To this day, I cannot recall why I deserved to be “switched,” but the chances are good that the punishment was befitting of the crime. “That’s it, I’m pulling over,” Pa shouted, and I knew I was in for it. I had heard rumors of Pa’s “switchings,” and I wanted no part of it. As Pa stormed off into the woods to find the perfect sapling for my butt-whipping, my entire six-year-old life flashed before my eyes. I was going to have to think fast in order to have any hope of sitting down for the rest of the trip. In a stroke of genius, I decided to lock the doors. After all, Pa couldn’t switch me if he couldn’t get to me, right? And surely Gran Gran, Sally, and Katherine wouldn’t sell me out by unlocking the doors. I mean, they could see the look in Pa’s eyes and the fear in mine, so the least they could do was keep the doors locked. Either way, I had made my bed and now it was time to lie in it…
As you can probably imagine, Pa’s “switchings” were not his only legendary quality. Malachi Goforth was a Navy veteran of World War 2, which made him a hero in our eyes, even if he rarely talked about it. He supposedly played some semi-pro baseball, and the 60 oz loaded wooden bat in his basement added to the legend. He loved to work in his garden. He loved even more giving away his vegetables to his neighbors. He loved the outdoors, making sure he got in his “hike to the top of the mountain” on a regular basis. He loved God, seeing to it that his family was in church every Sunday. He loved politics, and never missed an opportunity to inform anyone who would listen about his conservative values.
And all of these characteristics came together to make Pa larger than life (and the mustache certainly helped this mystique). He would often take us to the Candy Tree, which was a tree in his woods that just happened to drop candy bars if you shook it hard enough. Every time we visited, he would take us “one-thing-shopping,” where we could, well, pick out “one thing.” This practice evolved into a Christmas tradition that still takes place. He also claimed to know Santa Claus, showing us Santa’s boot prints in his back yard.
Luckily for us grandkids, it was this sense of humor that made those annual summer trips so much fun. And luckily for me, it was his sense of humor that kept me from getting “switched” that day. Gran Gran, Sally, and Katherine were laughing so hard at Pa getting locked out of the car, that by the time somebody actually let him in, he was laughing too. And luckily for Malachi Goforth Carson, he has a whole lifetime of Pa stories to look forward to (and we think the mustache is a good start).