Local Lifestyle

Saturday, Jun 30 2012 10:05 PM

HERB BENHAM: Dad serves up some punch at the reception

By The Bakersfield Californian

The last dance of the evening was "You Never Can Tell," or so we thought, until Nick Andrews, the DJ, said, "Now, we have one more song that is a favorite of the Benhams."

Then he played "Born to Run."

Katie was married last weekend to Hunter Oliver. She is now Katie Benham Oliver. Katie Oliver. Those names sound like they were born to be together.

When Katie and her three brothers were under the age of 12, our family anthem was "Born to Run." We'd put the song on after dinner and before bedtime. The song demands movement, and the kids would run around the house like little monkeys.

There is a moment in "Born to Run," about two-thirds the way through, when the E Street Band goes into a descending group of chords and then Springsteen comes back in with "One, two, three, four ... The highway's lined with broken heroes on a last-chance power drive."

During this break, I would crouch on the floor, put my head on the carpet and when Springsteen sang "One, two, three, four!" I would leap to my feet and the kids would shriek with happiness.

By the last dance at Katie and Hunter's wedding, there were about 20 guests left, including Katie, dressed in her beautiful ivory wedding gown, along with Herbie, Sam and Thomas in gray suits.

Why not? Let's return to the way it was on 20th and Cedar. Halfway through the song, I crouched on all fours on the wooden dance floor. Lauren, Sam's girlfriend, tapped me on the shoulder.

"Mr. Benham, are you OK?" she asked.

I looked up at her. She hadn't heard about my signature move. I smiled and nodded.

She tapped me on the shoulder again. She was afraid I'd gone down, felled by a heart attack or a stroke, and should she and Sam decide on something more permanent, she was concerned I might not be present to dance at their wedding.

"One, two, three, four!"

Powered by my chromium hip, I sprung up in my extra shiny black shoes and black tuxedo like it was 1994, and as I did, I thrust my fist in the air celebrating all that was good about life and holy matrimony -- and socked Katie in the face.

A lot of things go through your mind when you accidently catch your daughter with a haymaker at her wedding.

What part of her lovely face did I hit? There are hard parts of a face and soft parts. The nose is a soft part and so are the lips. If you have to sock your daughter, you're better off punching her in the jaw or forehead.

A couple of hours earlier, we had enjoyed a sweet father/daughter dance to "Tupelo Honey." Then, I had proposed a loving toast talking about my girl with one brown eye and one blue, one in 30,000.

Now, this.

I've hit people harder before. Ask Bobby Poff. I hit him so hard I'm not certain he graduated from the fourth grade. However, I haven't hit anyone else in 45 years. I am a man of peace with the occasion stormy thought, but somebody who normally can be trusted at a wedding.

Katie ran away. Who could blame her?

She was concerned about getting blood on her dress and how did she know I didn't have a left cross in my repertoire?

"Katie, are you OK?"

By this point, I'd caught up with her and she was seated in one of the dining room chairs and had her head down.

"I just don't want to have a fat lip on my wedding night," she said.

There have been times in the past when I thought she tended to overreact, but it probably wasn't too much to ask to finish your wedding night without stitches.

She dabbed at her lip with a white linen napkin. My punch had landed on her lower lip and a quick inspection revealed that her teeth were intact.

She dabbed at the inside of her mouth and there were a couple of spots of blood.

"Katie, you're going to be fine," Hunter said, giving her the once-over. "I've been hit harder in soccer games."

An hour later, after we had left the club, I texted her and asked her how she was doing.

"I'm great. It's not a problem. I'm going to be fine."

Good, because baby, you were born to run.

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