I heard a story once about a yard man who sheepishly thanked his employer for a gift of whiskey. He described it as "just right whiskey."
"What does that mean?" the donor questioned.
He repeated the "just right" description, adding, "If it had been any better, you wouldn't have given it to me, and if it had been any worse, I couldn't have swallowed it.".
I feel such ambivalence when driving down I-20 in East Texas. At a certain exit, my conscience pulls at me to veer off onto the state highway, wind down a farm-to-market road, then finally to a briar-canopied lane to my Uncle Mort's place.
The practical side of me asks, "Do you really want to add 90 minutes to the trip?" The hour and a half is best-case scenario. That's driving time, with a few seconds to scribble a note and slip it under the screen door if Mort happens to be away.
He's might near always at home, brimful of news from the thicket, suitable for sharing. He then prattles at 150 words per minute, with gusts to 200.
If I understood him more, I'd drop by more often. If I understood him less, I'd mark him off, figuring that he'll be hauled off by authorities at any time.
Mort brings to mind the man in a little town who was three feathers short of a warbonnet. A social worker asked someone if he thought the man should be committed.
Pausing, he answered, "Well, 'tis hard to say. As long as he's out, I doubt that they'll lock him up, but if they ever lock him up, I'm pretty sure they'll never let him out.".
Dropping by a few days back, though, was a no-brainer. I knew that he'll be hitting birthday number 97 next month, and previous commitments prevent our being on hand.
We got one of those "sorry-we-can't-be-there, but-want-to-be-the-first-to-congratulate- you" cards.
The card and two-dozen bottles of gen-u-wine Dublin Dr Pepper in hand, I tried my best to drive down the absolute center of the lane, conscious that no matter what, the dust would cancel a fresh car wash. Maybe, though, I could steer clear of briars that threatened to do a number on my paint job if I veered the slightest bit, left or right.
He often runs to meet me, full of "howdies," then asking Aunt Maude to make a fresh pot of coffee and serve us some of her palate-pleasing teacakes.
Last week, it was a quick "hello," with curtness one can sometimes expect from my get-rich-quick uncle.
"I'm too busy to mess with you today," he said, barely looking up from what appeared to be a tedious chore. He was scooping livestock feed from 50-pound bags, dumping it into freshly-printed bags he'd ordered from the Metroplex. On them were these words in bold print: Burpless Cattle Feed..
"I'm tellin' you, nephew, we live in a world where most people who used to view green simply as a basic color now think 'purt near everything needs to be green. I heard over the radio that the radicals now think that our atmosphere is polluted with methane expelled in cattle burps."
Uh-oh. My uncle was up to shenanigans again, claiming sole heirship of the latest get-rich-quick scheme. He believed the printing on his new bags would increase its worth.. He called his "new" feed the new-and-improved "burpless" variety.
I reminded him that it could be extremely embarrassing if the cattle people challenged him.
"There ain't gonna be any problem, nephew," he assured. "Farmers are working 18 hours a day just to break even. I saw a bumper sticker just the other day that said 'Show me a successful farmer, and I'll show you one with a wife who has a job in town.' Farmers are stretched thin, and they don't have time to stand around listening for cattle burps."
I stood there, dumfounded, delighted that this visit would be a short one indeed.
As I drove away, I thought about the card my wife bought the other day for the couple's 77th anniversary coming up in August. The message? "May you have as many more anniversaries as you want."…
Dr. Newbury is a speaker and writer in the Metroplex. Direct inquiries and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 817-447-3872. Visit his Web site at www.speakerdoc.com.