Corn bread disaster and T-shirt fight

Posted by GT on October 9th, 2008 — Posted in Newspaper columns

Originally published in June 2006, The Daily Sentinel, Grand Junction, Colo.Two episodes of Joe Powell’s family life as recalled by his son.


Mom makes corn bread in a cast-iron skillet, usually in triangular pieces that fit nicely in the hand. It’s crunchy, filling stuff that tastes wonderful when it’s right out of the oven, so hot you could burn your lips on it, and it’s great the next day, cold and not very crumbly.

Dad likes it either way, but he often prefers it after it’s had a little time to age.

One morning in the early ’70s, not too long before he retired from the Air Force, Dad took the last piece from a batch of corn bread on his way out the door to eat on his way to the base.

At the end of the day, he came home and told us he had accidentally dropped the corn bread out the car window that morning before he got a chance to eat any of it. As I recall, he went without breakfast that day. At the least, he went without the breakfast he wanted.

As a kid, I’d get in a twist about the strangest things, and this was one of them. I was convinced Dad’s feelings were hurt and I felt awful for him. So bad I still remember that dropped piece of corn bread more than 30 years later.

I think he felt pretty bad too or he wouldn’t have mentioned it in the first place.

We still talk about it from time to time.


I was lucky enough to grow up under a roof my father shared with his family – except for a year the Air Force sent him to Southeast Asia – so naturally we butted heads from time to time. We battled over hair length, friends, bedtime, TV … you name it.

Clothing was an obvious point of contention, and when I was in fifth or sixth grade, we got into a long, serious discussion about T-shirts.

I don’t mean the kind of colorful T-shirts you buy with logos on them. I mean white T-shirts you wear under another shirt. In other words, undershirts.

Dad believed undershirts should be worn every day, hot or cold. His assertion, as I morosely understood it, was that they were necessary in winter because they helped you stay warm, and in summer because they soaked up your sweat before it showed on your outer shirt.

I looked at pictures of actors with their shirts buttoned halfway down over bare, manly chests and knew I had no hope of doing that myself with a stupid white T-shirt on.

This wasn’t the first time we’d disagreed over what I thought was Dad’s laughably outdated approach to getting dressed.

He’d come out on top in the Great Hanky Skirmish, which resulted in me being the only boy in grade school who carried a handkerchief in his pocket every day (the habit is so ingrained in me now that I feel naked without one, even if I’m in a swimsuit). Now I feared I’d be the only boy wearing an undershirt.

So I dug in my heels and spent 20 minutes that felt like an hour and a half trying to talk Dad out of forcing me to wear T-shirts every day. He made his points several times, I made mine.

It was touch-and go; I contemplated outright rebellion, such as wearing the undershirt out of the house and ditching it on the way to school.

Then we compromised: I’d wear them when it was cold and couldn’t leave a lot of buttons open anyway, and wouldn’t have to when it was warm.

That’s still the rule I live by, although these days I make sure to wear plenty of anti-perspirant when I stop wearing T-shirts come spring.

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