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Conversation with David Poteat

Poteat, David
MacMonagle, Peter
Date of Interview: 
Relationships with people and places; Then and now
David Poteat tells a story about his son's birth and a story about his father's car.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Peter MacMonagle interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
DP (David Poteat): ( ) The only one that doesn't like me.
PM (Peter MacMonagle): I don't know. I'm here with my neighbor David and, a, he is, a, going to tell us a story, um, or rendition of something that's happened to you, in his, in his life or happened to somebody else that he knows, or a story that he was told by his dad, or whatever. This is essentially Dave's talk. Now we're going to check to make sure we're recording first. 'Cause we goofed, I goofed before. [Pause] Shoot Luke.
DP: OK Peter. Let's see, as I was thinking through the week I thought well, for the most part, as far as I'm concerned really and truly my life never really began until I had married and we started talking about having children, then Scott came along and, uh, one of my most memorable that I can ever recall was when Mary decided that we would have children. First off she told me that at the time I was traveling during store sets and she says you're not going to be able travel anymore, you have to quit. So I said, "OK." So believe it or not I gave up the job I was doing, became a machinist in a machine shop and did that for two years but I, right after I went to work Mary got pregnant. Through the entire carry of Scott, um, I would come home every night and talk to our baby boy who we just knew for sure we were going to have a baby boy. We went to, through four pediatricians, three said we would have a girl, one said we would have a boy but we knew in our hearts we were going to have a boy. So every night I would come home and talk to him and every now and again, just about every night, he would get in a knot on the right hand side of her belly and I know it must have been his little butt pushing out but he would push so hard and Mary would hurt so bad she'd, "Oh baby boy please lay down," and I would come in and I'd put my hand on it and I would just rub it ever so gently and just pat her tummy and I'd say, "Sunshine now you lay down for mommy and quit hurting her," and he would lay down just automatically instantly and, uh, so we went through the nine months, and it was getting right at the end. I was at work. I called her. I knew things were getting close 'cause her mother was even staying in our house back then. So I called home, I said, "How are you?" She says, "Oh I'm fine. I was just standing in the kitchen a minute ago and my water broke." And I'm going, "What? Your water broke?" She goes, "Yeah, it's nothing. I done clean it up with a towel. You know it's no big deal." I said, "Have you called your doctor?" "No." "You best call him." OK this was like one o'clock, so I get off work at four o'clock and I go busting home just as hard as I can. I get home there's Mary still hasn't packed her things, still has yet to call the doctor. So I picked up the phone, I call the doctor, and I handed her the phone. He says, "Your water did what, when?" And she goes, "Oh about one o'clock my water broke," and he said, "Get your butt here now," so I loaded up her stuff, loaded her up, got her in the car. And uh, I dropped her off at the front door and I said, "I'll be right back." I went and parked the car, by the time I got into the room. I say, "Where's my wife?" They say, "Oh we've already moved her," and I'm going, "What?" And they'd moved her right to a room right beside delivery. ( ) We had already pre-registered and all that stuff, so it was no big deal so they had moved her into a room that was, they were like three right here in row and the delivery was right here, so I asked, "Why in the world are we still running?"
PM: Yes.
DP: "Why in the world we had moved so quick?" They said because as soon as she got there they did a pelvic and she went straight to 10 centimeters. So, the reason I have to tell this part is because Mary just absolutely beat the ever loving fool out of me during this next oh, about three, four hours. She would, as soon as they did the pelvic she started dilating and Scott started crowning and we knew that he was right there at us and she was going, "No, no, no I don't want anything. I don't want nothing for pain. No, I don't want anything." Well, long about two hours worth she was going, "Give me something I don't care what it is," [laughter] and I, I'm sitting there and the doctor saying, "You cannot have water, you can have ice chips," so I would go get a cup and I would put ice chips and I would feed her with a plastic spoon ice chips she said, "Give me more." I said, "No." "Give me a glass a water." "No," and every time I said no she would take the back of my hand and knuckles and hit me in the chest, like that. Well and, and, and I kind of did things to antagonize her and try to keep her mind off what was going on. Only thing it did was it bruised me up really good. Uh, and the doctor's sitting there and he's watching her and everything else and he's going, "Son, when a pregnant woman tells you not to do something you best do what they tell you." He said, "If you don't, she's going to beat the shit out of you." [Laugh] So, so I quieted down a little bit and then I, um, kept things going and try to keep supporting her. About the end of three, three and a half hours I said, "OK doc. This is enough." I said, "There's a reason he's not coming on out." I said, "We've seen him crowning." I said, "Either he's turned wrong or whatever," and sure enough he did a check with his hand. He said, "Yeah instead of being face down, he's sideways. His head is sideways." I said, "Well let's get the forceps, let's turn his head, you know and let's get this baby out." So we went into delivery and took us about 30 minutes or so to get the instruments set up and all that. And it seems like just yesterday even though he's 19 now. Uh, the doctor took the forceps and turned his little head and he said, "Now push," and she pushed and his little head just popped right out and then his shoulders and then he said, "OK just relax." They cleaned out his nose and his mouth get all the mucus and everything out of it. And he, "OK give me one more push," and he pushed and out came this beautiful little baby boy. Uh, I'll never ever forget that. Nothing like it in the whole wide world and I sat there and I thought God what a miracle you've given me now. And uh, in fact he was still screaming and they hadn't cleaned him up and it's, and they handed him straight to me because I was down there at him and as soon as they handed him to me, would you believe he completely hushed crying. He knew who his daddy was, and his touch and, uh, then after that they, uh, they asked me if I wanted to cut the umbilical cord and I put the scissors on there and made a couple of timid attempts to cut it and it just kind of kept sliding 'cause I wouldn't put enough pressure and I went, "Oh no I can't do that," and I gave them the scissors back and of course they just one little snip and it was gone. And uh, then they laid him up on Mary's chest and I remember him just laying there. And the little fellow, I'd always heard of, of baby's being born and you know they don't have much mobility or much motion and they can't do this because they don't have the strength. Would you believe that baby boy laid down on his chest with his head between her boobs, do you know he raised his head up and looked around the room. I don't if he was focused or anything else but, he was checking out to see what was all around him. And uh, we came out of delivery and my mother-in-law to this day has pictures of Mary, she looks wonderful like she hasn't been through labor and I looked like somebody tied my feet and drug me through crap and stood me back up. ( ) I looked terrible and I took my shirt off when I got home and I had black and blue marks where your knuckles, the distance of your knuckles all over my chest on both sides where Mary had continually hit me with the back hand. But, uh, I'll never ever, ever forget that day as long as I live. That's always a good story 'cause that's when I feel like my life began. Do we have, uh, time for another?
PM: Yes we do.
DP: OK. He, he said a story of my father one that my dad told me. This was one about my father himself. He was in mechanic's school which was probably, I'm going to have to guess the year probably around 1940, 1941, and he went into mechanic's school. And he got him a '37 Ford Coupe. And uh, when you went to mechanic's school then you just didn't just take a class you actually had your own car that you physically did the work on, uh, whatever you wanted to do it you wanted to hop it up or put larger cylinders in it or bore out the cylinders and put bigger pistons in there, uh, you could put, uh, to most of the things racing or motor or horsepower equipment they had at the time. Anyway, so he built this '37 Ford Coupe and he kept the same flat head six engine that was in it, he didn't hop it up or a bigger motor or anything in it, and when he got it built they tried turn it over with a battery, a regular car battery, it wouldn't budge. The starter wouldn't even crank it over, turn it over at all it was so tight. So then they got two car batteries and hooked them together, still wouldn't turn it over. So then he thought, well we'll go get, I don't know if you've ever seen the older tractor trailers that had these huge like 18 cell batteries, I mean, they was large, they were probably three feet long. When they hooked it up to that [laughter] still wouldn't turn it over. So they decided they would take it out on the highway and they would push it and they got it up to one of his buddies took another car and got him to 70 miles an hour and, and motioned to the guy to back off and he put it in second gear and bumped the clutch trying to start it and trying to bump the starter the same time to get the motor to turn over. And he couldn't do it, couldn't do it so they had pushed it out a couple miles and they were coming back and it's, they decided they would, uh, try it one more time. They got it up to at least 70 this time they did a little bit more, and Dad bumped the starter and popped the clutch at the same time and the car did start, if it hadn't started then he had told me that he was gong to have to take it back and loosen every thing up because he had it so tight and, uh, anyway for the first 500 miles after he got it started it never went over 35 miles an hour, period, for any reason. The motor never got raced, uh, the engine never went over the, the speed of the car never exceeded 35 miles an hour. Well, in a little town of Danville, Virginia as you can imagine around that time period, the police were not as fine-tuned as they are today. And there were, there were two vehicles if the police ever got after it they, you just forget it, they couldn't catch him. One was, both of them was '37 Ford Coupes. One belonged to my father the other belonged to the local bootlegger, uh, as the story goes, well Dad's car this, this car, this part my grandfather was with the chief of police in Danville, Virginia, they were good friends. And so he needed to up to Washington one day, so they took Dad's car and by now, so it might have been '43, '44, '45, that Dad drove the car, but in 1946 the police chief took the car up to Washington for some big meeting he had. And coming back he was just cruising apparently there were not much speed limits then, I don't know, but he was just coming back down the highway his own little clip with Grandfather in the car and, uh, an FBI agent saw the '37 Ford Coupe and thought it was the bootlegger and he was in a 1946 brand new Buick. With the biggest motor and all this stuff in it and so he went tearing down the road trying to catch this '37 Ford Coupe and, uh, my grandfather and the police chief decide to stop and get them, uh, a drink and pack of nabs or a snack of some sort and they pulled over to a little service station, they were inside and the FBI agent comes in and he goes, um, "Whose, uh, whose car is this out here?" He said the police said, "I'm driving." He says, "It's, uh, John's son's car." "Man I thought you were the bootlegger out of Danville," he said. "No." He said, "He got a car just like it, but this isn't it," and he says, "That's the fastest little thing I ever seen." He says, "It's got have more than flathead pistons." He said, "No sir." He said, "Just flathead pistons." He said, "I got to see this," and they went out there raised the hood and the FBI agent said, "If you had told me a flat head piston could run this fast," he said, "I'd have called you a liar. Because there's no way you can this much speed out of a car." So Dad came back, I mean Grandfather came back, uh, the car itself, one of Dad's friends was driving, one of his buddies was driving it one night and rolled it out through a field going around a curve, didn't make it and just side over side over side. See the car got junked. Story goes that the bootlegger bought that motor and put it in his car. And the rest of it is also a good story but, uh, one night the state police or whomever got after the bootlegger. Story goes they shot his right back tire off first and he still outran him. They shot his back left tire out from out next. And he was still in front of, they couldn't get up beside him or anything else and they finally shot his front tire which made him completely stop the car, he ran it out through a field, jumped out of the car and they still never caught him. [Laugh] So that's the story of my dad's '37 Ford Coupe motor that he built.
PM: And it's reincarnation.
DP: Oh absolutely in its reincarnation.
PM: Good there we go. That was easy. Thank you.
DP: You're welcome.