about Dick the Bruiser. Dick was a popular professional wrestler who appeared on national television in loud, violent and often funny grudge matches with hated opponents. One of the wrestlers was always the good guy, and one the bad guy, and their contest followed an up-and-down battle.

They were supposed to be fights-to-the-death, in which the two guys would destroy each other permanently. Until next time. The thing was, there was always a next time with a loser rising from the ashes to threaten the previous winner, with lots of cursing and insulting going on. These events were popular in the 1950s and ‘60s, and my dad was a big fan of them. He swore to the day he died that the matches were totally honest, with no pretense or fake scoring involved.

Those of us who lived in Dick’s neighborhood knew better. On the day following a particularly vindictive match with his most hated opponent, we’d pass by Dick’s house and look into his back yard. There, diving into Dick’s swimming pool, would be this hated person, and everyone there was laughing and chugging a beer.

Dick was muscle-bound and covered with scars. He had a rough, raspy voice caused by an injury to his throat when he was playing professional football in his younger years. He loved to intimidate people, especially kids, and then treat them to his biggest, most charming smile.

A couple of our sons were Dick’s paper boys. When they knocked on his door to collect for the newspaper, he’d snarl, “Who’s there?” and snatch open the door. Son Peter always answered the call just as loudly, “ME!” and they’d both laugh

One early winter afternoon, I looked out the window to see a horse running through my front yard. It took off across the street and out of sight. Then, from the same direction, ran Dick dressed in a pair of shorts on this 50-degree day. “It’s roundup time, heh, heh,” he called as he raced by. Then a car pulled up into my driveway, Dick jumped in, and they drove off after the horse.

Now, to TV viewers, Dick may have seemed like a mean person. He was gruff and loud, and he threw people around an arena like rag dolls. He appeared to be impervious to kindness or decency. But in truth, Dick was a marshmallow. He had a wife and kids, lots of friends, and he was a good neighbor.

It’s too bad that newspaper boys have gone the way of the dinosaurs because that job gave them the opportunity to learn so much about people and all their little peculiarities. The boys were also privy to neighborhood gossip and events, which they shared widely. It’s one reason that neighbors knew their neighbors better back then.

We even learned a few valuable life lessons from Dick. Number one, people are not always what they seem and we should never judge them without more evidence. Number two, an entertainment as mindless and corrupt as professional wrestling can still demonstrate for us the eternal struggle between good and evil Somehow, in Dick’s matches, the good always prevailed.

And that, after all, is the Christian view that good will prevail. Happy New Year to everyone, and may it be good.
 

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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