Banished to the woodshed

Published 12:07 pm Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Commentary by Dr. Don Newbury

Quite understandably, free spirits like my Uncle Mort get unbelievably “carried away,” almost never by the wind but by their own blustery acts of omission and commission.

I asked my 103-year-old kin what sticks out in his memory as his ultimate “uh oh” moment—one he’d like to re-live. “I can’t believe I forgot Maude’s 103rd birthday,” he confessed, adding that she gave him all day to “get it right” when a routine “uh-oh” moment perhaps would have been forgiven. It started with a simmer, but late in the day reached the boiling point of “UH- OH” distinction.

“I’m plumb buffaloed that it ever happened, but I was banished to the woodshed for a full week. All I had to sleep on was a pallet. How I responded the next day is what really cooked my goose,” he said, smiling.

When he awoke, Mort found a terse note pinned to his pillow.

“If you know what’s good for you, there’ll be a present here before noon that’s shiny, new and goes from zero to 200 in six seconds.”

“The gift was in place a full hour before the deadline, but it wasn’t what Maude had in mind, I’m afraid,” Mort whimpered. “I bought her new bathroom scales.”

On the subject of “do-overs,” Whataburger brain trusts have pretty much apologized every way but Sunday concerning an employee’s unbelievable refusal to serve two law enforcement officers.

He was using the old “I was just kidding” line, but it was blown asunder like gale force winds in the face of a populace stunned in disbelief. Corporate chiefs were beyond chafed. Their predictable response suggested in no way that the “no shirts/shoes/service” signs would ever have “cops” added to it.

The guy not only lost his job; he missed his final chance to ask if they wanted fries with “that.”

Speaking of hamburgers, I’m hesitant to admit that during my early years, I only knew to order hamburgers during rare visits to cafés. Once, a death in the family caused us to leave for the Texas Panhandle in the middle of the night.

At 7 a.m., I ordered hamburgers (two for a quarter) while others were partaking of breakfast fare.

I was perhaps eight years old, but a couple of years later, my knowledge of menus had doubled. Added was “bowl of red” (chili), a dish I didn’t order for several more years. Yep, hamburgers remained an easy choice through elementary school.

Three burger joints once “duked it out” for business in a not-so-big town that likely couldn’t support three such eateries over the long haul.

One was glitzy and new, across Main Street from the county courthouse. It featured a blinking neon sign bragging “best hamburgers in the world.” A second one, down the street, was well-worn, but it had a faded sign proclaiming “best hamburgers in Texas.”

A third eatery, out across the tracks where Main Street began, occupied a former service station building. It sported a blackboard with this sign in chalk: “Best hamburgers on this street.”

Fort Worth–and a great many other cities and communities–have highly publicized competition to determine the best burgers to be found. Many burgers advancing to the finals feature more calories than should be mentioned, and some claim patty sizes that don’t fall much short of a hind-quarter.

Cowtown’s “guest judge” seems unlikely to qualify. She’s lived in Texas since August, claiming cheeseburgers to be a favorite food in her home state in Minnesota. However, her name gives her an edge—Kathi Burger.

Her great uncle is Warren Burger, former chief justice of the US Supreme Court. (Another ancestor, however, was creator of “Minnesota 13,” corn-liquor moonshine popular during Prohibition).

Arguments about the history of hamburgers are unending.

Some say they were introduced in Hamburg, Germany. Others credit two Ohio brothers who served them in Hamburg, NY. A few believe the first US burgers were served in a small community west of Tulsa, OK.

I dunno. But I’ve rarely met a “wimpy burger” I didn’t like. We called ‘em that because J. Wellington Wimpy–Popeye’s portly friend in the long-running comic strip–always ordered hamburgers. Maybe that’s how I got started.


   Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Inquiries/comments to Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: Columns archived at, newbury blog.