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The Idle American
"Flappables' Twisting in the Wind..."
Wednesday, March 12, 2014 • Posted March 12, 2014

One can determine much about a man by observation, taking note of the way he dresses and carries himself.

Overalls--like “duded-up” western wear--can easily deceive, however. Overalls carry no guarantee that the guy farms, nor do boots and chaps necessarily mean the man wearing them has ever mounted a horse.

An example was Dr. Bryan Wildenthal, a suit-and-tie educator who served as president of then Sul Ross State College (now University) from 1952 until his death in 1965. He exuded quiet confidence, handling problems “unflappably” that would have set others straightway to “flapping”—or worse. He carried himself well, took the high roads and maintained dignity in all situations. “I’ve had lots worse burrs than this one under my saddle blanket” was a favorite expression when a problem loomed….

    *****

On one occasion, a campus security officer made a startling discovery during early morning rounds. An effigy of the president swung in the breeze from a campus flagpole.

Forthwith, he found a ladder, cut the rope and stuffed the effigy in a closet.

When Dr. Wildenthal learned of the incident at mid-morning, his pulse rate didn’t quicken. He smiled and asked to see the effigy….

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“Those overalls appear to be new and about my size,” he said. “Do what you will with the ‘dummy,’ but bring me the overalls.”

That night, he presided over a backyard barbecue for students, with “first lady” Doris, prim and proper, alongside. Since only a few hundred students were enrolled in those years, word traveled fast that their beloved president had more than loosened his tie. A mentor to dozens of eventual distinguished educational leaders, Dr. Wildenthal was sporting bib overalls!

The prankster may have been served barbecue by el presidente that night, or at least heard quickly of the educator’s informal attire….

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For sure, there are many more “flappable” issues these days, both in education and otherwise. Soon to be tested is Dr. Lance Hindt, new superintendent of Allen, TX, ISD.

A respected educator known for handling thorny issues in exemplary fashion, he immediately faces a king-size problem in Allen. Fact is, he may be the first superintendent in history to face such an unusual problem upon arrival.

It could be as complicated as Humpty-Dumpty’s-- one where all the king’s horses, as well as his men—decide to seek asylum….

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Who woulda—or coulda—predicted that the school’s 60-million-dollar football stadium, a Taj Mahal by all measures, would start unraveling in its second year?

With huge cracks in the concourse, it has been declared unsafe and is roped off. They’ll have to find another venue for spring commencement, and what fans consider much worse, seek an alternate stadium for home games this fall.

Mess with Texas football, and….mess with a team that’s won state championships for two consecutive years, and whoa!....

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Fingers are pointing like pennants waving from goalposts. Some folks are angry with architects; others are blaming contractors. Another huddle calls it an “act of God.” I’m not convinced the Almighty gives a hoot about football, particularly since the rumor spread wildly that the hole in the Texas Stadium roof was left open for His gazing. (My Uncle Mort warns the “Allenites” not to blame Washington, DC—“unless they want the cracks widened.”)

What with oil and gas drillers on the grill--charged with causing earthquakes by their fracking--they’re on the defensive, too.

Dr. Hindt may not “hit the ground running.” He may choose to begin by tracking the fracking some folks think is causing the cracking….

    *****

As a university president, I don’t think I ever wore overalls—as an adult, anyway. Had I done so, I still wouldn’t have known which end of a tractor to climb on.

Being hanged in effigy never crossed my mind. “Flappable” that I was, however, being hanged “for real” did.

I once heard of a bunch of farmers at a rural church. They learned they could buy custom-made overalls cheaper if they placed a single large order. They specified that the denim be doubled at the knees and quadrupled in the seat. The farmers said they prayed regularly “on their knees.” They lamented, though, backsliding twice as much as they prayed….

    *****

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

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