Jigger

Posted: May 21, 2016 in Education, Inspiration, Things I Love
Tags: ,

Twenty-one years ago today my sister lost her husband, my nieces and nephews lost a father, JiggsChairand I lost a very good friend and brother-in-law.

And Paint Valley lost its heart and soul.

But don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a sad story. If I brought everyone down 21-years after he died Jigger would probably come back and haunt me or something. I can hear him now:

“Still whining after 21-years? Stop it. For God’s sake, get over it and move on with your life.”

Well Jiggs, there are some things you can never get totally past, and you’re one of ’em. Sorry man.

And I do believe our school has never fully recovered from losing our friend and principal that warm Spring day in May of 1996. I realize that a lot of you will find that hard to believe, but I also know that those of you who knew him, teachers and students alike, are nodding your head in agreement.

Because you know exactly what I mean.

He meant that much to Paint Valley. As I said, he was our heart and soul. He loved Paint Valley and he loved the community and all, and I do mean all, its people.

But most of all he loved his students, and they knew it. And he made Paint Valley a very special place to be.

But like I said, I don’t want this to be a sad story. I want to tell you some stories that make you smile, not cry. And believe me, it’s hard to narrow them down to just a few but I’ll do my best. Here we go . . .

One year Jigger and I were at the beach down at Oak Island and were at a carry-out buying some refreshments. The lady at the check-out weighed about 400-lbs but had a really cool tattoo. You could barely see it sticking out of the top of her tank top. Jigger, of course, asked to see the rest of it. She showed us, and as she did a light bulb went off in his head. Let’s get tattoos! He asked the lady where she got hers, and it turned out she got it from a guy named “Lines” who lived in a biker compound. She said it was sort of a dangerous place, so we’d better let her call first. She did, and we were told somebody would meet us at the gate and let us in.

Wait. Gate? What? And why would we have to be “let in?” But hey, Jigger really wanted a tattoo. He’d had this idea for years that he wanted a tattoo of a fly on his foot, and by God he was going to get one. Remember that this was my high school principal, kids. In addition, when he got an idea he was like a hurricane or something and you just sort of got swept up in it.

JiggsKenzSo, being swept up and all I went right with him. On the way we stopped at the beach house and talked my other brother-in-law, Dave, into going along. Dave didn’t want a tattoo but went anyway. Again, hurricane. When we got to the gate, there were a couple of tatted-up dudes standing guard. Trust me, I didn’t want to know what they were guarding. Jigger told the guys we were there to see Lines and this conversation followed:

Biker: “So you guys want to get tattoos?”

Remember this was 1985 and before tattoos became so popular. Believe me when I say we didn’t look the type. It probably didn’t help that we were wearing khaki shorts and I’m pretty sure Jigger had on one of those alligator polo shirts. And I may or may not have been wearing a Cyndi Lauper t-shirt, but let’s keep that on the downlow. In any event, the conversation continued . . .

Jigger: “Do we want tattoos? Hell yes. This guy in the back (pointing at Dave) wants ‘Joe’s Bar and Grill, Chattanooga, Tennessee’ tattooed on his dick.”

At this point Dave turned white and tried assured the guy that no, he did NOT want a tattoo there, or anywhere else on his body. The guy laughed and waved us through.

We found where Lines lived, which was in a sort of run-down trailer, and went up to knock on the door. Lines answered, and there stood a 6′-8″, 300 lb, man with a beard that reminded me of Niagara Falls, had Niagara Falls been black and flowing with oil and bread crumbs.

And did I mention that Lines had a giant tattoo of Satan on his forearm?

At that point a German Shepherd with a dead cat in its mouth came strolling by and walked out the door. You can’t make this stuff up, folks. Jigger just followed Lines back into the trailer.

Dave and I followed, and I remember looking up and seeing a Stroh’s Beer can stuck in the ceiling. Lines noticed I was looking and explained, “We had a party last night”, as if slamming beer cans in the ceiling was normal party behavior.

As I was looking around the place for maybe a tattooing license or something official from the Board of Health, Jigger calmly informed Lines that he wanted a fly on his foot. Lines then looked through his books and informed us he didn’t have a picture of a fly.

Not a problem.

Lines grabbed a flyswatter, killed a fly, and spread it out on the kitchen table. He then proceeded to tattoo the image of the dead fly on Jigger’s foot. Folks, this actually happened. I was there.

I had no idea what I wanted so I decided to peruse some of Lines’ books. Turns out 99% of them were about the occult, witchcraft and Satanism. Long story short, by the end of the visit Jigger had his fly, I had a tat of a beetle on my foot and Dave, the guy who had just gone along for the ride, had a multi-colored serpent on his forearm.

One night I was home in bed, about half asleep, when the phone rang. It was around midnight KipJiggerin the middle of the week I was a little concerned that something bad had happened. Turns out it was Jigger:

“Hey! Wake up! Turn on the TV! Channel 33! Hurry! YOU CAN’T MISS THIS!”

Then he hung up. Thinking something horrible had happened, maybe a natural disaster or some horrific accident, I quickly turned on the TV to Channel 33 and there it was – two midgets boxing.

Then there was the time Jigger decided to build a cabin. We went up to his land to mark off where the cabin should be. He didn’t have any string or chalk, so he decided to mark it off with powdered milk. He bent over and started walking forward, sprinkling the powdered milk between his legs as he went. When he was finished he turned around and the powdered milk was gone. His dog Bear had followed him, lapping up the milk as he went. I’d just sat there on the back of the truck, awaiting the payoff.

A couple months later the cabin was under construction. Please understand neither of us knew how to build anything, let alone something anybody could actually live in. I went up to help out and Jigger was putting in the kitchen sink. He was having trouble and it was about 100 degrees in there. As I walked in he was under the sink cussing, but he was glad he was nearly finished. He’d just dropped the sink in and had glued it to the counter. I looked down and said, “Hey, aren’t these little holes (that the faucet and knobs go through) supposed to be in the back?” He’d put the sink in backwards. I stepped back, awaiting the eruption. Instead, after 5-seconds of silence, resigned laughter.

One time we all headed down to Oak Island over Christmas Break. On the way home Jigger’s heater went out of his car, which I recall was a Pinto Hatchback, a classic ride if there ever was one. It was about 15 degrees outside at the time. Think he’d stop to get it fixed? No way. He kept going. At one point we pulled up beside the Pinto on the freeway, looked over, and saw Jigger scraping ice off the windshield of the car . . . from the inside. And the kids? They were fine, wrapped up in blankets in the backseat.

Good times.

You know, I’d have never been a teacher had it not been for Jigger. One day back in the early 80’s I was at his house bitching about my job. I was working at The Mead and making good money, but I hated it. My wife at the time, Twana, wasn’t working. We both would have rather been teaching. Jigger listened to me whine for a few minutes and said, “You’re stupid for doing something you hate. Screw the money. Quit, have Twana go to work while you finish school, then you get a teaching job and let her go to school.”

And that’s exactly what we did.

After that, Jigger was instrumental in me getting a job at McClain, then back at Paint Valley. I owed him so much.

I remember once I was having a particularly difficult time. I was getting a divorce and felt as if the world was crashing down around me. The guilt was overwhelming. I went for a ride with Jigger, and I tried to explain everything, in essence attempting to justify what was happening. I was scared he’d think less of me or be disappointed, even angry. Instead he pulled the car over, looked at me and said, “I want you to listen to me. If you’re not happy I’m not happy. And if you’re happy I’m happy. It’ll be O.K.”

And it was. Those simple words lifted a tremendous weight from my shoulders because I knew that Jigger and my family would love me no matter what. Unconditional love is a powerful thing.

I don’t believe I’ve made a decision since he died, both personally and professionally, without wondering what he would do. When I see those “WWJD?” bracelets it means something entirely different to me.

And I still think of him every single day.

The day before he died he called all the seniors into the gym to dismiss them and say goodbye. As he always did, he told them to be careful celebrating, that he didn’t want any empty chairs on the stage on Graduation Day.

As it turns out there was an empty chair, and it’s been a tough one to fill.
 

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Comments
  1. Nicole Chaney says:

    I was only a freshman at the time. And never got the chance to know and appreciate the man that I have heard so many amazing things about.. But I will never forget coming into school that may morning and the sadness and sorrow that had fallen upon us!! I walk past him often and I cannot help but know what a great man he truly was!! Life is what happens, when your to busy making other plans!!!
    Truly missed…

  2. astroop77 says:

    You should add pics of all three tattoos 🙂

  3. Voni Park Sylvester says:

    He was my Principal. I was an ER nurse that night.

  4. Cindy Chalfant says:

    Loved those memories cousin. jigger was a great guy! Only the good die young!

  5. Maria Dingus says:

    What a great tribute Dave. And yes Jigger was one of the most influential people I have ever known. He knew just how to handle any situation with a student. When some thought harsh discipline should take place, Jigger could fix it without that. And I do mean it would be fixed. I do miss him also. Loved the stories!!!!!

  6. Zach Martin says:

    Dave, this was wonderful. I laughed until my ribs hurt, and I cried a little. You just had to know Jigger.

  7. Candy Mills says:

    All the time that I spent at that house and I never knew the tattoo story!!! lol Great man..still see his huge smile and that lil wink that he would give me in the hall 🙂 Piling all of us kids in the car to go to the games every weekend, the door was always open at their house.

  8. Josh case says:

    Great stories Dave. A great man and mentor. It sucks when u lose a friend so early in life. I
    can remember he was always there for ya when u needed someone.

  9. Chris Harper says:

    Dave, I haven’t read everything you have posted, but of those I have, this tops them.

    I looked at my phone this morning and realized what day it was. I thought about saying something to Sasha but was afraid to make her sad. I was dumb to think it was not already on her mind. We miss him, but I know it has to be terrible for Karen, Sasha, Josh, Canon and Kenzie.

    1 Short Story:
    There was only one time when I made him mad that I know of.

    I was at the cabin cutting firewood on a very cold Saturday morning and Sasha was at Karen and Jigger’s. It was near zero and I was sitting in the truck having some coffee to warm up when I hear the old camouflaged truck roaring up Potts Hill. Jigger came flying up the driveway hill, slid sideways around the curve at the top, went towards the cabin a few feet then, cranked the wheel on the old Scout to the right and floored it up the log road. He comes to a skidding halt when he sees me, jumps out and says, “Dammit, why don’t you wear a pager or something, Sasha was worried about you!”

    Then he got back in the truck and left. I just sat there without saying a word, not sure what just happened.

    After he left, I pieced together the likely previous events. I pictured Sasha worrying and pacing (no cell phones back then) and finally Jigger had enough of her whining and decided to check on me himself. Even though he passed his anger off as having to get off his cozy couch in front of the TV, I knew that he was actually worried a little too.

    I loved that guy – even when he was mad he was kinda funny.

    When I was a sophomore, he presented me with the principals award. I was never much of an athlete and just barely an above-average student. I received other awards throughout high school, but that is the only one that ever mattered to me. I had the utmost respect and love for that man. And I knew -KNEW WITHOUT A DOUBT that he cared about me and EVERY kid at that school.

    When he died, I lost a father-in-law. But I also lost a very good friend.

    Thanks again for your nice tribute.

    Chris

  10. Dayna Stewart says:

    *Awesome…he was totally awesome! LOVE love love the stories!!!

  11. Amy Riggin says:

    I am still laughing, while I am writing this. I don’t think anyone ever feared being sent to the principals office. He had his own way of handling things. Great stories!!

  12. Chris Mettler says:

    I remember when I would be my mischievous self and get sent to his office we would go take a walk around the track and hide behind the bleachers and have a smoke… Lol He would ask me how I was doing and what was bothering me. He genuinely cared about people. High School wouldn’t have been so much fun without jigger there.

  13. Chris Mettler says:

    Btw loved the story!!!

  14. […] Demise of High School Sports, Basketball, An Island, and a Volcano: My Journey to the Caribbean, Jigger, The World’s Ugliest Athletes, and The Dark Side of Elf on a […]

  15. Janean Diekan-Parsons says:

    Loved reading that!! Thanks for sharing your memories of such a great man 🙂

  16. Loved that man dearly..i think of him often when refering to high school days..he may be gone..but never to. E forgotten..he was indeed the best!!

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