Recycling Before Recyling Was Cool

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My reference to Treva’s dad yesterday brought back of host of memories for lots of folks. A dear friend from the first grade read my musings and went back in time. My mention of the galvanized metal boxes Treva’s brother had in the back of his pickup truck that I likened to the entrée of the Clampett Family with stacks of stuff tied on to the back of their truck, took him back in time.

 

He said of the metal boxes, “I bet I know who made those galvanized metal boxes. In the 9th grade I took a General Shop class. Half of the semester was wood shop and the other half metal shop. In metal shop we made a cold chisel that took several weeks to make. We made it by hand, shaping it with a file. The other project was a galvanized sheet metal tool box.
 The day before we were to start on the tool box, we took a field trip to Topper Sheet Metal.
 Mr. Topper introduced himself to the class and then said, ” Hello, Wayne”.
 He then told everyone he had known me a long time and we went to church together. Then he told me to come up and help him. 
Made my day.
 He talked to us about his work and showed us jobs he was working on in the shop, air conditioning duct work that would go into homes and businesses.
 Then he showed us the finished tool box we were going to make in shop class, set it aside and started cutting and bending sheet metal and explained everything he was doing and why. In less than half an hour he made what would take us several weeks.
 Mr. Topper was a kind, gentle Godly gentleman and very skilled master craftsman”.

 

In an effort to tie up loose ends from yesterday’s blog, there are a couple of things I need to clarify. First of all, I made reference to the fact that I can be a jerk. I think most readers overlooked my heartfelt confession of wrongdoing. Maybe my confession was a little too subtle for folks to figure out that I was being transparent and highlighting the fact that I can be the “brother-in-law” from… Well let’s just say somewhere other than heaven.

 

Even my own brother read my blog yesterday and stepped in with his rendition of gentle redirection. He said of my apology for being a jerk: “Your expressed sorrow to Joni appears to be an ostentatious sorrow. If you were truly remorseful about your classless behavior, you would call her on the phone. Hey, I’m just saying…Love you much”.

 

Of course, I really can’t blame Larry for heaping on loads of guilt. That skillset is closely woven into our DNA. We weren’t raised Catholic, but we grew up Baptist with a mother who had the skillset to orchestrate repentance through dishing out a truckload of guilt on her kids. She knew all the tricks of the trade.

 

I don’t even have to think about how it came down. It is ingrained in my head as though it is second nature to me. My kids would tell you that it is second nature ot me. Obviously, my younger and somewhat smarter brother has the same propensity. So how did it go? Oh, yeah: “If you really love God you wouldn’t be fighting with your brother.” Long story short, when you were the target of Mother’s gentle redirection, you always emerged from the experience knowing your were responsible for being unkind not only to your brother, but to God as well.

 

Like I said: “My younger and somewhat smarter brother” grew up with that same frame of reference. I suspect if you were to ask his kids, they’d say he and my Mother have a lot in common. Of course they do. My dear Mother was a gift from God and one of most loving and thoughtful people you’d ever meet. The same is true for Larry Dean. He was named after my Mother. Her name was Neva Dean.  I really miss  her.

 

Okay, so I tried to soften my brother’s accusation of my “ostentatious sorrow” a little by suggesting to Larry Dean that he modify the term to “subtly ostentatious sorrow”, but it was a “no go”. He responded: “Isn’t subtly ostentatious an oxymoron like ‘cruel to be kind’?” Like I said, “It is somewhere in the DNA?”

 

Please hear this. Let there be no mistake. I thoroughly enjoy the back and forth playful banter I share with my younger and somewhat smarter brother. Repeat – Let there be no mistake, we dearly love and respect each another.   You’re probably thinking, if you think like my Mother, “Don – If you really loved God you’d let Larry Dean win once in awhile”. Maybe you’re right. I’ll give that some thought.  By the way, I learned a thing or two from my mother as well.

 

There is a second thing about yesterday’s blog that I need to clear up. I didn’t explain in my blog yesterday why Treva’s dad had a collection of mangled, twisted, bent lead pipes. When it came to sheet metal work, Treva’s dad represented the best in the business. He was the “go to person” not only for folks needing air conditioning and heating ducts, but he also made metal flashings needed in new home construction and for repairing damaged rooftops. When replacing roofs, it is customary to also replace the lead pipes that protrude through the roof and also reflected hail damage.

 

It all gets back to content. Lead is lead. It can be used for pipes and it can also be used for bullets. Treva’s dad was a hunter and he reloaded his own bullets. To do that, he needed lead. His customers wanted to be helpful. They brought Mr. Topper the old lead pipes they took off of rooftops. They knew that he would re-purpose the lead. In addition, there was always the outside chance they might also get some venison out of the deal. The way I see it, it was recycling before anyone even knew the term.

 

My friend from first grade also thoughtfully added in his message from yesterday: “Like you, my Mama and Daddy crossed the threshold of Heaven some years ago, but when I go home to the house I grew up in, I can go into the garage, go to the work bench, put my hand on a metal lever, pull it down and the years fade away. Daddy and me are loadin’ shotgun shells again to replace the ones we used up that day on dove or quail. Gettin’ ready for tomorrow.  I think grandmother sent Craig a pickup load of memories. Glad he has them, the loader and a Godly grandmother to think of him”.

 

The bottom line is this, “At times I am a jerk, but I also am surrounded by a host of incredible folks who know how to make lemonade out of lemons”.  Thank you!

 

All My Best!

Don

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Childhood Is A Gift

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Is it possible that friendships can be made and lost over something as simple as a game? For that matter, if you entrusted a dear friend from childhood with an “old family recipe” and they capitalized on the experience by making it public for a price, would it mar the friendship? Of course, ours is a society of throwaway people, so almost anything can make or break a friendship.

 

Reportedly, in 1932 Charles Todd and his wife invited Ester (a friend of Charles from childhood) and her husband Charles Darrow to their home for dinner. Following the meal, they played some variation of Monopoly. It was a game created and patented in 1904 by Elizabeth Magie. Initially the game was intended as an educational tool to explain the tax theory of Henry George. Within the next twenty years, several folks developed board games on her concept and the board game involved buying and selling houses and land. Elizabeth Magie had the updated versions of the game she originally developed patented in 1932. The game was initially called The Landlord’s Game.

 

Charles Darrow and his wife were quite taken with the game introduced to them by Charles Todd and his wife following the shared meal in the Todd’s home in 1932.   In fact, they played The Landlord’s Game several times that evening. Before the couple left, they asked for a copy of the rules. Long story short, Darrow was an entrepreneur of sorts. He allegedly subsequently sold the game as Monopoly and Charles Todd and his wife never spoke to them again. Reportedly, Parker Brothers then bought the game for Charles Darrow.

 

Of course, what I’ve just shared is a story based on folklore, but it was so widely spread that Parker Brothers who actually developed the game in 1935 printed reference to it in the games instructions during the 1970s. What I do know to be true is that across generations in my family, the game has been a popular pastime for school age children and their parents. Actually, it is not uncommon for the game to be played exclusively by adults.

 

It is a game that can figuratively take hours to complete. On Tuesday night before Jake, the youngest of our grandchildren, went to bed, he insisted on setting up a game of Monopoly for the next day. I assured him that he didn’t really need to do that and that it was in his best interest to go on to bed. Actually as it turned out, I guess I went to bed before Jake did because I was quite surprised the following morning to see the game totally set up, with money counted out and the deeds for available properties all set out for easy access.

 

Actually, all four grandchildren spent all of yesterday morning playing the game. Did I mention they had fun? It was almost beyond belief. They had fun and the process had absolutely no relationship to anything electronic. I think most adults would agree that is a miracle.

 

Seeing them gathered around the table enjoying the game gave me flashbacks to my childhood years. We, too, spent an inordinate amount of time playing Monopoly. We played the game often at home and I also remember playing the game with cousins at my grandparent’s home in Ringgold.

 

During my childhood years, my brothers and I spent a week with my grandparents every summer during their scheduled time for Vacation Bible School at the First and only Baptist Church in Ringgold. Looking back on those years, it was a fun time. It was something we looked forward to every summer during our elementary school years.

 

Coincidentally, the General and I are continuing the theme with our grandchildren. Having Craig’s kids close at hand and in Texas has made a tremendous difference in making that happen. Of course, Lilian has always been within a 45-minute drive to our home and she, too, values the time shared with cousins at our house. Did I mention that I think having fun at church is important for children and adults alike?

 

There are some differences in the way we orchestrate VBS and the way that VBS was orchestrated during my childhood years. For one thing, the time of day is different. We start with a light meal at 5:30 in the evening and end between 7:30 and 8:00 p.m.. During my childhood years, VBS was always in the morning. Consequently, you couldn’t sleep late. That was enough to make you get up on the wrong side of the bed.

 

When I was a kid, we always had a craft project to work on. We don’t do that now. I’ve wondered if we’ve done kids and their parents a disservice. Think of all the gadgets or memorabilia kept for decades by parents left over from a child’s VBS experience. In addition, the teaching style is completely different. It is more experiential and involves a lot of activity for children.

 

A friend recently asked: “What does it cost to put on VBS in your church?” He was asking about financial costs rather than time commitment from folks actively involved. I didn’t have an answer for him. When it comes to finances, I don’t pay much attention (pardon the pun). My friend said his church had dispensed with VBS because of the cost, but he added the higher cost in his opinion is the experience that children in their church were missing. I couldn’t agree more.

 

I have such wonderful memories associated to VBS. I have even better memories associated to church camp. Regardless, you only have one childhood. When churches invest in kids, the dividends last a lifetime. Actually, I think I’ll step that up a couple of notches. They last for all eternity.

 

This week has been a feel good week for me. For one thing, my grandchildren have had an opportunity to interact and really get to know the children of a couple of Craig’s best buddies from his childhood. Watching them have fun together took be back in time.

 

This has really been a stress free week at our house. For one thing, I have yet to hear a bloodcurdling scream. In addition, unlike some years when you could anticipate that nobody was going to want the same thing on the menu for dinner, this year it hasn’t even been an issue. No one has complained that they are bored. The only downside is the lack of floor space. It isn’t that our house is too small. It has more to do with the amount of their stuff that is scattered everywhere.

 

Okay, so maybe I’m growing up. Having kids wanting to spend time with us trumps having a house that is perfectly in order. We can reclaim the floors after they’ve gone.

 

All My Best!

Don

Better Than Before

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I awakened early this morning with the thought that today is my last full day in Florida. From inside my darkened bedroom, visibility through the wall of glass looking out onto the bay was unhampered. The reflection of the light from buildings on the other side of the bay reflected on the water. From the vantage point of my bed, it appeared that the house must be floating on the water. All I could see out the windows is water.

 

Because of the morning wind, the water had a ripple effect. I had the thought that being outside would feel cold. Today would not be a day to walk along the beach. In reality, it is 60 degrees, but with the wind chill factor it would feel a little uncomfortable.

 

Snug and warm in my bed, I was content to simply look at the body of water that actually is about ten feet from the secure structure of the home. The architecture, spaciousness, quaintness and flow of the house are well beyond anywhere I’ve ever had the privilege of staying.

 

Last night when I talked with the General by phone, I told her the home has to be experienced to fully absorb the attention to detail and unique features included in the architecture and design. If her sister and brother-in-law read my blog, I’ll be in trouble. While they would acknowledge that their home is very comfortable, they’d be resistive to a rave review. They are the most unpretentious people I know. From my perspective, it is a dream home personified.

 

The General’s sister and brother-in-law moved into their home in October and they patiently waited until I arrived to hang most of their pictures. They waited simply because they know I enjoy doing that sort of thing. They could have as easily and skillfully hung pictures themselves months ago, but out of graciousness they waited for me to assist.

 

Consequently, I had the thought this morning that I’m leaving the place better than I found it. The pictures are all hung and the difference artwork makes to the ambience of a room is amazing. Besides that, even without the artwork the home was already second to none. Their taste in art is pretty eclectic. For the most part, it represents the best of G. Harvey.

 

Leaving a place better than you found it is a good feeling. Isn’t that one of the desires of our heart? John Chapman who carried the nickname “Johnny Appleseed” certainly gained that reputation of leaving a place better than he found it.  He planted apple trees in Pennsylvania, Ontario, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois as well as North Virginia. He became an American legend from his kindness.

 

Whether you opt to plant apple trees or demonstrate other acts of kindness, it all serves to create memories that live on after one is gone. There are lots of ways to leave a place better than you found it. When the General and I moved from Odessa to San Angelo in 1970, we had totally repainted the house we were renting. We had also added some wallpaper with the owner’s permission. Though we only lived in the house three months, it was a good investment of our time. Not only did we leave the house better than we found it, we also had someone in mind that wanted to rent the house. I remember the kindness of the landlord after he inspected the home at the time of our moving. He thanked us for making the place better. It was a good feeling.

 

I don’t know that we’ve ever lived anywhere that we didn’t attempt to make it better. I’m pretty good with a paintbrush or at least I once was. I guess you could say I’m a low-level painter. I don’t mind climbing a six-foot ladder to paint, but if a twenty-foot ladder is needed, you can count me out. We had some interior painting done in our home several months ago and I opted to outsource the work rather than attempt to do it myself. It was the first time that I’ve ever outsourced interior painting.

 

Whether you’re hanging pictures, painting walls, rearranging furniture or engaging in any number of other pursuits, we all have the wherewithal to leave a place better than we found it. While I’ve been away the past two or three days, the General has reportedly continued to eliminate her perception of clutter from our home. I am a little sensitive to the fact that she told her sister on the telephone last night that I am a hoarder. That is a flawed perception from my vantage point. She reportedly had cleaned out more closets. I did ask if there was any possibility that I’d find my clothes in a plastic bags on the front porch. She simply laughed. I guess only time will tell.

 

This morning before I climbed out of bed to work on my blog, I had the thought that I want to leave things better than I found them. Perhaps that will give the General false hope that I’m emptying out stuff from my closet. No, the elimination of stuff isn’t what I was considering. I want to touch peoples lives in a way that they are grateful for the friendship and the time shared.

 

All My Best!

Don

A Room With A View

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“Hello Houston, We’ve Got A Problem”, was the thought racing through my mind. Only the location wasn’t Houston, it was Ft. Lauderdale, FL. From my perspective, I’d done the hard part. I had patiently waited in a very long line for a rental car. The rental rate I had negotiated for the car was very favorable, but sometimes it comes down to a “bait and switch”. You know what I mean: “We no longer have the very small, inexpensive, ‘no amenities’ vehicle you requested, but can provide you ‘this or this’. What color do you want?” Any color but red would have been my response. Statistically, red vehicles are stopped for speeding more often that any other color, or at least that’s what I’ve been led to believe.

 

I purchased a sports car in 1987. That was “back-in-the-day” when I mistakenly thought if you got a speeding ticket, all you had to do was go to a defensive driving course and magically everything would go away. What I learned in the process is that faulty information can get you into a lot of trouble. Okay, I get it! I didn’t really think or mean that the forces of my misinformation led me down the highway at “breaking- the-sound-barrier” levels of speed.   Faulty information wasn’t the source of my trouble.

 

The car would allegedly go 160 mph; however, I don’t know for sure. I never drove it that fast. On more than one occasion, my foot got a little heavy and I drove it over the speed limit. Okay, I’ll modify that to suggest that it could have been as much as twice the speed limit. Fortunately, my car was white and inconspicuous. Based on my track record of getting stopped, all I can say is: “Thank God, I didn’t have a red car”. Of course, every time I got a speeding ticket, the General went shopping. What I learned is that you’re ineligible to take the defensive driving course to minimize the damages if you’re traveling over twenty-five miles an hour over the post speed limit. You are also in a lot of trouble at home when you get a speeding ticket.

 

Does the color of your car and style really make a difference in the attention you receive from law enforcement?  I have a younger brother in Oklahoma. Sometimes he chooses to hear what he wants to hear. I told him: “Don’t buy a red truck”. He bought one anyway. Maybe he is too smart for his own good?

 

There are some studies that indicate the belief that red cars being stopped more often is reportedly flawed. Perhaps the origin of the misinformation is associated to fire trucks. Red is the stock color they come in and they are routinely driven like they are going to a fire. That connotation adds the notion that it is okay to be in a hurry.

 

According to the rest of the story based on any number of surveys, red vehicles are second on the list of vehicles stopped most often. Drum roll – topping the list is the color white. Gray and silver come in at third and fourth place respectively.

 

Finally, when I got to the counter to pick up my rental car, the biggest hurdle I had to jump was to convince the attendant that I didn’t need the extra insurance and that I was perfectly capable of bringing the car back with a full tank of fuel. I played it cool. When she asked what kind of car I wanted, I suggested she consider putting me in a convertible at the same rate. She laughed, but she played it by the book. As luck would have it, they had at least one small, inexpensive, ‘no amenities’ vehicle and it was the one assigned to my name. By the way, the color was red.

 

Of course, I wasn’t out of the parking lot before I recognized I had a problem. My first order of business was to plug in my cell phone for charging. Aside from using the ‘cigarette lighter’ receptacle, there wasn’t a USB connection or port for me to plug in my phone. That is definitely old school and it put me without a way to keep my phone charged. I was driving the following day across the state and I needed access to the map application on my phone. There was no way my phone would stay charged without it.

 

Next I attempted to pull up the map application for the address in Pompano Beach where I was going. The phone device indicated it was loading as I made my way out of the parking lot. By the time I reached the exit, the phone was no longer still loading. The message on the screen stated: “Server Not Found”.

 

Are you kidding me? There was no way I’d find my destination without my phone. “No problem”, I thought to myself. I’d check with Siri. His is always a friendly voice and he is always helpful. Guess what? Siri wasn’t talking to me either. I pulled into a service station to park while I figured out the problem. Long-story-short, for whatever reason I didn’t have cell phone coverage. Like Abraham, I was destined to “go out not knowing” and rely on God’s guidance to provide the way.

 

Okay, so my level of faith was being tested and I was in a panic. There was no way I’d make either of my destinations in Florida without someone telling me to “turn right” or travel a specified distance before merging onto another highway. I had the immediate thought, “I wish the General was with me”. Actually, it is true, but not just because she’s normally the copilot/navigator.

 

The General had planned to travel with me. For months her sister and brother-in-law have patiently waited on us to come to Tampa. They’ve just moved in a new home and I’m the designated picture hanger. Never have I been more honored. They have an amazing art collection. At any rate, the General’s beloved Barnabas is down-for-the count and the General wouldn’t leave him. She insisted I travel without her. Of course, I take some comfort in her commitment to attentively care for Barnabas. I figure she will one day do the same with me.

 

I tried two map applications, repeated non-answered calls to Siri and had the thought, “This is not going to be a good experience.” I really needed map access. About thirty minutes later, out of the blue, the server connected and my requested map came up on the screen. “Thank you Lord”! I was back in business.

 

Yesterday afternoon I drove from Pompano Beach, FL on the Atlantic side of Florida to Redington Shores, FL on the Gulf side. I’ve never been though the Everglades. The stretch of highway labeled “Alligator Alley” had a mystic about it. I also envisioned water on both sides of the highway. After all, this was swamp land. You could have fooled me. It looked like any other stretch of long highway.

 

Today we hang pictures. We sorted them out and strategically made the plan last night. It was well past midnight when I headed upstairs to my room. The view of the bay that borders their property is beyond impressive. I am eager for sunrise.

 

All My Best!

Don

Daddy’s Girl

 

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The man’s countenance was gracious and kind.  He obviously had never met a stranger because he immediately engaged in conversation with me.  He was a staff person at the Radisson in Crystal City (Arlington, VA) and one of his responsibilities included driving the shuttle.  I needed a lift to National Airport.  His first question was: “How was your stay with us?” 

I replied that my stay was good.   He said: “I hope you’ll come back again and bring your family with you. When the remodeling is completed, we’ll be operating as a Hilton Garden Inn.   The new look is going to be really nice.  The lobby will be much larger and architecturally it has a great design. Besides that, it is going to have my favorite colors. They are orange and green.  It will be a very bright and uplifting look.  Just seeing it will be a great way to start your day”.

He may have been the driver of the van, but he came across like a public relations person on steroids.  He energy and enthusiasm were almost contagious.  I had the thought: “I wonder if your employer has any idea how good your are at your job?”  The man’s personality and rhetoric couldn’t have been scripted better.  You could tell he was riding for the brand.  He also obviously enjoyed his work and was well ahead of most in understanding the importance of being service friendly.

The man eventually asked where I was from.  When I replied Austin, he asked if I was a Longhorn?  I responded that my daughter is a Longhorn and my son is an Aggie. Without missing a beat he smiled and said: “Go with the daughter.  She will be the one that takes care of you when you are old”. 

He said, “If your son is married, you probably are already aware that his allegiance is to his wife. Consequently, hers will be the family that will eventually come to have more importance to him.  That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t love you or respect you.  It just means that he is smart”.   I was amused by his response, but before I could refute his assertion or ask about his family, he added another thoughtful nugget of information.  He said, “Your daughter will always be your girl.  She’ll never outgrow the desire to be ‘daddy’s girl’.  She will take care of you when you are old”.

I started to tell him that my daughter has already told her brother that she’s watched over us for the past twenty years and that it is his job to manage us for the next twenty, but he didn’t give me an opportunity to interject even a comment. Besides that, my daughter was only joking. 

He went on to say, “You’ll always be more comfortable at your daughter’s home.  You won’t think twice about opening the refrigerator or using the restroom.  It will be different at your son’s home because of his wife.  I’m not sure why it is the way I describe it, but I know what I’m saying is true”.

He then voluntarily told me that he was one of nine children.  He was the fifth child born into his family.  He has four younger sisters.  The man himself has been in this country for the last twenty-nine years and he has three daughters.  They are all American citizens.  One is in college, one is in high school and one is in middle school.  He said, “I’m a lucky man because I will always feel cared for and welcomed.  I have daughters.”

I asked about his country of origin and learned that he is an Egyptian.  He was born in Cairo.  At some point in his childhood, his father sent him to live with his grandmother who lived in the country because he thought the schools were better. He added that he felt he had the best of both worlds.  His older siblings never had the experience of country life. 

I asked about his extended family. Were they still in Egypt?  He affirmed that they were.  He said, “I’m the only one from my family who set my sights on the United States.”  He said, “You know, I’m just a blue collar worker, but I’ve made a good living in this country.  If I didn’t like my job, I’d find another job.  I live within my means and I have a good home for my family”.  He added, “Someone recently told me that they didn’t make enough money. I replied, ‘I disagree with you.  Your problem isn’t your salary. The problem is you are choosing not to live within your budget.” 

I shared with the man that his wisdom was obviously beyond his years.  He seemed very content with life, grateful for his place of employment and intent on making others feel welcomed and valued.

As he opened the back door of the van to get my luggage when we arrived at the airport, he said to me: “You are a Longhorn.  Go with your daughter. It will serve you well”.  Of the Aggies he said: “They are good for something. I mostly mention them when I’m telling a joke.”  Of course, how could I be surprised that he is a Longhorn?  He told me early on that one of his favorite two colors is orange.

I wondered later about the man’s life experiences.  Was his perception of the differences between sons and daughters cultural?  Was it formed through observation of how life played out in his own family of origin?  As a rule of thumb, is his observation an accurate description in American life?

I can truthfully say that I think I am equally comfortable opening the refrigerator in either my daughter’s home or my son’s.  However, it would be a rare occasion that I’d have a need to do so at either.  When it comes to using the restroom, I think of them as a comfort station. Consequently, I’m always grateful for the accommodation.

The man had strengths.  He was friendly and personable. He also came across as family oriented and talked with pride about his three daughters.  He valued the opportunity of calling the United States home and he was a dedicated employee to his employer.  He was grateful to be in this country. In addition, I’d say he is doing his part in making America great.

All My Best!

Don

Kumbaya

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Why do really smart people do really dumb things? I bet you think I ask myself that every morning when I look in the mirror to shave. On the other hand, maybe the descriptor “ really smart” eliminated me from even being a consideration. Several weeks ago a friend gave me an overview of his wife’s family reunion. They had made arrangements for use of a retreat center that is off the beaten path. It is located in a very picturesque setting interspersed with oak trees that have graced the land for hundreds of years. I guess you could say the place is located in Back Woods, America.

 

Under the auspices of, “It’s a small world”, I’ve actually been to the same setting and it is a favorite of mine. If you want peace and quiet it is an exceptional venue. I sometimes opt to go there just to sit quietly and think. It is a place free from distractions. On the other hand, if you’re there for your wife’s family reunion it may or may not be as restful and laid back as one might hope. I may be wrong, but knowing the wife, I figure her family tree rocks to the experience of holding hands and singing Kumbaya. They definitely don’t fall into the category of being a rowdy crowd.

 

I haven’t thought of the Kumbaya song in years, but according to my Google search it was around long before I was around. The song was written and recorded in 1926. Legend has it that it was popular in the 1950s and 1960s. I honestly don’t remember ever hearing or singing the song before I went to college. I was introduced to it in the college age youth group at Belmont Baptist Church in Abilene. In addition to that song, the “I Can Sing A Rainbow” song was also very popular. Both my kids learned those two songs from me and my grandchildren did as well. I can’t carry a tune in a tow sack, but I’ll belt out either of those songs in the presence of children regardless of whoever else is present.

 

Getting back to the question, “Why do really smart people do really dumb things?” Let me share a scenario with you. It was a friend of a friend kind of situation, but someone I met mentioned that he was the fill-in music director at his church and that he occasionally sang solos during worship for the special music. At any rate, I was in a bind. I needed a special music for a funeral that week. Why not ask if this guy was available to sing? Like I said, “Sometimes smart people do really dumb things.”

 

The funeral service was being held in the chapel of the funeral home and the standard procedure was that all music needed to come from the music room adjacent to the chapel. Consequently, the person doing the singing wouldn’t be visible to the audience. I can truthfully tell you that “Amazing Grace” was amazingly awful. If the singer had been auditioning for American Idol, he would have been summarily dismissed before the ending of the first verse. As it was, I thought the music or lack thereof was going to go on forever.

 

They say you live and you learn. I am not the sharpest Crayola in the box, but I’ve never made that same mistake again. While I appreciate the fact that people intuitively want to be helpful, just because a person thinks they have musical ability doesn’t mean they are not deaf to the sound of their own music. As it turned out, during the course of the next week several people asked me: “Who was the person doing the singing?” Everyone asking was of the same mind set. It had to be a family member of the deceased. No one without a close familial connection and an insistence that they honor their loved one through song would ever have been permitted the opportunity.

When asked about the musician, I didn’t feel obligated to fully disclose that I had made the arrangements for the singer to be present at the funeral. I simply answered he was a “fill-in” music director from a church in Austin. I also didn’t feel obligated to comment on the quality of his ability. They say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Perhaps the sound of music is within the hearing of the listener. Trust me when I say, “It was awful.”

Getting back to really smart people doing really dumb things, my friend disclosed the details of his wife’s family reunion. Apparently the family had met in this same retreat location for a number of years, so the location and the amenities were familiar to him. From his description of location, I think it may have been the outdoor chapel area where unwanted guests were found. Like I said, “The wife’s family tree is populated with the kind of folks that would be very comfortable holding hands and singing Kumbaya as an expression of worship.

I can assure you they are not the kind of folks that integrate snakes in their worship experience. Well, with one exception, there was not a snake handler in the group. Like I said, “Sometimes really smart people do really dumb things”. What are the odds that out of the four copperheads that appeared outdoors over the course of their reunion experience, only one was terrifyingly problematic? Who knows what the man was thinking, but he fearlessly picked one of the copperheads up. If you’re thinking: “Dumb idea, you’ve got it right.”

When my friend told me this story, I asked: “Was this your wife’s smartest uncle?” I thought it was a clever and funny question. His response to my question was startling. He answered, “Probably”. As it turns out the fearless snake handler, who obviously proved to be a novice in the art of handling snakes, got bitten. In addition, my friend went on to tell me that the snake bitten uncle is a thoracic surgeon. Obviously, that places him in the very smart and talented category.   Consequently, spending the next two days at the hospital may not have been that out-of-character for him. However, being the patient probably was outside his comfort zone.

 

So the next time you think you are the smartest person in the group, don’t allow that to give you false hope that you want do something incredibly dumb. I  could list any number of times that I’ve done really dumb things, but doing so would be outside  my comfort area. How about you?

 

All My Best!

Don

LOOKING GOOD

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There were many stories that surfaced during our family reunion on Saturday, but I thought I’d capture one that features my cousin “Eddie”. At some point, he said of himself: “I used to go by Eddie, but I eventually dropped the ending an opted for Ed”. He mentioned previously running across an old friend from high school who called him “Eddie Don DeMoss”. He said, “Wow! That took me back in time.”

 

Ed – Eddie – Eddie Don – Eddie Don DeMoss?  Identify the name anyway you want, but he is the cousin that occasionally reads about three lines of what I’ve written before he loses interest and moves on to something else. Since I’ve included his name four times in the first three sentences, I suspect I’ll hold his attention.

 

Actually, I had forgotten that Eddie’s middle name was Don, but in thinking back, I do recall that his mother routinely called him Eddie Don. At the time, I was called Donnie, so it never occurred to me that we had the same name. Eddie is a graduate of Permian High School and a year older than Ronnie and me. Actually, he is two years older. I think he said he was seventy-one.

 

He asked me, “Was it you or Ronnie that stayed for the basketball game between Permian and Ector? I made the winning shot and I didn’t even know it until the next day. I guess you could say ‘I was the hero, but the disclosure came too late for me to enjoy the sensation of victory’. No one knew we won until the following day”.

 

Honestly, was he for real? Could he be delusional? Was he on a Rocky Mountain high? “No” is the short answer for the last question I posed. That would be totally out of character for him even though he does live in Colorado. He probably wasn’t delusional either. He grew up Methodist, but he always towed the line. His mother would have boxed his ears if he ever colored outside the lines.

 

Eddie has never been tall enough to play basketball!   Actually, I don’t know if that’s true or not, because I couldn’t walk and dribble a basketball at the same time. Consequently, I never stayed for a basketball game. For that matter, I wasn’t tall either.

 

My aunt mentioned Eddie’s dad. She said, “L.V. was always so much fun to be around. When he was a young man and beginning to date, he’d sing and dance around the house and ask: “Mama, Mama – Do I look good?” Grandma would always respond: “If you act half as good as you look, you’ll be just fine”.

 

My aunt mentioned that in their later years, after she and her older sister were widowed and Uncle L.V. was a widower, they went shopping with him in Dallas. He knew exactly what he wanted only he had to see it first. Everywhere they took him, nothing seemed to be exactly what he had in mind. The older sister said, “Well, there’s only one other store we haven’t tried. Do you want to go to Neiman Marcus?”

 

Wouldn’t you know it, Neiman’s had the perfect suit and he didn’t even flinch at the price. Some time later he accompanied my oldest aunt to the First Baptist Church in Nocona. He reportedly was dressed in his Sunday’s best? A friend of my aunt saw the two of them together and purposefully paused long enough at the entrance to the church to get an introduction. She was shocked when my aunt introduced him as her brother. She responded: “Oh shucks, I thought you had a gentleman friend.”

 

The lady latter reported to a friend who lived in the small community where my uncle grew up, that she had met my aunt’s brother and that he was very handsome. The friend responded, “If you think he looks good now, you should have seen him when he was a young man! He was the most handsome man and you couldn’t have found a nicer person or better gentleman anywhere”.

 

My cousin interjected: “He heard someone once say about the DeMoss family, ‘They are good people. The DeMoss family wouldn’t steal a pound of cotton from you.’ The expression seemed a little strange to me, but I’m accepting at face value that it is a genuine compliment. However, when I think of cotton, I think lightweight. How much cotton would you have to steal to get a pound of cotton?   In case you’re struggling to find the right answer, the answer is “a pound”.

 

Law-abiding, self-respecting and God-fearing were the mainstay of the party line my grandmother expected of her children. As luck would have it, their children passed on those three characteristics to their grandchildren as well.

 

I turned to my cousin Eddie as asked: “In what way are you most like your dad?” I’m not sure what I expected for an answer. My uncle was one of the most positive people I’ve ever known. He dreamed big and he was always up for the next adventure and business opportunity. His life was filled with adventure and far away places. His work was oilfield related. He was in Cuba under the initial reign of Fidel Castro. Reportedly, it was a close call. He got out of he country just in time. He also worked in both Venezuela and Argentina for a number of years. Every time I hear the song, “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina”, I think about my uncle and the excitement of faraway places. He always had the most interesting stories and the pot of gold was always just around the next corner at the end of the rainbow. He loved life and nothing slowed him down.

 

There was any number of things that Eddie could have chosen to respond to my question: “In what way are you most like your dad?” You’ll think he is really smart when you hear what he answered. He responded by repeating the question. He then said: “I guess I am most like my dad in the way I look. I look just like him.”
I say this tongue-in-cheek on the outside chance that Ed – Eddie – Eddie Don – Eddie Don DeMoss is still reading. The response, “I look just like my dad” after hearing my aunt talk about my uncle’s reputation for having chiseled-in-stone-good-looks was pretty clever. However, that leads me back to the questions I asked earlier: “Honestly, was he for real? Could he be delusional? Was he on a Rocky Mountain high?” At any rate, it is really nice to have him in the family.

 

All My Best!

Don