Hunting the Elephant in the Room

Gregg+Lehman+dresses+up+for+his+class+picture+with+a+fashionable+Western+Bow+Tie.+Photo+courtesy+of+Gregg+Lehman.

Gregg Lehman dresses up for his class picture with a fashionable Western Bow Tie. Photo courtesy of Gregg Lehman.

Marshall Lehman, Online and Perspectives Editor

“It’s a shame the Queen died. I remember watching her coronation, and now I’m watching her funeral,” my father’s friend, John Hatch, said.

My father, Hatch, and I were in the midst of a pilgrimage to Austin to watch The University of Texas play the University of Texas at San Antonio in football. That was in the ‘50s, I thought. Jesus, how old is this guy?

“You know Gregg, I remember when you could see a film for a nickel, but the soda would be a dime,” Hatch said, which only made me wonder if he also remembered the German invasion of France.

Hatch is a jolly, stout man with bright white hair and a matching bright white mustache; essentially Santa Claus with a law degree. My dad knows him through work, as I would expect, given he fits the stereotype of a lawyer to a tee. His natural distrust of government would even make the January 6 “Patriots” proud. For example, he refuses to wear a seatbelt, not because he doesn’t believe they save lives, but because he would rather be ejected out of his front windshield than let the government “nanny” him.

The three of us had been invited to the game by Mike Sharpe, another one of my father’s friends, but before we could head to Darrell K Royal Memorial Stadium we had to rendezvous with him at the house of yet another friend of the clique, Rick Warren.

I’ve never met Warren, and frankly, I wouldn’t wish to do so unless I was wearing a Kevlar vest. From what I witnessed, Warren has hunted every animal known to man, and now I fear that slaying endangered animals no longer quenches his bloodlust, so now he desires to hunt “The Most Dangerous Game.” Following Warren’s retirement from the oil and gas industry, he dedicated his life to trophy hunting, and his home reflects such. There is no empty space; every crevice is occupied by either a taxidermied animal or a plaque documenting his prestigious deceased prizes. Warren has accumulated so many dead animals from his expeditions that he purchased a pentecostal church and converted it into the Warren Wildlife Gallery, which is really just Cabela’s without the Carhartt and shooting clay.

Hatch took me on a tour of what would be a living room in a typical household, but was repurposed and dubbed The Africa Room. Before I even took one step into the room, I noticed a lion in the corner, standing on a boulder, watching Warren’s lawn like a Doberman. I then looked to my right and saw a giraffe in the corner, its shoulders sitting on the floor and hairy horns scraping the ceiling. On the wall was mounted an unnecessarily large flat-screen television, accented by two ivory tusks surrounding the machinery.

Astonished, I asked Hatch, “Is hunting elephants legal?”

“If you have enough money…”

_________________________

 

Months later I recounted this story over River Crest’s Tuesday Night Fried Chicken Buffet. In my eyes, it was met with a symphony of laughter. Who’s to say, though.

About an hour before, my family was asked to remove ourselves from the dining room. We had reservations to meet my grandparents and their friend, a woman known only to me as Carolyn, for dinner, but my family’s ungodly dressing broke the restaurant’s dress code.

“You can’t be in this room,” the maitre d’ said as if we were fully in the nude. “Jeans are not suitable attire for the Dining Room.” I looked around the room and noticed a middle-aged woman having dinner with an adolescent girl, the elder dressed in denim. I then took note of another woman sitting at a large table; she had a denim jacket draped over the back of her chair.

Surprised, my mother asked, “I’m sorry, what?”

“Jeans are not allowed in the Dining Room. You can either change pants, find a table in the Family Dining Room, or order off the menu and remain seated until you’re ready to leave.”

Ordering off the menu was out of the question because we came to River Crest specifically for the fried chicken. Eating in the Family Dining Room also wasn’t an option. While the family was debating on what we should do, my father and I watched an unattended child pluck a decorative cookie off the top of a pumpkin pie and cram it into his mouth. I don’t even think he chewed.

In defense of our eviction, there wasn’t just one rule breaker, like the other parties in the room. My father, mother, sister, and I were all dressed in denim. But I mean, no one’s pants were ripped, not even for style. They were simple, clean jeans. But, nevertheless, we could pass for a family of 49ers, so we must be removed. The real reason, I believe, why we got kicked out was my dressing. I wore jeans, Birkenstock Bostons, a t-shirt, and a corduroy jacket. I looked like the perfect liberal. The perfect pot-smoking, Hillary-voting, tree-hugging, Oregon-residing human in the continental United States, and the appearance alone was bound to make me the mortal enemy of any country club.

My parents weren’t about to let a matter of pants get in between us and a plate of fried chicken, so we returned home to change into more suitable clothing.

“I’ll put on my tux,” my father half joked.

Just an hour after our planned meeting time, we were finally fully dressed and ready to eat. It was a lovely dinner, especially after the new assistant manager came to our table, apologizing for the misunderstanding regarding the four jean wearers. Carolyn told the man of our insurmountable hardships saying, “Well, they went home to change.” She got our meals comped with that remark.

Later in the night, my father was getting his second helping of ice cream when he was approached by a woman.

“You wouldn’t happen to be Gregg, would you?” she asked.

“I would,” my father replied.

Turns out, she was in the same graduating class as my father. Odds are that they attended high school and graduated together, but for the sake of being completely historically accurate, I can only say with 100% certainty that they attended elementary school together, but even with that they couldn’t agree on who was their teacher. She had recently moved back to Fort Worth from Nantucket, and had their elementary school class picture readily accessible for some reason. My father showed our table the picture, pointing out both him and the long-lost playmate.

“You look like Curious George,” I said. Again, I heard a chorus of laughter.

That comment came back to bite me when my father told us that the only reason that she could identify him after all these years was because my father and I walked past her together. She saw me, the strikingly handsome 17-year-old, and thought, “Hey, that looks like the kid we used to call Froggy.”

In that moment, I sat back and dreamed. I pondered where my dad has been, where he is, and where he’s going. I wondered if maybe I’m destined for the same as him. I would be lucky to have such a life. Maybe one day, I can go on a road trip with my friends and my progeny, and I can turn to them saying, “You know, I remember when Charles III was sworn in. How he’s still kicking it, I have no idea.” And my kids will mutter, “I’ve got no idea how you’re still kicking it.”