Terry Thomas

The Razor Strap

                  The Razor Strap



 I am not sure how many of you know what a razor strap is so I will explain. The infamous razor strap was used by barbers to keep their razor sharp. It was about 3 inches wide by two foot long and had several layers of leather each about a quarter of an inch thick. Just the sound of those multiple pieces of leather slapping against each other was enough to scare the daylights out of any child and the welt that one blow of this thing left was the entire deterrent any parent really needed.


It was a typical winter day in the projects located in North Nashville. Sun was up and the day was going to be cool but not a cold one. Since we were on Christmas break I was looking forward to hanging out with my friends and enjoying my time off from school. Sometime around mid morning Daddy wanted me to go to store to pick up some tobacco for rolling his own and a six pack of Doctor Pepper. Since this always meant there would be a few pennies for me I jumped at the chance.


Just as I was getting myself put together I heard the mail man. I ran to the mail slot to remove the mail and I noticed there was a card from my Mother to my brother Tony for his birthday. Since the card was not sealed I took a moment to peek inside. And there it was; it looked brand new as though it had never been touched. It was a five dollar bill. So in one hand I had the one dollar bill Daddy gave me and in the other hand I had Tony’s five dollar bill. This was to the best of my knowledge the first time the temptation to steal had approached me. For some unknown reason I could not resist. So I slipped the one dollar into Tony’s card and the five dollars into my pocket, grabbed my long sleeve shirt off of the radiator heater, gave Daddy the mail and hit the door running to complete my store chore.


I was nervous to say the least, as I walked to the corner store as I began to think of all the things I could say if I was caught with the money. One lie after the other I began to practice them so I would be masterful if I was called upon to explain my sudden wealth.


Mistake number two was ignoring my Mothers favorite say, “if you tell one lie you will have to tell a hundred trying to get out of it.”


As I watched the store clerk count out my change and placed it in my hand for a brief moment I felt a deep sense of guilt and I figured I could fix the problem by simply putting the money back once I got home. As I walked back to our home in the projects I had made my decision, I would give Daddy his change from the one dollar and I would put the other four dollars back in Tony’s card. It was then that I realized I was not cut out to be an outlaw.


Everything changed as I entered the house for Tony was home and he had already opened his card. Now I was stuck I either had to confess my sins and take my punishment or I had to shut up and get out there before guilt got the better of me. Since I had no desire to spend time with Daddy’s razor strap the decision was an easy one.


I was out the door and on my way down to Buddy’s house when I came across one of the neighbor hood kids and we began to chat. That was mistake number three; it never dawned on me he knew Tony that well. I told him  about the joke as I called it that I had pulled on Tony and he laughed with me as though it would be okay and I had nothing to worry about. That proved to be wrong.


When I finally hooked up with my friend and explained what I had done with in minutes we were on our way to Cascade Park. It was a long way from where we lived and getting caught there would definitely get one introduced to the razor strap however the risk was worth it. For the rides there where cheap and four dollars would go along way towards having a good time.


I never realized that Tony had so much blood hound in him. It took us several hours to reach the park and after buying tickets we where standing in line with cotton candy and the fantasy of the wind in are hair once we where aboard that roller coaster. Not a care in the world just the anticipation of the ride going through are minds.


I turned to shout something to my friend as the noise around us was loud when I felt a sharp pain in my tail bone, the pain was so sharp I lost my breath and fell to my knees gasping and trying to get my breath. I turned to look behind me and it was then I saw my older brother of four years standing there. He was not happy, he did not want to share in our excitement and he did not want any of my cotton candy. I think what he wanted was blood, that would be my blood.


I remember being dragged by my shirt collar out of the amusement park as the other kids looked and laugh. Funny though it may have been that walk home was not so funny as Tony took his liberty with smacking and kicking me from the park to home. I think that was the longest path I have ever traveled.


As Tony drug me up the front steps with me screaming at him to leave me alone Daddy appeared. Now what happened next to this day still surprises me. After Tony went through his routine and told my father everything that had happened that day it was Tony who would feel the razor strap instead of me. Although I was scolded and made to feel small it was Tony who got the strap.


I never asked Daddy in his later years as to why he acted like that and I guess it really wasn’t my place to ask. My guess is though as I am now a parent and a grand parent it had to do with who was in charge and who decided who gets punished and what that punishment should be.


I am not sure what makes kids do the things they do or even what made me do the things I did. I am sure of one thing. The years I spent with father only resulted in my meeting mister razor strap one time and that was enough. Now I am not sure if it was the welt the strap made or the sound that day of the strap as it thundered out the front window to the porch where I was left standing as Daddy dealt with Tony’s short comings. I may never know, what I do know is I still own that strap today and use it often to bring a fine edge to my pocket and hunting knifes.


But it will never touch a child again.



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