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The Idle American
Uncle Mort On Line...
Wednesday, July 4, 2012 • Posted July 4, 2012

Truthfully, It stands to reason that my Uncle Mort, who’ll reach the century mark on July 4, would be busy with final party details. He’s been promising the ultimate in “whoop-te-doing” since last summer. Friends from far and wide are invited, all expecting a unique birthday observance.

Oddly, he’s been leaving home early and coming in late during the final days of his 99th year, and now we know why: Mort, long known as a “promise-keeper,” is particularly reliable on promises made to himself. Years ago, he vowed to be “in the e-mail business” before his 100th birthday.

He’s made good, thanks to a crash course—“computers for dummies”—at the county library. Mort was the last to enroll, tears streaming as he turned loose of a $20 bill. He joined half a dozen others, increasing the average age of enrollees by a dozen years….

*****

I was privileged (?) to receive his very first e-mail. It didn’t say much, but indicated he was at work on his first “official” e-mail to be sent later in the day.

Saying he was mighty proud of Texas A&M University, his “alma mater” (where he took a week-end course in first-aid for snake bites a half-century ago), he composed an e-mail for the “top-most” Aggie official.

I assume A&M System Chancellor John Sharp got it a few hours later and that it resulted in a grin or two. My uncle copied it to me. It was brimful of congratulatory thoughts, suitable for framing. (I speak from limited personal experience, but when chancellors receive correspondence opening with congratulatory sentiments, the next paragraph usually begins with “However”…) In the interest of time and space, I’ll quote the e-mail in its entirety….

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Dear Chancellor Sharp: First off, I want to express belated appreciation for training received in the weekend snake-bite treatment class back in the 50’s. True, I was admitted on probation, perhaps for my offer to “take the bite” if the teacher wanted to demonstrate the “real deal.” This was my only formal higher education, but it did qualify me to receive periodic fund-raising appeals from the development office even to this day.

I hope to send a little check when I get to doing better. Please direct it to the Medical School. I am “pleased as punch” about the government grant announced a few days ago. You claim it’s “one of the biggest federal grants coming to Texas since NASA.” Now that’s a mouthful about a tubful, but if the feds have a couple of billion dollars for development of a vaccine for pandemic diseases, take it! A&M’s been “needled” a lot over the years, so now we can “needle back!” Ain’t this a step up from ‘giggin’?

I admit, though, that my pandem has never acted up—knock on wood! Pandemonium could break out in a flash. This is not to say that you, or tons of other people, haven’t been “laid low” by pandem problems, so bring on the serum, ASAP….

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Now that you’ve made a chancellor of yourself, don’t put “pre-academia” jokes completely aside. You used to claim that you ate so much boiled okra as a kid, your socks wouldn’t stay up until you were 20 years old. BTW, is “controlling” faculty any tougher than ‘‘comptrolling” Texas? (Please—no lecture about pronunciation of ”comptroller.”)

Back to my possible pledge: I’ll send 10% of next month’s pension—if birthday party expenses don’t go over budget. Please use part of it for the School of Engineering.

With all the increases in railway freight, there’s always going to be jobs for folks to drive the trains….

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A “shade tree” vet nearby has a diploma on his wall. He claims to have two A&M degrees—veterinary medicine and taxidermy—that may be fakes. A sign reads: “Either way you get your dog back.”

Hope life goes well for you in academia, and sorry you have to wear a tie every day. Somehow, it don’t seem right, since administrators spend so much time squirming. Hope your “squirmer” doesn’t go out before your pandem fails! (At least you’re out of politics. Oh? You mean there are politics there, too?)

Signed: Your friend, Uncle Mort, Snake-bite Class of ’54.…

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

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