Not the hick I know I am

Published 8:02 am Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Echoes from the Loafers’ Club Meeting

Have I ever told you about my Uncle Ralph?

No, you haven’t.

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That’s probably because I don’t have an Uncle Ralph.

Driving by Bruce’s drive

I have a wonderful neighbor named Bruce. Whenever I pass his driveway, thoughts occur to me, such as: I’ve been noticing a good number of automobiles with only one working headlight. I’ve always called such a vehicle a padiddle, alternatively spelled pediddle or perdiddle. A woman I met at a banquet called such a half-lit vehicle a Popeye, named after the one-eyed, spinach-eating cartoon character. When I was a young man, if a fellow saw a car coming with a burned-out headlight and was the first to say “padiddle,” he could kiss his girlfriend. If she saw the padiddle first, she could punch him in his arm. If he was riding with his buddies, he could punch one of them in the arm. If a Volkswagen Beetle was spotted, you called “Slug bug!” in reference to the Beetle’s nickname, the Bug, and if you were the first to announce the car’s appearance, you were rewarded with the privilege of punching someone in the arm. Some played the game by yelling, “Punch buggy!”

The cafe chronicles

I sat next to the “Just wait until you have kids of your own” section. The mother admonished a young son for wiping his nose on the sleeve of his shirt. That’s why long-sleeved shirts were invented. Her youngsters reminded me of the boy who asked his teacher, “Can I go to the bathroom?”

“May I go to the bathroom?” the teacher corrected.

The boy responded, “Sure, but I asked first.”

Talking like an owl

I was driving through one of those little towns that have no posted speed limit signs. Visitors couldn’t go through fast enough to suit the residents. It was the kind of town I enjoy. Some would call it sleepy. I doubt that’s true, but the roosters might still be drowsy at noon.

I was wearing a sweatshirt that was over 20 years old. I’d worn it often, yet it was in much better shape than I was. How did I know its age? It had “Detroit Lakes Festival of Birds May 1997” printed on it.

I’d seen a snowy owl earlier. It made me owly–in a good way. I have done the voice of an owl in a short animated film, proving that the term “wise old owl” can be inaccurate. I like owls and I’m able to mimic some of their calls. That skill wasn’t needed in this filming. This owl had the voice and words of a human. It’s not easy to talk like an owl. It’s not even easy to talk like me. If I don’t keep an eye on my tongue, I say “rassle” instead of “wrestle,” even though I know it’s incorrect. I pronounce roof as in food and also as in foot. I pronounce route so that it rhymes with hoot and sometimes out. I do avoid adding an “r” to “washing” and a second “r” to “sherbet.” I try not to sound like a hick even though I am one.

Nature notes

Horned larks, birds of the bare ground, were evident on the sides of rural roads. I see them all winter, but some of the birds now are migrants. The brownish horned lark is identified in flight by a mostly black tail. The horned lark walks instead of hopping and sings from slight elevations on the ground or in the air. The song, a clear, tinkling “tsee-ee,” is high-pitched and often prolonged.

J.R.R. Tolkien, wrote in “The Hobbit,” “This thing all things devours: Birds, beasts, trees, flowers; Gnaws iron, bites steel; Grinds hard stones to meal; Slays king, ruins town, And beats high mountain down.”

Tolkien was writing about time. Time makes winter go away. Time makes winter return. Winter can create a world available in limited colors–white, brown and gray. A lone Canada goose flew overhead, honk-a-lonking at a good goose speed. Its head turned from side-to-side. I hoped it found whatever it was searching for. There are a number of subspecies of the Canada goose that have been recognized, with only a couple being distinctive. Canada geese are generally smaller in the north and darker in the west. The smallest forms are considered a different species called the cackling goose.

Skunk smell was in the air. That’s a sign of spring.

That was enough to make a goose honk.

Meeting adjourned

“When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people.” —Abraham Heschel