The brothers learn a job skill

Kentucky. Summer, 1942.

St. Phil and Devil Don, aged three and five respectively, have been taken to Kentucky, their ancestral homeland. It is a sunny day, and Margaret has positioned them in front of a picket fence for today’s lesson in posing for publicity photos. The brothers wear nearly identical shirts, shorts, and shoes. Devil Don holds a small model airplane constructed of aluminum foil.

Thanks to Dennis West
(Thanks to Dennis West for the clear copy of this famous photo)

Margaret peers through the viewfinder of her box camera and frowns, then places the camera on a nearby picnic table. She strides to the fence, picks up St. Phil, and places him six inches closer to Devil Don. She then places Devil Don’s right arm around St. Phil’s neck and strides back to the table for her camera.

Devil Don withdraws his arm and studies the silvery model plane in his left hand.

“I can fly without an airplane,” boasts St. Phil.

“Yeah,” says Devil Don, “But you look dumb in that striped dress.”

This angers St. Phil. “It’s a robe. Like the pictures in church.”

“It makes you look like a girl.”

“Well, I can fly, and you can’t.”

“True, but I can play git-tar, and you’ll never learn how to do anything but break the strings.”

Margaret’s voice silences their conversation. She is losing patience. “PUT YOUR ARM AROUND HIM AND LEAVE IT THERE UNTIL I TAKE THE PICTURE!”

Devil Don places an arm around St. Phil, looks into the camera, and smiles winsomely. A split second after the shutter clicks, he again withdraws his arm and marches toward the house, stepping firmly on St. Phil’s foot.

“You bastard,” St. Phil hisses in the direction of his departing sibling. “You’ll pay for that.”

An hour later, Devil Don whispers in St. Phil’s ear, “If I’m a bastard, your mother is a Fallen Woman.”

Yet another hour passes, and St. Phil, having looked up the word “bastard” in Aunt Hattie’s dictionary, retreats to a spot under an oak tree, well out of sight of the house. He seats himself and begins pulling objects from his pockets—cigarettes, matches, a pink Minnie Mouse pendant and more—piling them in the well formed by his crossed legs.

St. Phil lights a Marlboro, leans back against the tree trunk, and starts the laborious process of unfolding a rather large piece of butcher’s wrap. After watching the smoke curl upward for a brief interval, he takes a deep drag, retrieves half a red crayon from the ground between his legs, and writes:

43. Stepped on my foot and caused me to say a bad word. 

Would there be enough opportunity in one lifetime to put that devil in his place? In the three years he had already lived, St. Phil hadn’t even had time to record all of Donald’s misdeeds. More than once Donald had snitched on him just because he helped himself to a few smokes from Ike’s pack. What am I supposed to do? St. Phil wondered.

My only income is half of what Devil Don gets paid for playing git-tar on Ike’s show. That ain’t much. If Mr. Selfish would “share” the other half, I could afford to buy a pack of my own now and then.