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  • MJ Rodriguez

Growing up with brothers



Having seven brothers was treat enough, but to be smack in the middle made it even more fun. I grew up with three brothers older, three younger, and a twin. That’s seven, mind you. Seven. And I have loved them all.


I was and am proud of them. They worked hard and played hard. They were and are men of integrity. They loved their family and their country. Five served in the military, two during the Viet Nam era. One gave his life.


They protected me, even when I didn’t need protection. I was always shy and quiet (of course, not around family members), and I guess they thought I couldn’t fend for myself. And maybe I couldn’t. I found out later in life that they told boys I didn’t date because they didn’t approve of the ones who were interested in asking me out. I thought I was just very unpopular. They protected me from crass, ugly talk. No guy dared use bad language or inappropriate discussions in my presence. I was shocked later when I learned my brothers used bad language and inappropriate talk when I wasn’t around. My oldest brother, Alfred, looked out for me. When an event was held at school, he would sneak me a nickel or dime so I could attend. He was a great brother. They all were and are.


Once in a while, they embarrassed me. Of course, I’m sure I embarrassed them, too, but that’s beside the point. We attended a small school in our community where everybody knew everybody. One day I was minding my own business in study hall when, lo and behold, the superintendent came roaring out of his office with my younger brother in tow. I don’t remember what Sam did, but Mr. Puckett was red from his neck up to the top of his bald head. Probably more than that, but that’s all I could see.


He dragged Sam to the front of the study hall (which was full of students) and gave him what-for. That’s when I noticed Sam’s square butt. Expecting a paddling, he had stuck a book down the back of his pants. Mr. Puckett grabbed the edge of the book that was sticking out and pulled it. It didn’t come out. Sam bent at the waist, and Mr. Puckett shook him and swung him around, all the while yelling at the poor boy.


I thought I would die. I slid down in my seat as far as I could and pulled my long hair over my red face. The students thought it was hilarious, as I do now. But not then. I guess eventually the book came out and Mr. Puckett finished the discipline in his office. I was too embarrassed to think beyond that.


Sometimes they scared me. Once they caught a rattlesnake and housed it in a dresser in their bedroom upstairs while they built it a cage. Mom intervened, and the snake was moved from inside the house.


Always they entertained me. We played on the tree-covered hills and in the creek—cowboys and Indians and anything else they could think of. About every spring they found one or two baby squirrels to tame. They were cute and funny until they started chewing on the furniture. Mom insisted the little rodents be relocated back into the woods where they belonged. They tried to make a pet of a skunk, but it didn’t work out. I guess the rattlesnake was to be a pet until Mom nipped it in the bud. Poor Mom. She had a handful.


We jumped off the bridge and swung on a sapling into the creek. We swung over the water on a cable until Dad took down the cable. We jumped off a steep hillside onto the deep, red sand below. That was great. We hogged fish from under trees and roots in the creek. We caught crawdads, cooked, and ate them. There’s not much we didn’t do that was good, clean fun. In my eyes, they could do anything. They built things, invented things, and created things. I learned from them: teamwork, courage, and humor.


I’m glad I was raised with these wonderful, seven guys.

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