This work is copyright by the author and commercial use is prohibited without permission. Personal/private copies are permitted only if complete including the copyright notice.

The author would appreciate your comments – pro and con, including constructive criticism, and suggestions.

Of Dads, Sons And Razor Strops
Too Late For Me
PJ Franklin <>


I had finished my morning chores and quickly chucked down my breakfast. I was in danger of being late for work, but Mr. Koch would be angry with me if I did and dock me pay. We couldn't afford the loss, me and my three younger sisters and my Mom. I rushed out the door to work when other boys my age, seventeen, were going to school.

It had been like this the six years since my dad left. Mom worked as a waitress at a truck stop. She got good tips from the drivers who treated her respectfully unlike the shit-heads in the big city restaurants. She wanted me in school, but gave up on my sixteenth birthday when times got really tough and I could work full time.

Then one late night, she brought a man home, a big man, strong, athletic. He owned his own rig, several of them in fact. He dressed kind of western and was chewing on a tooth-pick out the side of his mouth. Unlike the others, he didn't smell of cigarettes and alcohol. My sisters were in bed, I was still up cleaning the house after work.

"Honey, this is Jake, Jake McClure. Jake, this is my oldest, Kline. I named him … "

"Yes I know Clara, after Patsy, the country western star. Good to meet you Kline, your mama thinks a lot of you," his hand came out.

I looked up at him and then at his hand. It was rock steady, not shaking. When I shook it, it was strong, but didn't try to overwhelm me with power, a sign of weakness or wimpy like, a sign of cowardice, it was just right.

Jake McClure did not stay the night like the others. He and mama talked far into the night and even let me stay and listen. As he talked to my mother I looked at him and as I had done for six long years and at many men before, I dared to wonder if he would be my step-daddy or was it too late for me?

Jake did not then disappear after a few days or weeks as all the others had. My sisters, they giggled with glee jumping around him whenever Jake would get back from a long interstate run and bring them presents, girl presents. Jake didn't try to win me over that way. He didn't try anything at all until one day, one afternoon he said,

"Kline. Let's us go fishin', just you and me. I know a great place close to here, you been fishin'?"

"No sir," I replied feeling deprived of something I had always wanted to do.

"Not been fishin'? Good Lord boy," was all he said, but it wasn't pity, it was something else.

I got into his big truck, not one of his rigs, it was a big late model Ford. I sat there stiffly, politely, hands folded in my lap, terrified I would do something wrong, something to upset him or drive him away and leave my mother yet again without a potential beau.

He drove us to the fishing spot, he had all the gear, gear I had no idea existed. He gave me a pole, bait, tackle, everything. I hardly knew what to do with it and felt stupid.

"Here Kline, here's what you do," he said patiently and showed me, patiently, not like the others who had hair-trigger impatience and sometimes told me I was stupid if I didn't know how to do something.

I didn't catch anything that day, neither did he, "Fishing is not for catchin' Kline, it's for relaxin' and enjoying the good company," and that made sense to me.

When he dropped me back home that day, I missed him, badly. I went to bed that night praying to God he would come back even if just so I could see him, admire him. Jake did come back the next Saturday after his next run, more presents for my sisters and a smile and hug for my Mom. They went out that night and this time, he did stay, but not with Mom in her bedroom.

"I'll take the couch," he said. My pride swelled up within me,

"No, Jake. You take my room, my bed. I'll take the couch."

"I can't take your bed away from you Kline, I'm fine out here."

"Please!" I begged him with my eyes.

He looked at me, "I'd be proud to take your bed son," he said without thinking. I took that "son" and ran with it in my mind the rest of the night as I lay on that lumpy old couch proud that Jake was in my bed.

The next morning I got up early to fix breakfast. I always did to spell Mama one day a week, but as I went into the kitchen wearing nothing but an old pair of loose gym shorts, there was Jake. He had breakfast already started.

"Coffee?" he smiled at me and handed me a mug of steamy black liquid. I took it. Jake was dressed only in an old pair of sweats by the looks of it, his bare chest hairy and strong lookin'.

"Thought I'd whip up a big ol' breakfast for everyone, care to help?"

"Yes Sir!" I gleamed and as the girls and Mom wandered in shortly, we men had breakfast all going just like at a good diner. The girls were giggling and hovering about Jake and he was treating them all like princesses and my Mom like a queen. I loved how he treated her.

Then it was time to clean up and Mama made the girls clean up. They complained loudly but one look from Jake set them straight right off. I could just imagine him taking me in hand. The thought of it made me both fearful and kind of excited inside though I didn't know why that was.

"Jake, why don't you and Kline go attend to the water heater around in the shed. It's been giving us fits lately," she suggested.

"All right then, come on Kline, let's go take us a look," he said and I followed.

Was there nothing that this man couldn't do? Was there no tool he didn't pack in the back of his massive truck? I was helpless. I didn't know how to use tools. Nobody ever took the time to teach me. Jake did, he let me help. He asked me to do things. I could hardly take my eyes off of him doing it. He caught me several times and I felt stupid him catching me, so much so I started to back off, feeling self-conscious, cautions on account of being snapped at by so many men over time, it had an affect on me.

"Look at me son, " he said as I must have looked plenty shy to him. I looked up, trembling too and he hadn't done nothin'.

"You afraid of me?" he asked.

I didn't have much to my name, but I did have pride of truth. I could not lie, "Yes," I said.

"What are you afraid of?" he asked and then asked for a certain wrench and when I didn't know which one it was, he found it and calmlypointed to a marking on it so I would remember.

"I guess and that you'll go away like the rest," I admitted.

He stopped what he was doing, "You're a good boy Kline, but you need to grow up. But you can't unless you got a good man around to teach you how," he said and sighed, "Gonna need a new water heater. This one is shot. Come on," he said and I followed back inside the house to talk to Mama.

"Gonna need to go to my place and get that new water heater I have sitting around Clara, but I got something else to do first with Kline here, we'll be back soon," he said.

"We're not going anywhere," Mama said and I weakly smiled at her. I had no idea where I was going with Jake except to get a new water heater, but turns out he lived about forty-five minutes from our place.

We drove into his property. I never saw the like. It was huge, well taken care of, lots of little buildings here and there and a proper barn. I got out and stayed near to him as we walked to a shed of sorts. It was kind of large, almost in two pieces like they had been spliced together.

We walked inside and he looked to our right, "There it is, the water heater still in its box. Let's get that back outside of the shed first," he said and then I looked to my left. Up on the wall on the other side of the shed was what looked to me like a length of leather, hanging from the wall. I kind of knew what it was, but I wasn't sure.

"Razor strop," Jake said, "My daddy used that on me when I was your age to keep me from acting like an idiot," he said and walked right up to it while I stayed put.

"This will make a man outta ya if nothing else will," as he tipped his cap back. I looked at it and then at him feeling small and weak before both.

Jake looked at me, "You know Kline. You need to loosen up. If you stay like you are, you're gonna bust all up one day or explode or something."

I looked helplessly at Jake. I didn't know what to say to that. I believed him and all and had always had a notion that I never had my childhood, ever; but how does a boy say that to a man like Jake? I looked down, feeling inadequate just then and before I knew it, he was at my side, his big arm around my shoulders,

"Ever feel like you missed out, son?" he asked quietly. That got to me, real bad. I mean real bad. I felt my eyes mist up. I felt worse, not better to do that in his presence, but I managed a silent nod making it feel like it was too late for me.

"You need to be a boy, not a … forgive me for how it sounds … not a surrogate husband for your Mama."

"But I'm already seventeen," I said and then I couldn't stop it. I started to sob a little and a few tears fell to my face. Jake turned me and hugged me to his shoulder a moment,

"Boy like you deserves to feel as you do," and I stopped and got my breath.

"I don't know how. It's too late for me," I said, my voice tinged hard with bitterness. Suddenly he stood in front of me and put his strong hands on my shoulders,

"Look at me boy!" and I did, "It is NOT too late for you Kline. I don't give a good god damn if I have to tell God to turn back time. You ARE going to be a boy before you can be a man!" the emotion in his voice coming through, his sincerity like a balm on my heart ache.

"Boy like you should NOT be working. You should be in school with other boys, playing sports, dating girls, getting into scrapes. Giving your Pa a run for his money … " and then he stopped.

"Ain't got no Pa," I said frustrated and the tears started to roll again.

"Good God Damn! So I am going to do something about that!" and he looked at me intently,

"Kline, I am going to propose to your mother sooner or later. I wanted you to know first because I needed to ask you first. I could never marry your Ma, without your permission."

I never, ever had anyone show me that kind of respect and honor, "I reckon … I reckon you can if you love her. She needs a man to love her and treat her good."

He nodded, "Good enough, but first things first. I gotta know if you even want a step-dad."

You know, sometimes you wish for a thing so hard for so long that when that thing is in your grasp, you don't quite know what to do with it or how to behave around it.

"I mean, could you even stand to be around me," he asked politely.

I felt trapped. I felt like I was drowning in a sea of words that I had always wanted to hear but it was all too much, smothering I guess.

"Would that mean … would it … would it mean if I didn't live up your standards, you'd use that on me?" I said and looked at the strop.

"The truth?" he replied.

I nodded, "Yes sir, please."

"I would. I would give you a good whipping Kline if you earned it. I've raised two of my own with it. They're all grown and live far from here, but there's always been an ache in my heart for another."

I swallowed hard. I walked over and looked up at it, "I don't even know if I could take a whipping. Mama spanked me when I was a small boy, not since. I been too busy … to afraid to get into trouble for fear I'd lose my job."

He stood by me, put his big paw on my shoulder, "You can take it, I guarantee you can, you're that kind of boy."

"If I couldn't. I'd disappoint you. I don't want to do that. I couldn't stand to do that," and looked down feeling sorry for myself just then.

"One way to find out. Right now, just between you and me Kline," he said.

I started to panic, just a little. I stepped back from the strop, "You mean take a whipping? Now?"

"Yup, that's what I mean. You got to find out what's in you boy, that's the only way," he said.

"But I ain't done nothing wrong."

"True," he said and we stood there a while.

"I'll … I'll think about it," I said.

"Fair enough. Let's load that water heater," he said and that's what we did, moved it out of the shed and into the back of that big truck of his.

It was hot out, clear and sunny that day. He invited me inside his huge house and big kitchen.

"Wow, mama would love this kitchen," I mused.

"I keep meaning to bring her in here but I didn't want to get her hopes up, if you said I couldn't marry her," he replied. I was beginning to really like this man.

He gave me a tall cold glass of ice tea. It tasted delicious. We walked outside and stood on the back porch. I kept thinking about that strop and how it might feel, but more like how it would feel to have a Pa, maybe to feel like a boy again instead of how I did, an adult before my time.

I looked at the glass still half full. I looked at his glass, about three-quarters full. I looked up to heaven, "God help me," I mumbled and then scooted next to him and "accidentally" emptied what remained of my glass of cold ice tea onto Jake's shirt.

"OH GEE! I'm so sorry Jake! It slipped!" I yelped.

"God Jesus that's cold! That's OK Kline, accidents happen!" he said jovially, but then I showed him my hand. My elbow "slipped" just right and knocked his glass back and splashed the rest of his ice tea onto his shirt yet again,

"Yea, but that's no accident, Jake," I said and took off running.

"Now you come back here you little scamp!" he said half laughing, half serious.

I ran for that big barn of his and then detoured around it to the far side, my heart pounding with a fearful excitement I never had. I had no idea where I was at all, just far from Jake. Had I done the right thing? Was he really gonna be angry with me? Was I nuts?

Only the sounds of the country around me, I chose to move to the far side of the barn trying to be quiet and stay away from him as long as I could. I crept up on the corner, slow, patient. I didn't hear anything. I held my breath and about to edge around the corner …

"GOTCHA!" he yelled and wrapped his big ol' arms around me in a bear hug, me feeling his soaked shirt.

"AHHH!" I startled and then I got really fearful feelin'. Was he going to be angry with me?

"Now what am I going to do with you, son?" he asked. His voice was not angry, his hug lightened, but he didn't let go.

"Let me go please!" I said self-protecting.

"Not sure I should," he said, "I should just carry you over my shoulder into that shed and give you a good ol' country whippin' with that strop," he said but then did let me go, staying right by my side panting just a little for breath.

I could have taken off, but that would have been downright childish. I may want to be a boy, but not some snot nose kid or act like my sisters did.

"If you were my Pa, would you order me to do it?" I asked instead.

"I reckon, yes, I would," he answered.

"I will … but you have to order me, like I was your son, and you have to carry me like you said you would," I asked feeling a little foolish, but honest and sincere.

His big paw came up and ruffled my head, he never did that before and it felt real good,

"Kline, you got a whipping coming boy," and then he swooped me up over his big shoulder like a sack of potatoes and started walking down around that long barn wall to the front.

"Don't drop me please!" I said truly nervous that he would drop me. I had never, ever been picked up. I felt like I was ten feet up.

"If I do, it'll be on somewhere safe like your backside boy, so shush up!" and he spanked my butt once, hard!

"OUCH!" I reacted in earnest.

"What's the matter, can't take a few licks?" and he popped me twice more with his palm, each one a big sting!

"ok, OK! I'm sorry!" I said but knew he was just playin' around.

"That's what my boys always said, they never meant it," Jake chuckled as we trundled along about halfway to the shed and I relaxed, my ass stinging a little but there was something awfully comforting and terribly needful from it, way deep down and then he set me down at the door.

I rubbed my seat and looked up at him.

"You trust me?" he asked. I rubbed a bit more and then nodded, "Yes sir."

"I'd never give you more than I know you can take. I never whip a boy in anger. Now you get inside and strip to your birthday suit and wait for me by the strop."

I went inside and stood where I was supposed to and stripped off not taking my eye off the devil hanging up on the wall. I saw the sawhorse and figured that part out on my own. I held myself and waited in the cool air around me.

The door opened and in walked Jake and gave me a big glass of cold water,

"Drink this. You'll sweat some on a day like this," and I drank it, grateful for his caring and even buck naked, feeling natural in his presence.

He took the glass from me and I got real nervous as he pulled the sawhorse out a bit,

"Straddle over the length. Keep your can up nice and high Kline. I'll give you ten cuts, see how you do," he instructed.

I did as I was told and bent over, hands one in front of the other, elbows mostly straight, my ass up proud for my whipping, but my heart beating like a fury and me terribly unsure of myself. I closed my eyes.

Jake started in. The first cut, it hurt like hell and didn't seem all that hard. I suddenly had a vision of what his sons went through in the shed. The second and third cuts were awful, stinging painful. My face bunched up, I couldn't help it. The fourth and fifth and I yelped hard and turned and looked at Jake.

He nodded, "A good whipping hurts Kline. You're feeling it son, just let it take you over. You can cry, you can yelp. No cussing. I'm gonna give you five of my best now,"

I nodded and prepared for the worst. The sixth cut was a fury of awful pain. My knees buckled,

"I can't!!" I yelled as my ass throbbed right were you sit.

"Yes you can," he said calmly and gave me the seventh. I started to cry. I never cried, ever, about anything save that day and especially now.

The eighth made me stand up and my hands covered my stinging ass, "Please no more Jake!" I wailed and stood there feeling awful.

"You can do it Kline, go back down son," and I did. He waited. I sobbed and looked at him, "OK, I'm ready," I said.

The last two cuts hurt like holy hell and I wished my ass wasn't so damn soft but I got there and panted and waited, staring at the wall.

"You did good Kline, real good. No less than my own boys. So now you know. You can get up now," he said and I swung my leg around and craned my head to look at my newly birthed red behind.

"Rub it," he said and I did, "Wow, I got me a real whippin' from a man who knows how to put a boy in his place," I said out loud.

"How do you feel?" he asked. I thought for a moment,

"Sort of like I can start over. Like I been kind of baptized."

He chuckled, "You're a boy after my heart, Kline, come here son," and he hugged me and whispered, "I'm proud of you Kline, now get dressed," and that was the best hug I ever had from woman or man.

It wasn't but a few minutes later and me sitting in the truck cab next to Jake McClure that I complained,

"My butt hurts! Don't go over so many bumps please!"

Jake belly-laughed, "Just like my youngest used to complain."

I pretended to pout. Truth was, I loved it, I loved how I felt. I loved Jake. Just maybe it was not too late for me.

* * * * * * * * * *

A few months later …

I found myself sitting on the hard bench outside of Principal Smith's office glaring at my nemesis sitting on the other side of the bench. I was in the 10th grade on account I was so far behind in studies, that's where I had to start.

"I'm gonna kick your ass next time," the boy said glaring back. That made me smile with satisfaction because he knew that I had just kicked his real good, except we got caught.

I turned to look at him, "Keep talking, just keep it up and I'll just do it again, I'll pound you into hamburger," I boasted.

"Nobody is going to pound anyone into anything," the voice boomed. I looked up and my shoulders sank. It was my Pa and just then his Pa showed up,

"We're going home and you're getting a good hard whipping boy, now get going!" his Pa said to him. As he walked away from me, he looked at me with softened eyes and so did mine as I looked after him.

I stood up and looked my Pa in the eye, "Sorry Pa."

"Kline McClure, you have just begun to be sorry. This is the third time in five weeks boy," he said as we walked down the long hallway to the door leading out to the high school parking lot.

"Well I can't help that the younger boys around here ain't got no sense," I complained and put my hand up on Pa's broad shoulder.

"Boy, the last two were older than you, don't you go making stuff up, you're in enough trouble," he smirked at me and rubbed my neck and looked at him, admiring my Papa for all he did for me and still let me be just a boy.

As we drove home from school I already knew I would be marching directly to the woodshed to take my whipping, likely twenty hard licks. Papa boasted that I was giving his shoulder fits of stiffness after the last several whippings. He seemed proud to tell other fathers about how strong willed and stubborn his son, me, was.

"How's that old horse of ours doing? Did the vet say anything yet?" we talked about our stock as he drove.

"Oh, I don't know. I just can't stand to put her down yet," my Pa said, his soft heart coming out and that reminded me of the day he married my Mama and took all of us on a honeymoon together, the whole family.

And the fact that I was about to get my ass tore up some made no difference as for the thousandth time I recalled how during our trip I got alone with my new Pa. I hadn't called him Pa yet. I wanted to. We were standing together looking out over a beautiful valley, during a rest stop, the girls and Mama off doing their thing.


"Yes Kline."

"I want … I .. I don't want to call you that any more and I don't want no step-daddy. I mean … I want to just call you Dad or Pa, right off."

His big arm came around my shoulders. His head bowed and his fingers went to his eyes and then he looked at me, a bit red in his eyes,

"Kline, son, I'd like that. I'd like that a whole lot," and then he hugged me and pecked my temple. I got all misty eyed and kissed him too, just the same and we stood there by ourselves just a short while longer looking at the beautiful sight, all of my heart ache finally gone.

We arrived home and I sighed and got out of the truck and there was two of my sisters,

"You gonna get another whippin' Kline?" the youngest smirked.

"Mind your own business!" I barked back and she went running into the house complaining that I had yelled at her, again while my other sis laughed and winked at me. I winked back.

Pa just shook his head and headed to the barn to check on the old horse.

I marched to the woodshed, went inside and took the broom and swept around the area a bit, then set to stripping off naked and got the sawhorse all ready. I plucked the strop off the wall and made sure it was still well oiled like I had been taught and in walked Pa.

He sighed, "Horse seems OK for now," and he looked relieved. I handed him the strop with two hands and turned and got into position glad that old horse would be OK for now.

I took my licks, twenty of 'em. Hard, reliable and sure just like my Pa. Oh it hurt plenty but I knew how to go with it and take my punishment like the man I meant to be some day after I was done being a boy.

After my licks, I stood up, looked, smiled a little, rubbed a little and then hugged my Pa,

"Thank you Papa. Thank you for caring. Sorry about your shoulder," I grinned and he grinned back and spanked me one pop with his other hand, "Don't you go sassin' now, I got a long way to go with both shoulders!"

I yelped and jumped back and laughed a little and he ruffled my hair, "Now you get dressed and into the barn and do your chores."

"Yes Pa," I sighed as he left and my eye looked after him until he was gone and even after the door was closed I could see him in my mind's eye as I got dressed. I walked out of the shed feeling cleansed and looked up to the clear sky and smiled, it had not been too late for me after all.

The End

© Copyright PJ Franklin March 22, 2012

Your comments are appreciated.

See more of my stories at:  Nifty's Prolific Net Authors
    and on my web site: