I got a lot of great qualities from Joe Benny Brock, but Im glad one small fear of his didnt get passed in the genes.
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Joe Benny Brock. Most everyone called him Joe Benny, but I called him “Daddy.”
He was a big man, 6 feet, 4 inches tall and about 250 pounds. But his size is not what defined him-it was his smile. When he truly smiled, his face changed completely. It was like his forehead got longer and his hairline moved back and away from his eyes. I have never seen a brighter, more amazing smile in my life. I loved that man. He took care of me, and I was his pride and joy.
Every time I look in the mirror these days, I see him. I'm a shorter version of Joe Benny, and at times I feel my forehead gets longer when I smile. He was the absolute funniest person I ever met. He could take any situation and somehow make everyone in the room laugh. He was a master of hyperbole and a keen observer of the environment he found himself in.
We were a lot alike in many ways, but in one way, we were totally different. There are some things I got from my momma, and the “doctor” gene obviously came from her. Want to know how I know this? Well, here's the story.
When I was about 5 years old, we were at some occasion-Thanksgiving, Christmas-something that brought about 60 or 70 family members to a farm house in the middle of nowhere. There were so many people I didn't even know some of them. There was one batch of kids about my age I'd never seen. We were all out in the yard playing when a stray dog came wondering onto the scene, a big German shepherd-looking dog that seemed to be full of bad intent.
Joe Benny was in the yard, and when he saw the animal and read its body language, he started rounding us all up to head into the house. But one little girl wouldn't listen. Instead of heading inside, she ran toward the dog. I was stuck to my dad, as I figured if anything was about to go wrong, that was the place to be. In my eyes, he was the strongest and toughest man in the world.
The little girl ran toward that rascal, and it reached out and bit a chunk out of her shoulder.
Turns out, Joe Benny was right. The little girl ran toward that rascal, and it reached out and bit a chunk out of her shoulder. Joe Benny was screaming and making noise at the top of his lungs, trying to scare off the dog and slow the little girl down, but it didn't work. The damage was done, and now the child needed a trip to the doctor.
Looking back on it now, I'm not sure why they took me along, but they did. She was bleeding and crying, sitting in the back seat of a Dodge station wagon with her parents, while I sat in my momma's lap in the passenger seat and my daddy drove. (We didn't know what a car seat was back then.)
We wound up at an old-timey doctor's office that smelled like alcohol and sick people. They took us all into the treatment room, and we waited a while for the doctor. I remember seeing all that blood and I still her hear her crying like it was yesterday.
The room we were in was green-man, it was green. It had green asbestos tiles on the floor, the walls were a lighter shade of green, and even the old heater thing next to the wall was painted green. There were two chairs along one wall and one of those hard doctor beds with a piece of white paper pulled down over it in the center of the room. The girl's father was in one chair, while I was in my momma's lap on the other. The girl's mother was standing next to the doctor table, consoling her daughter with a nurse, and Joe Benny was perched in the window seat next to her looking a bit pale.
The doctor finally arrived and assessed the bite wound. He explained some things in grown-up talk to the parents and then told the nurse to prepare things to sew up the wound. I looked over and saw Joe Benny rub his face and noticed a bit of sweat forming on that forehead that expressed so much of his emotion.
The next few minutes were amazing to me, and I still remember them 50 years later so vividly. First of all, looking back, how in the world was it all right for a little kid like me to be in the room to watch an arm sewing? Next, why did we even take her to a doctor's office instead of an “emergency room”? And then, why was Joe Benny sitting so far away from the action?
There was a lot of screaming and crying as the doctor injected a local anesthetic before he sanitized and sutured. I was mortified and scared to death. I can remember melting into my mother's arms and just being so thankful I had listened to my dad. Then the sewing started. That part was actually much easier to watch for me. The crying and screaming had stopped, and I was enthralled as I watched the needle moving. It was just like my grandmother did when she was making quilts in the den. I couldn't believe they did the same thing to skin.
My daddy's hands were lying limp on the floor, and his feet weren't even touching the ground.
Then about halfway through the sewing, I heard a thud behind me. My daddy was bent in two over the room's green heater (which was, thankfully, turned off). His hands were lying limp on the floor, and his feet weren't even touching the ground. It was like he'd suddenly fallen asleep, like a little kid in his high chair.
My momma made a screech and put me on the floor as she scrambled across the room to assist him. The nurse left the doctor's side and ran to check on him. I had no idea what was going on. I crawled back up into the chair and watched with great anticipation to find out why everyone was so concerned that my daddy had fallen asleep.
It was several years later that I finally laughed about this. And I still laugh. In fact, I'm cracking up as I write this. My dad, all 6'4” of him, couldn't stand the sight of blood. He passed out in a doctor's office, draped over an old-timey heater like laundry on a West Texas clothesline. He never did admit it though. He always claimed it was because he hadn't eaten all day and was low on glucose.
I hope and pray that I got that man's sense of humor, compassion, wonderful smile and amazing intelligence, but I'm so glad I didn't get his weak stomach for sewing up tissue. I miss you, Joe Benny.
My momma reminded me of this story on the phone recently. We laughed and laughed and then laughed some more. Thank you, momma. Made my day.
Bo Brock, DVM, owns Brock Veterinary Clinic in Lamesa, Texas. His latest book is Crowded in the Middle of Nowhere: Tales of Humor and Healing From Rural America.