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The Idle American
"Well, Shut My Mouth..."
Wednesday, February 6, 2013 • Posted February 6, 2013

Asking southerners to enunciate more clearly is about as pointless as requesting New Yorkers to start talking with a drawl. It just “ain’t” gonna happen.

Most of ‘em have southern drawls, and all of ‘em swear that Yankees “talk funny.” (Change the setting geographically, and the folks up north think the very same thing about us in Texas.)

Pick a coffee place where old-timers gather in these parts, and drawls seem even more pronounced….

    *****

Anyway, the upbeat spirit daily at Decatur’s Whataburger permeates a gathering of old geezers, some of whom are convinced that any day now, the South will rise again. It’s a “come-and-go” deal starting for one or two guys around 6 a.m., expanding to a dozen or so by 8:30.

Why wouldn’t they meet there? Coffee is good—and free—and refills are the same price.

Clientele have little regard for time (except to kill it) or space, either (as long as there’s close-in parking and a seat inside). They don’t “cure the world’s ills,” but believe if asked to do so, they could….

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Delbert White, 80-something and ever-present for java, was the “designated goat” at a recent gathering. Early in the week, he “looked sickly,” one comrade said, and comments went down from there.

The others never let up, and Dennis Moffit, a Detroit native and only Yankee in the group, opined Delbert was a stroke victim. Others said he’d been “rode hard and put up wet,” and was not “wintering well.”

A few days later, Delbert pushed back his half-empty coffee cup, then wobbled toward his vehicle….

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DPS Officer Lloyd McKinney insisted on taking him to the hospital, where Delbert underwent a battery of tests.

Later, the patient strained to hear his family’s conversation with the doctor. “Burial policy?” he screamed, worried why this topic would come up. His hearing failed him.

“I said it looks like Bell’s Palsy,” the physician quickly explained. It turned out not to be, and Delbert was back soon with the coffee bunch….

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Their topics rarely wander far afield from “way back when.” One day, they reminisced about “long distance phone calls.” Making—or receiving—such calls was a “big deal.”

One joked about a call from a far-away operator who said, “Long distance from New York City.”

“It sure is,” the Texan agreed, and hung up….

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Another call, this one from Washington DC’s Office of Education, was placed at 8 a.m. to a school superintendent’s office in California. The caller forgot that it was 5 a.m. out west, where the phone was answered by a custodian who was cleaning the office.

At once the government guy wanted to know about average daily attendance, security policies, grant applications and such.

Interrupting, the custodian said, “Stop right there. When I said ‘hello,’ I told you everything I know about this school.”…

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Still another of the nesters spoke of bygone days when friends and family dropped by to visit, as well as for meals if they appeared at chow time. Typically, they were mighty welcome. Hostesses would joke that they’d add “more water to the soup.”

Strangers, though, were suspect, sometimes defending reasons for their visit through latched screen doors. One day, a man from the government came to take the census. He explained that every 10 years, the government tries to determine how many men, women and children live in this country.

“Well, you’ve come to the wrong place,” the homeowner said, “’cause I don’t know!”…

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Veteran ministers recall stories about questions sometimes misunderstood by his flock. Dr. Charles Somervill, longtime Presbyterian minister, remembers a response during a sermon for children years ago. “Do you know Jesus?” he asked. A four-year-old, confidently waving his arm, answered, “I know Jesus. We go for birthday parties at Chuck E Jesus!” (Reference, of course, was to the pizza parlor and game room at Chuck E Cheese’s.)

Sometimes ministers “humor up” the program without help from anyone else. Somervill once thanked the ladies “for all the beautiful pomeranians decorating the church at Christmas time.” When laughter subsided, he corrected with “poinsettias.”

He retired recently, and if he lands at early morning senior gab sessions, he’ll be the star of the show….

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Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Metroplex. Speaking inquiries/comments: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Twitter: @donnewbury. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com.

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