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Right and Wrong

In our house, our parents drilled into us the difference between right and wrong. They taught us to always do what’s right, stand up for the little guy, and never, ever lie. Oh, there were many times we tested those rules, but God help us if they caught us in an outright lie. I would watch and listen to my brothers and see them get into trouble, then I’d work really hard not to emulate that behavior, believing I would never feel Daddy’s razor strap. Yes, I said it, razor strap only used to drive home a point that hadn’t seemed to be grasped. No, they did not beat us, but truth be told, my dad felt that for discipline, the book of knowledge should be firmly applied to the seat of learning. (Or something like that)

As I grew up, I was aware of the importance of right and wrong and had little patience for those I felt were not as honorable as I. Like most young people I believed I knew all the answers and I would judge people based on my narrow experiences. And since most of my youth, I lived on ranches, my ‘social network’ was very small. Sure, I had friends and we would get together at school and on the bus too and from. But we lived far enough apart that we couldn’t get off at each other’s house, go play then walk home. Our parents were not our taxis, as they were busy working to take care of us and we all had chores to do at home.

We moved into town when I was mid-way through the 4th grade, and I experienced culture shock. I believe my brothers found their footing much faster than I. I was a tomboy and didn’t seem to fit in anywhere. Making new friends wasn’t easy and I seemed to be included in the vagabond group of misfits. It shocked me at how differently we lived despite similar circumstances. We were poor, but always neat and clean. My clothes may have been hand-me-downs, but mom always made sure that we never left the house in tattered, dirty clothes. I went to one of my new friends’ houses to play and the mess and condition of the home were shocking. I found out that her brother was a drunk, she and her mom were afraid of him, and her dad had deserted them. It scared the holy heck out of me.  She had always been telling me of her wonderful life, and it was far from it. I remained friends with her, but I never went back. I didn’t feel it would be right to desert her like it seemed everyone else did, but I was smart enough to not be caught there if her brother came home. It was all so foreign to me. I knew it wasn’t right, but I didn’t know what to do. I never told my parents either. I know now that was wrong.

It was my belief that the world was black or white, right or wrong that would cause me problems, angst, and consternation as I grew older. Learning that people could look you in the eye and lie without blinking was a shock to me and I had trouble recognizing when it happened. We were four naïve children that moved into Gillette, Wyoming but not so much when a few years later my brothers all went into the military, and I, with my parents moved back to a ranch just out of Ucross, Wyoming, a wide spot in the road with a two-room school, two service stations, one which served as the post office, a café, and grocery store. Ucross was where the highway split off. One way led to Buffalo and the other to Sheridan.

We moved there the spring after I got out of the 7th grade. My brother Ken was going into his senior year, and he had a job, so he stayed with friends until Christmas. There I was, all on my own, no brothers to hide behind or harass me. I saw myself as more mature than the silly youth I knew. That was the lie I told myself, anyway. The truth was it scared me to death meeting once more new friends. I attended a group, I think 4H, so I could meet some kids I’d be going to school with. I remember I was wearing sandals and one boy un-hooked the strap with his foot. Did I know he might flirt? Heck no, I just thought he was being stupid and did not react well to his joke. Not a good way to make new friends.

It was during this time that I realized that despite teaching us about truths my parents didn’t always live what they preached. My dad was a provider, whatever it took except stealing. He was a hunter, and our prime meat was venison. Which wasn’t that wrong, but what was in my eyes was the fact that I realized he was a poacher, In Gillette the game warden even warned him he knew and would catch him, but he never did, and despite knowing that our freezer was full as were our stomachs. My dad’s philosophy was, “I hunt only to feed my family. During hunting season, you must deal with all the idiots that come looking only for the rack and trophy, leaving the meat to rot where shot.” He also mentioned the hunting accidents that took place during hunting season as his rationale for hunting out of season. One evening, I was in trouble for something. I don’t even remember what, when I hit him with the low blow. “You’re always telling me I have to live by the rules, abide by the laws and always tell the truth. Yet you go out and kill deer out of season all the time. Why do I have to if you don’t?” I’ll never forget the look on his face. It haunts me still, and he never shot another deer. A year later, I was begging him to. We were not on the ranch that year, did not get the yearly beef that came with the job and all that was in our freezer was ice and an old mutton leg, that stunk so bad when mom cooked and cooked it, trying to get it tender enough to eat. It was the greasiest, nastiest thing I’d ever eaten before or since.

Over the years, it has forced me to eat my righteousness and judgments. I’ve learned that it isn’t always black and white, right, and wrong, but shades of gray. Is it wrong to lie? Yes, but the question might be, why do we? Some I know, lie because they don’t seem to know the truth. Others feel it’s for the best only to find life would have been simpler had they only told the truth. The problem with a lie is you must remember who you told what to and what version. Are all people who lie bad? I’ve learned that we are not.

I am a storyteller, prone to exaggerations. Is that lying? I know I try to temper myself when I’m not telling a tale, but an experience. There’s that fine line again. What I have found, that is most important to me, is not if I were to lie to you, but that I lie to myself. That is the marker for me. Over the years, I learned to tell those lies to be deceitful to myself and others. I lived for about seven years in conflict with all that I believed and lived a lifestyle so against my beliefs, all the while lying to myself, that I didn’t care. It was as I was walking out of that darkness that I learned that I had to be true to myself first because without that I couldn’t be truthful with you. My goal nowadays is to do what is right and if I don’t, rectify it, learn and grow.

Author: Gayle Parish

As far back as I can remember I've always loved books. I love the feel, the smell, and the way words are put together to pull me into a story. I've dreamed for years of writing a story of my own, and here at last I've done it. I hope you'll join me as I share with you some memories, hopes, dreams, exploration of a life well-lived.

10 thoughts on “Right and Wrong”

  1. Your life was so different from mine, yet with your style of writing, I feel that I am loving it with you. Your strength of character shines through and your upbringing and life experiences have formed you into the wise, compassionate and passionate woman you are.
    Praise the Lord for giving you this gift of expressing yourself in writing so that we, your readers, can soak in them and become all the richer for them.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Talk about honesty! This is definitely it. Some people learn the lessons early in life – the hard way. For others, they never quite get it. And for far too many, looking so deeply into their own beliefs is not something they are willing to do. Because if you do, it will change you. And change is what life is all about. Thank you for sharing. I was a lot older before I realized that there are adults who often expect you to do as they say and not as they do.

    Liked by 1 person

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