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Father's Day Tribute: The Can-Opener King of Sheffield Towne

In honor of Father’s Day, the Tilt team has decided to dedicate several blog posts to celebrate fathers and fatherhood throughout June.  Why?  Because at the heart of Tilt is an exploration of what it means to be a father, what it means to take care of your family, and why it’s never too late to right wrongs.  Some of members of the team will write about their fathers; others will write about being fathers.

Our first installment is from Tilt writer/producer Jessica. Recently she wrote about her father to help her students understand the different rhetorical modes.  Each entry is written in a different mode, but all explore the same topic: her father.

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My Dad: The Can-Opener King of Sheffield Towne

By Jessica King

Rhetorical Mode: Argumentative

My father was the Can-Opener King of Sheffield Towne.  No one could top him in form or substance.  His dives caused water to shoot up into the air at least 8 feet above the pool, just like Old Faithful – which he’d made us stare at for 30 minutes straight one summer after 18 hours of driving – and they had a splash radius of at least 10 feet.  The cheering crowd always got a good soaking when my dad hit the pool, and they never, ever let him do just one.

Rhetorical Mode: Narration
When I was young, I spent my summers by the pool with the other members of the tight knit community that revolved around our sheltered, suburban cul-de-sac.  My father was a celebrity of sorts, master of a funny diving move called the Can-Opener, in which the participant jumped into the pool and tried to make the biggest splash.  Although this maneuver required less skill than buffoonery, my father’s quest to be the best made him a local celebrity.  This earned him the begrudging respect of his male peers, unabashed flirting from the sun bathing ladies, awe from sunscreen-slathered youth, and the disdain of my mother, who appreciated neither his outlandishness nor his winks at his admirers.  By the end of my 10th summer, he was the toast of our tiny town.  He was also sleeping in the guest bedroom.

Rhetorical Mode: Cause and Effect

My mother and father nearly divorced at the end of the summer of my 10th year.  My father’s status as the Can-Opener King had all the single ladies of Sheffield Towne a-drool, and my mother’s jealousy got the best of her.  I remember our treks home from the pool the most, my mother race-walking with arms crossed, my father oblivious and waving back at Ms. Eubanks, the mother of a beauty pageant princess, who once made a serious play for my father, which sent my mom into such a tizzy that she made him stay at the YMCA for a whole week.

Rhetorical Mode: Classification

Diving is a complex sport comprised of precise body contortions.  In professional diving, the names are very utilitarian: the forward dive, the backward dive, the backward dive with a twist.  In non-professional diving, the kind my father preferred, the names are much more picturesque and manly: the jack-knife, the cannon-ball, the can-opener, the belly flop.

The Pool

Rhetorical Mode: Comparison/Contrast
After stepping up on the diving board, my father lumbered forward at top speed, each gargantuan step making the diving board quiver in terrified anticipation.  When he got to the end of the board, he’d take a healthy bounce, his weight bending the board nearly to snapping, and up, up, up, he’d fly into the air, higher than anyone watching – and yes, everyone was watching – thought was possible.  Mid-air, he’d grab his right knee, straighten his left leg, and lean slightly back with the grace of a ballet dancer and then…  SPLASH!  A mushroom cloud of water spouted high and wide.

His opponent, on the other hand, climbed carefully up the ladder, walked calmly to the end of the diving board, and took a moment to get his bearings before daintily turning ’round.  Then he gingerly bent his knees.  This didn’t look like the prelude to a can-opener at all.  The diving board would barely wobble under the weight of this man-who-wasn’t-my-father, but somehow he’d create enough pressure on the board to pop straight up into the air, where he, too, would assume the jack-knife position.  When this man, this other man, hit the water, the splash would spurt weakly into the air like a sickly cherub spitting from a dying fountain.  Sometimes these other men, these men who weren’t even Can-Opener Princes, failed to get the attention of even the littlest kids in the pool.

Rhetorical Mode: Description
After stepping up on the diving board, my father lumbered forward at top speed, each gargantuan step making the diving board quiver in terrified anticipation.  When he got to the end of the board, he’d take a healthy bounce, his weight bending the board nearly to snapping, and up, up, up, he’d fly into the air, higher than anyone watching – and yes, everyone was watching – thought was possible.  Mid-air, he’d grab his right knee, straighten his left leg, and lean slightly back with the grace of a ballet dancer and then…SPLASH!  A mushroom cloud of water spouted high and wide. The uproarious oohs and ahhs of the crowd, impressive by anyone’s standards, were drowned out by the deafening crash of the massive amounts of water jostling for space back inside the pool.

Rhetorical Mode: Definition
Being the daughter of the Can-Opener King was nothing to scoff at.  My father had a claim to fame.  He was special.  He drew crowds.  Everyone in our enclave knew him.  And, as a result, they all knew me.  It wasn’t just an honor; it was a responsibility.  Wherever I went, I was representing him.  I couldn’t wear just anything to school or to the pool or to block parties.  I was the Can-Opener King’s daughter.  It’s not as though I belonged to one of the other dads, the ones who sort of looked like my dad but were just fat, lazy bastards.  My dad was special.  And, therefore, so was I.

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Are you ready for more Tilt team Father’s Day posts?

Also, feel free to share stories about YOUR dad, about being a dad, or about fatherhood in general in the comments section.


2 Responses to “Father's Day Tribute: The Can-Opener King of Sheffield Towne”

  1. Deborah says:

    Your admiration for your dad fairly gleams. Love the writing tutorial too!

  2. Jessica says:

    Thank you, Deborah. He was a big figure in the neighborhood: everyone admired him. It was a lot of fun to write.

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