Saturday, April 08, 2006

Jerry Falwell's cat-killing story

This story got some coverage a little over a year ago when Ian Frazier quoted this passage from Jerry Falwell's autobiography in a humor piece in The New Yorker and Jonathan Schwarz covered it in his blog. I found it so twisted that I had to validate its reality by purchasing a used copy of Falwell's book on Marketplace (for about $0.50). I think it's worth bringing up again now that Sen. John McCain has agreed to give a commencement address at Falwell's Liberty University ("crazy base world"), since it shows Falwell's lack of empathy--I think the attribute "bordered on" here is not cruelty but sociopathy.

From Strength for the Journey: An Autobiography by Jerry Falwell (1987, Simon and Schuster), pp. 49-50:
There were times that Dad's pranks bordered on cruelty. One of his oil company workers, a one-legged man he nicknamed "Crip" Smith, complained about everything. Dad and Crip's co-workers got tired of the old man's bellyaching and decided to take revenge. One morning Crip called in sick and Dad volunteered to send by lunch to his grateful but suspicious employee. Dad and his chums caught Crip's old black tomcat, killed it, skinned it, and cooked it in the kitchen of one of Dad's little restaurants. They called it squirrel meat and delivered it to Crip on a linen-covered tray. When Crip returned to work the next morning, Dad and his co-conspirators asked him how he liked his meal. They knew he would complain even about a free home-cooked lunch, and when Crip called it "the toughest squirrel meat" he had ever eaten, they were glad to tell him why.
This story immediately follows another story in which Falwell invites his young friend William from the neighborhood, who is afraid of his father, into the house for milk and cookies, after telling his father that William is afraid (p. 49):
William hesitated at the door. He knew my father carried a gun, and there were too many stories circulating about that gun to leave William feeling easy about entering our home. Quickly I pushed my friend inside and closed the door behind us. Dad was sitting at the kitchen table reading a newspaper. Suddenly he looked directly at us and shouted.
"Both of you, stop!" William froze in his tracks, and I leaned forward eagerly to see what Dad was up to. William's eyes opened wide as Dad drew his gun and pointed it at the floor just in front of my friend's trembling legs.
"Don't move," he said quietly. Then he took careful aim and pulled the trigger. The shot from the .38 Remington pistol blew a fairly impressive hole in the kitchen floor. Calmly, Dad blew smoke from the barrel and placed the pistol back on the table.
"I've been trying to get that fly all day," he said, looking back down at his paper. "And finally I got it."
There was a moment of silence. Then, with a gasp, William bolted out the door. I never got him back inside our house again, and the legend about my father continued to spread throughout the neighborhood. Later Dad and I laughed ourselves hoarse just remembering William's startled look and sudden exit.
For additional context, Falwell reports that his father killed his own brother with a shotgun (in self-defense, pp. 22-24), and attributes part of his father's problem to the fact that "After all, Dad grew up in the home of an atheist" (p. 17), even though he had a Christian mother. His book says that his father had a deathbed conversion to Christianity (p. 83).


James Foard said...

Falwell's dad was an atheist,
just like you, Lippard

Lippard said...

Falwell's dad may have been an atheist (though I see no evidence to support the claim--Falwell doesn't say that, he only says that his father was raised in a mixed atheist/Christian household), but he wasn't "just like [me]" in any discernible way even if he was.

You, on the other hand, have provided direct evidence of your own character and intellect, independent of whatever your religious views may be.