“You’re wrong about that”

October 8th, 2021

DadYankca 1940

(published in The Daily Memphian, October 1, 2021)

photo: Frank Rudisell (left) and Frank Conaway on Main Street, ca.1940

Many families, especially in these parts, have colorful characters, the hue strong enough to hold that color over time, perhaps even strong enough to add a shade or two when the story is told again. And again.

Lord knows, Yank was plenty colorful enough.

He was one of my great uncles on my father’s side of the family palette – Frank Rudisell, called Yank by one of the kids in one of the generations before me and by every kid since. He was a tough, no-nonsense man, strong in his convictions and absolutely sure of his decisions. Not big, but not to be messed with. He once famously (and maybe actually) cold-cocked an ornery mule in one of his coal yards with his bare fist. He was known to carry a .35 caliber police revolver in his waistband.

Yank was also an easy mark for candy, a trip to the zoo, an ear for what a little boy had to say.

I never saw him out of his black suit and hat. I think he slept in it. That decision about fashion reflected his decisions about everything else. Once he made up his mind, that was it. No proof of anything else, no witness to an alternative, no amount of evidence to the contrary, would sway him. Whenever a spirited conversation around the table wasn’t going his way, he would fold his arms and simply say, “You’re wrong about that.” And he would say nothing else.

He was my father’s namesake, and model, and the nexus for what the wives and children of my brothers and me would all say about the three of us – we’re often wrong, but never in doubt.

Many families, especially in these parts, have a story about opportunities missed, fortunes lost.

Yank was in the retail coal and ice business in Memphis. Around 1907, our story goes, a woman owed him about $7,500 – a piece of change then. She couldn’t repay him according to the terms set, so she offered something she owned instead to cover the debt. He turned her down but gave her new terms and she eventually paid off the loan. When asked to justify his decision (and he was asked a lot), he infamously replied, “What she had was a passing fancy, a temporary infatuation no one really needs. People will always need coal and ice.”

What she had, what he turned down, was the Coca-Cola franchise for this part of the world. The telling of that story often requires a stiff drink, and it’s not Coca-Cola.

I loved him but Yank was wrong about coal and ice. About many things. His stubbornness, his hardheaded resistance to change, his refusal to seek or accept advice or look for compromise cost him dearly. Outside his family, no one could tell him what or how to do anything. In fact, no one inside his family could either.

When he was young, he lost the one love of his life through his own bad decision and never married. He died old and alone in a second-floor rented room on Overton Park, his black hat on the bureau, his .35 in the drawer under it.

Many families, especially in these parts, have Yanks around their tables, making decisions for their families, bowing their backs, and going red-faced in the face of being told what to do.

We love them but they’re wrong about Covid. About vaccinations. Dead wrong.

Talking down to them, lecturing them, insulting them – like so many do, like I’ve done in a number of columns – has proven to be counterproductive. They’ve come to their beliefs honestly – about big government, about being pushed around, especially about being told how to care for their children.

They’ve folded their arms.

The dishonest manipulators – the politicians and news networks and opportunists – who despicably play to those fears and concerns for their own benefit are the true villains in our story. Those who promote the damning of science and doctors and teachers and health professionals, keeping their listeners and viewers and readers deaf, dumb, and blind to the sights and sounds of ER’s and ICU’s, are damned themselves for those actions.

You know who you are, and may God have mercy on your souls.

When the truth is being denied, when we are increasingly threatened by that denial, we as a society, we as responsible human beings must stand for truth against any who knowingly trade falsehood for power.

That power is a lie.

We have now passed the death toll of the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic. We have now lost more lives to Covid than the horrific losses of the Civil War. As I write this, we will have reached or passed more lives lost to Covid than the combined total of lives lost in every other American War. Over the last month, almost 2,000 Americans died of Covid every day.


As I write this, Tennessee leads the nation in the number of Covid deaths per 100,000.


Shelby County is more vulnerable than 99% of U.S. counties. The unvaccinated are 11 times more vulnerable.


We are dying needlessly. Nationally, well over 90% of Covid deaths are unvaccinated. In Shelby County, it’s approaching 100%.


If your arms are folded, please unfold them. Hold one out and take the needle.

I’ll put this another way that my Yank and every Yank out there would agree with – if someone or something threatens my family, that someone or something is going to be dealt with.

When you’re told that Covid is not a severe threat, that’s a lie. When you’re told that vaccinations are not effective against that threat, that’s a lie.

Those lies are the biggest threat against everyone in your family in over a century.

I’m a Memphian, and there are mules out there that need cold-cocking.


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