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MOSTLY MEMORIES
Wednesday, July 29, 2009 • Posted July 29, 2009

A Mean Looking Old Cuss

Readers are undoubtedly aware of the fact that the major portions of my columns are made up of experiences taken from my memories of the past so listen in as I once again use “Old Bill” as the main topic of still another column.

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As I grow still older I try to avoid looking into a mirror as much as possible. “ Why?”, you will ask and I am forced to reply “That’s a story which dates back to my youth,” but before telling the story I will say that I rarely ever look into a mirror when shaving because I do most all of my shaving while in the bath tub.”

Then as you stand there waiting for me to continue you will probably say “Come on dammit, tell me the story” and I will say “Well, it’s not much of a story really. It just points out the truth of Abraham Lincoln’s statement that a man over forty years of age is responsible for his face. The real significance here being that the life you lead is reflected in your face - be it good or bad - and your face is generally the first thing another person sees about you.”

“And, dear story teller,” you may ask, “why does that discourage you from looking into your mirror?”

Pursuing my story I said “That’s where the youth part enters into this narrative for I well recall the days when we kids would look at many an old man and say “Gosh, he’s a mean looking old cuss ain’t he?”

“Am I to judge by this” my questioner may ask, “that you are afraid to look into a mirror for fear of seeing a mean old cuss?”

The above question may be nudging pretty close to the truth but, although I had never thought of seeing myself as a “mean old cuss” I do recognize in my face the features that oft times resemble those of a “grouchy old devil” and these in themselves may be seen by youth as “that mean look”.

Upon thinking this over I have come up with balm with which to soothe my conscience. I said “Perhaps I am a grouch, I may be some what like Old Scrooge himself but as I see it the primary reason I may be seen in that light is because I have through the years been inclined to use gruffness as a reverse sense of humor.

This penchant of mine for the inverted type of humor has earned me a reputation among some of my old friends as being a “cantankerous old cuss” (often called a curmudgeon). I have an old domino playing buddy whose sense of humor matches mine and to hear us talking to one another or to our opponents one could easily get the impression that we hate everybody at the table. As a matter of fact we fellows at the club think that my friend Hank is just the opposite of Will Rogers — where Will always said “I never saw a man I did not like” we all agree it is entirely possible that Hank never saw a man that he liked — and if he did he sure as the devil wouldn’t let the man know it. Be that as it may we know that it is all in fun.

However, in my younger years I had a neighbor who called me “Frank” because of my lack of tact in answering questions. This fact is further borne out by the following conversation between a couple of my old friends several months after I returned home from the hospital:

“How is Bill doing since his heart surgery?”, asked one.

“Just fine,” said the other. “As a matter of fact he is back to being his normal self.”

“Do you mean that the cranky old devil is back to being just as disagreeable as ever?” said the first.

“That’s our Bill,” said the other.

    *******

Now all of this tells me that while I may not think of myself as a “mean old cuss” I must, without a doubt, be seen as an “old fogey” to many of the younger generations who were not drenched, as was I, in the dipping vat of old time morals. values and styles of dress.

I guess it depends upon the age you were born into — let’s take for instance the matter of music. Not being born into the music of the past 40 years, I, being an “old fogey”, will not accept the stuff I have heard throughout those years as music. My age of music was that of the big band era and therefore I will accept none other.

In reality this is no different than the thoughts of my mother about the music of my younger years. To her the music we clung to was a scandal to the jay birds when compared with the music of her day. Nothing that we played and sang could hold a candle to her “She wore a tulip, a bright yellow tulip and I wore a big red rose” . Now while I will admit that this old song has stood the test of time and is still pretty, there are others such as “When you and I were young Maggie” that I did not exactly cotton to, so I guess it all depends on the age into which we were born.

Getting back to the original subject of this column which implies that the lifestyle of my first 40 years has left me looking like a “mean old cuss”, an “Old Fogey” or a “grouchy old devil” I am thankful that up to now none of my readers have referred to me as such. However, I will admit that one of them did call me a “jerk”.

bodenhamer@cebridge.net

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