Uncle Mort had one of the first telephones in the thicket, and, despite current removal of land lines left and right throughout the country, he gives “zero” thought to disconnecting his.
“People get lost in these parts, then learn their cell phones don’t work. They’re relieved to see the sign tacked on our front gate: ‘Yes, we’ve got a landline phone, and yes, you’re welcome to use it’.”
He said one visitor asked him if he planned to donate it to a museum at the end of its useful days. Actually, his “phone fondness” transcends benevolence. He loves to talk, but only to “live ones” on the other end. “I’ve got no use for those ‘canned’ voices telling me how important my call is to them,” he says. “When the calls are from real people, I interrupt their spiel to thank them for calling, then proceed to share riddles with them.”
He claims his interruption “addles them” while he quickly thumbs through the little metal box Aunt Maude used to keep recipes in before deciding years ago to memorize the ones that matter. (Now it’s a pinch of this, a dab of that and a smidgen of something else.)
Mort has riddles, stories and jokes alphabetized, ready to spring on unsuspecting callers.
The other day, he asked a political pollster if he knows how to tell when male pick-up drivers are single. “Look at the mirrors on both sides of the truck,” he panned. “If there’s tobacco juice on both mirrors, the guy is single.”
Soon to be 104, Mort is a repository of history, much of it he’s seen first-hand. “If it’s true that the good die young, I may soon reach the point of being as bad as I can be,” he jokes.
He and his buddies who gather at the general store call their time there “sharing moments”--first cousins of “teaching moments.”
The latter--parents of today know all too well--are precious moments not to be squandered. “I take ‘em where I can find ‘em,” one dad said.
After a recent holiday meal, Al Washington surveyed the bountiful remains. Turning to his second grade son, he asked, “What do you think we ought to do with all this food, Gabe?” Without hesitation, the youngster answered, “I think we should share it with pets.”
Seizing this “teaching moment,” Al countered, “What about the homeless?”
Gabe answered, “Dad, I don’t think the homeless have pets.”
When they have family reunions, big brother Brad Netterville and little sister Rachel Dabadie are always reminded of their childhood skirmishes, particularly the ones that began in the kitchen. Rachel, by age 5, already hated milk, even the sight of it. “The thought of it could cause nausea, and it still does,” Rachel says.
At age 7, Brad--a couple of years older than Rachel--was ever on task to spring “milk pranks,” teases that always “got her goat.” He’d follow her, gulping down milk as he went. Invariably, Rachel screamed, “Momma, Brad’s drinking milk at me again!” Rachel, now 45, still looks away when milk comes into view.
She also dislikes tobacco smoke and hates being “smoked at.” Her brother, of course, thrived on pretense in her presence, “puffing away” on pencils, candy cigs and soda straws. Evelyn Netterville, their mother, has survived pranks both at home and at school. A retired teacher, she presses on.
“Pressing on” reminds Uncle Mort of the britches Carolina Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton wore upon arrival in San Francisco. “To many people, those zebra-striped britches are the ‘cat’s meow’,” my uncle said.
Upon learning the pants cost $425--twice that if you want them to be two-legged--Mort figures they are 2016’s equivalent to the Rolex watch craze back in the 60s. $849 for a pair of britches? Yep, only in America, and the manufacturer can’t keep pace.
There are more fake Rolexes than the real items, and before long, the same will be true of the Versace brand “zebra-striped britches.” You won’t catch me wearing the watch or the pants. I wouldn’t want anyone to think I’d ever wear knock-offs, or the “real things,” either.
Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Inquiries/comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com. Columns archived at venturegalleries.com, newbury blog.