As a youngster, while Jujubees caught the fancy of most normal kids, the candy did little to impressed poor me. And the alarmed guide that warned Tarzan, “No go, bwana! Men say Juju” only left me in stitches, so any exposure of my names that might be used by any potential enemy worries me none. After all, Mad Magazine’s very own Alfred E. led this child to see the futility in such morbid thoughts.
However, that being said, I do believe the author from Gone Away* has hit upon a common problem for some of us, and that is the insecurities that might latch onto the innards of a shortened human, at least until stature increases.
I was to be a girl, according to learned doctor of the era, so dear mother picked out the nice name Harriet, possibly from her admiration of Beecher Stowe. Alas, was she surprised. Then groggy from whatever drugs were used in the early 40’s, she shortened the chosen name to the masculine version, while a nurse held my nakedness up for the world to see. The second given name, I am told, came from Addison Hall, identified to me in later years as some well-known banker of Savannah.
So out set Harry Addison Tippins across the face of the earth to learn to deal with his three names. Here are three obvious facts. 1) All three have a double letter. 2) The initials are the same as my father, Hamilton Allen. 3) They also spell out what we both seldom fail to sport.
But trouble came early. Being raised beside a still millpond in southern Georgia, and surrounded by characters with titles such as Coon, Doc, Buster and Duke, as well as Etta, Daisy, Pearl and cousin Toosie, I became shy and reclusive. My common name made no impact.
Then we moved. The high-plains portions of my then-tender years I describe simply as geographical shock, and anyone familiar with those two divergent climes should well understand that term. The other fright was the language; forget about names.
Spanish, and a different sort of drawl coming from the natives, mixed in with healthy doses of brag and bluster from both races, had me backed into a cramped corner. A kid will gravitate to what he knows best, so I stayed home and fought with my sisters.
I soon began to forget how much I hated my name until my first job came along. If you have never caddied before, make a note to do so; it builds you right up, in both a cosmic sense and as a health benefit. I forget how much a bag full of clubs weigh exactly; let’s just say they are really heavy.
But I took this opportunity to change my identity. And why not? Being called Hairy-ass, or Harry-fairy had become a bit of a bore, and at 13 I craved genuine excitement, so when the first gentleman approached me, and after handing to me a leather bag filled with odd fathead sticks protruding from one end, and then asking me my name, I blurted out,
Halleluiah, what was I thinking?
By the sixth hole I had a few regrets. I admit, it wears well on that Henry Hawk cartoon character, but it soon began to grate on my immature ears. Tired out and sweating under my appointed load, totally confused over which stick was what (Henry, the five-iron. No Henry, the five; you have the six there. No, Henry. That is the putter. Hurry up, little Henry!) and wanting all the while to quit this business, I got cheered up back at the clubhouse when he flipped a shiny half-dollar my way.
“Thanks, Henry.” He looked even more relieved than his fumbling caddy.
But young Henry had just broke into the world of capitalism, so I smiled and caught it.