"I draw a line in the sand," said my father, using his right arm in a sweeping motion with his thick forefinger guiding the way. "Then when someone crosses it ."

"I draw a line in the sand," said my father, using his right arm in a sweeping motion with his thick forefinger guiding the way. "Then when someone crosses it ."

His large right hand doubled into a fist and he smacked it into the palm of his left hand. The sound reverberated through our house every time Daddy used the phrase.

It makes me flinch to think about it.

Unfortunately, the offender could not see the line, because it was in Daddy's head.

I know. I crossed that line a time or two before I became a mind reader.

As soon as his ice blue eyes locked in on the offender, the line began to be drawn. Those orbs, which lay in a leathery brown face, seemed to penetrate the soul.

You were dangerously close to crossing the line when Daddy dropped his head slightly, narrowed his eyes and tightened his full lips. If he was forced to speak, the fist, literally or figuratively, had already made contact.

In an interview with Barbara Walters Sunday night before the Oscars were handed out, I heard Hugh Jackman describe his father as "harsh, but fair."

I felt my head nodding in understanding.

The only word I had ever found in my vocabulary which appropriately described my father was "hard," until I saw that interview. "Harsh, but fair" applied to my Da as well.

Daddy had the most gorgeous smile in the world; I only wish the anti-social man had used it more.

Not only were his teeth even and well-spaced, but a smile showed deeply imbedded dimples in his cheeks to match the cleft in his chin. His smile was infectious, and I am not sure if it was its beauty or its rarity.

It's only been in the last few years that I have realized the similarities between me and that tall, dark, brooding Irishman.

Daddy and I look nothing alike. He had black hair and blue eyes and I have red hair, brown eyes and light skin.

My father rarely spoke, where I never stop talking, even when I should.

Never has there been a more devoted pessimist than my father, while I was the eternal optimist until six years ago when I became more of a realist.

Family has always been central to us, along with our values.

"Don't ever compromise your values," he said in a warning tone, as if I were about to step across the line in the sand. "Sometimes all a man has is his principles."

Daddy was right, of course.

Despite our financial lows and highs, he didn't tolerate liars or thieves. In fact, he didn't tolerate much at all.

My mother, an extremely bright extrovert, has the same principles.

"You lie to me and I will beat you within an inch of your life," they used to say.

Strangely enough, I had no doubt that death loomed close if a falsehood crossed my lips.

When I first heard the line, "I will not tolerate rude behavior," from "Lonesome Dove," a movie based on Larry McMurtry's book, I immediately thought of my father. Like Capt. Woodrow Call, Daddy would have run down a horse to get hold of an offender and beat him senseless. I never thought about it until now, but he was a Capt. Call kind of character. It is no wonder he loved the movie.

Last week, I was wishing I were less like my father. Someone, probably not even aware, crossed a line in the sand with me.

First, I went into a rage. Fortunately, probably for both of us, I was not in the presence of the person when I learned the facts of the issue between us. That evening I shared the issues in a phone conversation with my brother, Allen, who fancies himself an August McCrae but is more like Call than he thinks.

I was about to take drastic action and I wanted to share my plan with Al.

"Why didn't you go see (them) today?" he asked. "I find that most people are cowards. They are tough on the telephone, but when they are looking you in the eye, it is another matter."

"Oh, Al," I said. "Had I confronted (them), I would be in jail right now."

He laughed, not that I was kidding; he knows me well enough to visualize it.

"(This person) drew a line in the sand," I said.

He laughed even harder and I knew he heard the crack of the fist in his mind.

"Yeah," he said, drawing the word out into two of the longest syllables ever. "I know you are more like Dad, you see everything in black and white, and I don't mean newsprint. I try to be more like Mom and look at it from both sides. Some people don't know that they have crossed the line in the sand."

"And some people know and pretend that they don't," I said.

He laughed again.

"Well, from everything you have told me, you are right. I don't think there is any doubt about that," he said. "All I can tell you is, go get 'em, Sue!"

It was my turn to laugh.

I had not heard that line since 1998 when Daddy died. It was my Dad's line, too.

Daddy never criticized me for having a short fuse because they didn't come shorter than his, but he also knew that I never lost my temper without reason. On the occasions when someone crossed the line in the sand with me, it amused him. His dimples would appear.

"Go get 'em, Sue!" he said, using one of my middle names.

Daddy knew that once my mind was made up, I would not give up.

Allen and Mom call it stubbornness, but I prefer my best friend's description of tenacious.

Simply said, I am not smart enough to stop once the battle begins.

"Al," I said. "I know my plan is unreasonable, but it is a matter of principle."

"I know," he said.

Then I heard a deep, low rumble as a chuckle worked its way out of his big chest to come across the phone lines.

"Sometimes, all a man has left is his principles," he said.

My chuckle was a much higher pitch.

"Now let me pass on a little more wisdom," he said.

I was sure he was about to quote our father again.

"Win every battle if you can," he said, quoting our mother, "but don't lose the war."

"I can't say I will win either one," I said, "but I'm not going down without a fight."

Despite knowing the line could be moved, I cannot compromise my principles. It is time to, figuratively, run down the horse and beat the person senseless.

"Go get 'em, Sue," Al said, laughing.

Cathy Wogan is a staff writer for ThisWeek Community Newspapers.

Cathy Wogan