Now that I have that out of the way, I wish to introduce you to Silas Robertson, the wily, playful and sometimes seemingly insane uncle of the Robertson Clan made famous by the A&E hit show Duck Dynasty. Much of what you see and hear from Silas Robertson on Duck Dynasty is indeed genuine, or at least consistent with Si’s view of the world presented in his book “Si-Cology 1,” and the question of “Can he really be like that?” is indeed answered with a resounding “Hey! you betcha Jack!”
Humor, as a palliative, is one of the most important factors in dealing with life successfully and Silas Robertson has cornered the market on the use of humor in combatting apathy, malaise, anger, fear and every other negative emotion known to humanity and he does it better than anyone I have ever come across.
However, and this is a big however, there is more (so very much more) to this giant of a man than folks will ever know, nor are seemingly willing to accept in a “simple redneck funny man.” The depth of love and commitment that Silas has for family; his absolute love for his wife Christine, the adoration he can’t help but show when he talks about their genius daughter Trasa (she really is a natural born genius) and the deep pride he maintains for his second born Scott, as he had to overcome tremendous difficulties early on, all combine to create an incredibly refreshing viewpoint on life in this world of complex relationships and apathetic fathers.
Overshadowing all of this is the deep loyalty he has for big brother Phil, albeit with an asterisk of course. Si’s commitment to his own family, his wife in particular, is perhaps exemplified best in his own words…
“I live by my own rules (reviewed, revised and approved by my wife) but still my own rules.”
To illustrate this point as well as the asterisk I have included, is this simple set of facts: Si loved to hunt. He loved to hunt with Phil. He loved to hunt with Phil in their home state of “Lawsiana.” Christine however, could not deal with Phil. She seemed to be completely turned off (and rightly so) by big brother Phil’s lawless behavior (Phil’s words) at the time and decided not to settle near the in-laws. What did Silas choose to do? He followed her lead and they settled elsewhere, for a very long time. Si chose a direction that seems so counterintuitive for an avid Robertson hunter, it boggles the stereotypical mind.
Getting back to the point of misattributed first impressions, to OUR credit however (meaning those of us who, upon first impression, believed the ol’ man was off his stereotypical redneck rocker), Si allows us to believe what we will, as he is quite fond of (and very skilled at) playing with our perceptions and doesn’t exactly challenge the preconceived notions that people may form (myself included) of a semi-sane, always quirky and very random distraction to the goings on at Duck Command. As a matter of fact, the name that Si has given his book is completely appropriate for his story, and one that may surprise (or maybe not) the general masses, in that Si is very much a counselor and a Psychologist, quite brilliant in fact.
“The army liked to give the guys who’d been beating the bush for eleven months a couple of weeks to cool off before they shipped them back to the U.S. I guess Uncle Sam figured there wasn’t any better place to do it than my hotel room [Si somehow managed to live in a Can Tho hotel room during his service in country (Viet Nam). His story is, they didn’t have room for him elsewhere…which I am highly skeptical about as I am sure he is quite persuasive TM]. There was always an empty bunk in my hotel room, and a lot of the guys from Eleventh Bravo ended up staying in my room for a couple of weeks. Hey! While they were cleansing their minds and relaxing, they liked to tell a lot of their stories to me. My empty bunk became Dr. Phil’s Sofa! I listened to their stories with an inquiring mind, and a lot of guys liked to bounce their fears and problems off of me.”
Now, one thing I have noticed about him is that Si prefers to play down the seriousness of certain things. He uses humor as a deflection in order to diffuse situations (as well as occasionally -ahem- using humor to infuse situations). The previous selection from the book describing Si’s (or should I say Psi’s) Can Tho Hotel Counseling office leaves one thinking that these fine men sat around swapping stories about life in the service, ex-wives, beer and of course, Rest and Relaxation. Ya know? Regular guy problems.
Consider this excerpt from a short story called “Viet Nam Grunt” taken from a blog called Ambush.
“What happened to that little boy? Why wouldn’t he stop when we called him? Stop! Stop! Or we’ll shoot! Or that little girl with the hand grenade in her bag on the bridge that day; what made her give her life, did she know? These were kids! We had no fight with them. This was just not fair; we never fought like this at home. Kids were kids you left them alone. They couldn’t hurt you. The old grunt found out it was different over here. They would use any means, any weapon living or dead, to hurt and kill them. The tiredness grew; the loneliness too… until all that was left was pain and hurt and that thousand yard stare. A life here, a life snuffed out there. One little life, what does it matter? It doesn’t change the outcome of war? You can’t save ‘em all, how about one… just one, can he take him home? Him? Or Him? How about that one? She’s cute. Her mom would give her up to go to a better place where they don’t kill kids, wouldn’t she? What’s wrong with people how could they do these things? Oh well. He has to survive, what could one old tired grunt do? It’s callous and hard, this fight to survive. He must save all his heart for him to take home, can’t leave it here; he needs it there, what’s left of it.”
This would have been the substance of what Si refers to as “bouncing problems” off of him. Another story, one straight from the book, depicts a jungle triage where not only the Viet Cong were gunning for them, but the animal life as well. From what I understand through my research about Viet Nam, this was a fairly common threat.
“Three of their guys were badly hurt during the attack, and the medic immediately started treating their wounds. The medic attended to one guy, leaned him up against a tree, and then started patching up the next guy. Well, after the medic patched up the second guy’s shoulder, he moved on to the third guy, who was shot in the leg. All of a sudden, they heard the second guy screaming. A tiger had attacked him and was dragging him back into the jungle! It was one of the most frightening stories I heard in Vietnam.”
So, in looking at this book I first have to say the story telling is absolutely classic Silas Robertson, full of purposeful half-truths, funny anecdotes and comedy (the way he discusses his problems with fertility is fall out of your chair funny!). Si is indeed, a brilliant story teller. I could sit and listen to him tell tall tales about as much as I could sit and listen to Lonesome dove’s Augustus McCrae. But below the surface, I find in Silas a depth upon which men have cast their cares and troubles into, and have come out better for it, most likely keeping them alive or at least on the good side of an insanity certification.
If I were to compare this story with Phil’s book (which I originally resisted doing, comparing that is) I would say that where Phil is the rock, the glue that keeps the family together, Si is the river. He adapts, he moves and he grows with the changing conditions as they present themselves. He is fluidity and is more often than not, extremely interested in breaking up the monotony of life. He is as rascally as they come, the very definition of random…but in that randomness… in the misdirection, the stories, the laughter and the half-truths, I find a deeply spiritual man, a husband of rare and unfathomable love of hearth and home as well as a unique friend and brother in the body upon which I/we place our trust.
Happy Reading Jack!