Mason County News
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The Idle American
"Down in Backs, Up in Spirits..."
Wednesday, July 20, 2011 • Posted July 20, 2011

With legitimate claims for nimbleness and quickness, they’d both be miserable failures on Jack’s final test—jumping over the candlestick. If they tried, they’d fail, leaving the candlestick “unwobbled.” They have much in common, these two Brown County natives. Both were born at home—a dozen miles apart—and both excelled in country schools. Both had fathers who had rural mail routes, both had strong grips on their own bootstraps, both are military veterans and both had distinguished careers.Further, both have serious back problems. ‘Course, age has something to do with it—Dr. Joe Rushing just turned 90 and Putter Jarvis faces 80 right shortly….* * * * *They both have smile-plastered faces, admitting they’re “incurable optimists.” And when Joe and Putter find themselves slap-dab in the middle of pratfalls, they invariably start the laughter. In a world where humor is going the way of fireflies, they still are much in the smile business. Avid readers, both are eager Internet participants and keen communicators, determined to hone mental skills. They work crossword puzzles and embrace technology, including Kindles. Joe, a veteran educator who served 30 years as founding president of two major community colleges (Broward County, Florida, and Tarrant County, Texas), still signs up for on-campus history classes at Texas A&M-Central Texas. Putter, founder of Landmark Life, a major independent insurance company, remains actively engaged with the firm….* * * * *Both move about gingerly. Joe, widowed in 2007 after several years as a caregiver, has opted to forego surgery. He walks with the aid of a cane and still drives short distances.Putter, himself a caregiver, opted for surgery on four vertebrae earlier this year. A proud Aggie, he’s driving again, regaining his strength and walking a bit more each day….* * * * *He visited Walmart the other day, mounting one of those battery-powered scooters, figuring its operation would be a “piece of cake.” Still, he opted to shop early in the morning, carefully turning his Aggie ring 180 degrees. After all, if he “scootered” into any sort of embarrassment, he wanted to avoid any reflection on his beloved Texas A&M. Putter mastered the forward gear, not realizing the contraptions back up.They do. “Bells clanged, people scattered and I nearly took out an end cap display,” Putter admitted. “I could imagine horrified shoppers thinking, ‘Why doesn’t that poor old guy let his kids or grandkids shop for him?’”….* * * * *Rushing, too, continues to laugh at himself. It is a practice of longstanding. One recent day, he waked joyfully, head and feet slightly elevated on his remote-controlled mattress of many positions. He looked forward to his morning water aerobics class—one that becomes “co-ed” on days he attends.Ready to “flatten” his mattress for easy exit, he felt around his right side for the control. He tried again, wishing that he could “call” the control on his cell phone. Then, he beat a 120-degree arc on the bed with his right arm. Still, no luck.Finally, he struggled out of bed. As he swung his body awkwardly to the left, he spotted the missing control. All the while, it had been in his LEFT hand….* * * * *At his recent 90th birthday party, some 60 people gathered for a fine meal and cake-cutting. Dressed to the nines, he wore a snappy dark suit, accented by a carefully-knotted tie and pocket puff hanky.He regaled friends with hilarious stories, including one about marching back to the car rental counter, hopeful of getting a different vehicle. The one he’d been assigned had a warning light on.The rental guy, accompanying him to the car, explained, “The warning light indicates high beam.”…* * * * *Joe and Putter overcame many challenges, including the Great Depression, to reach their destinies. Both were greatly influenced by their mothers, since both of their fathers were disease victims when Joe and Putter were yet children. Both were familiar with farm chores at early ages. Putter was 14 years of age when he learned his first name wasn’t “Git-wood.”They are friends long admired, worth riding the river with. Now, they continue to be valuable models—living their twilight years with dignity, grace and merry hearts….* * * * *

Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Metroplex. Email: Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site:

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