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The Idle American
"Going in Circles..."
Wednesday, May 15, 2013 • Posted May 15, 2013

The world would have been short-changed (okay, in some cases, “long-changed”) had the wheel not been invented many moons ago.

Geometry would have been incomplete, wagons could not have been circled and there’d have been no tune called Roll Out the Barrel. We’d have missed “going in circles,” and chariot rides would have been rough even for the toughest gladiators. Caissons in the Army’s chorus would have moved along in some other manner. We’d have needed some symbol other than “zero” to denote lowest test scores at school, and the Arctic would have gone “circleless.”

On top of that, we wouldn’t have had rolling pins—a foothold for male chauvinism—and one Dale Scarth might not have been able to graphically convey to the former Helen Marie Johnson that the way to his heart was indeed through his tummy….

    *****

Scarth, who rose through the ranks of what was then Texas Electric Service Company from engineer to president (1949-1989), in his youth dug post holes for Kansas rural electric lines. The year was 1947; he was freshly discharged from World War II military service. Soon, Scarth was smitten with his true love. He looked forward to walking her home after work each day.

His work day ended 90 minutes before hers, so he often whiled away the time in a Fredonia cabinet shop. (He’s always been handy with his hands, and in retirement has made hundreds of wire “doo-hickies” handy for engaging those pesky top buttons on dress shirts. His invention provides yet another use for welding wire.)

As the courtship advanced, Scarth decided to make Helen a rolling pin. He wasn’t about to be the object of fun-poking that inevitably would have been offered by friends in town if he carried it on their walk to her home. Without an auto of his own, he carefully placed it on the back seat of her dad’s car parked nearby….

    *****

The same evening following dinner, he and Helen cozied up on the front porch swing—a frequent pastime. This setting beckoned when the weather was nice, fireflies cavorted and things were right for sweet nothings to be shared by the light of the silvery moon.

Scarth popped the question, and she accepted. Immediately, she raced back inside to tell her folks about the marriage proposal. Helen’s dad responded in a deep, gruff voice. “Does that thing in the back seat of the car have anything to do with that thing on your finger?”

It probably did. Dale and the Scarths’ four children agree that she was a world-class baker. The couple was married for 64 years, ending with her death in 2011….

    *****

My Uncle Mort identifies with rolling pins, even though their use has diminished greatly in recent decades. (Mostly, they are seen now in museums and rarely in kitchens.)

“When I was a kid, my dad always urged me to search for a ‘working wife’,” my almost 101-year-old kin told me. Mort asked his dad how in the world he could be sure, and was told to go over to the girl’s house “of a morning.” There, he could go straight to the woodpile out back to learn if her mom was a “working woman.” Mort still was puzzled.

“If there’s biscuit dough hanging from the ax handle, a working woman lives there,” Mort’s dad said….

    *****

Some years ago, my wife made one of her occasional trips to Canton for the community’s heralded “First Monday” sale. Brenda was gone for a couple of days, hurrying from booth to booth at the big attraction.

While she was away, I decided to do something I’d rarely done before—clean house. I buffed, painted, vacuumed and mopped—the whole deal. I fully expected to be lavished with praise when she saw all I had done. Upon her return, I escorted her into every room, expecting thankful comments. Instead, she was stone silent, saying nothing. Finally, I asked, “Isn’t there something you’d like to say?”

Pausing, she finally responded, “Yes, it’s a thankless job, isn’t it?...

    *****

I have to give her credit, though, for her emphasis on healthy meals.

Nowadays, she’s pushing blended diets.

Last night, we drank a chicken….

    *****

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

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