A Salute to Hard Heads

Published 11:08 am Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Commentary by Dr. Don Newbury

   It won’t happen, because yearbooks don’t “plug in,” but if today’s high school or college graduates decided to “go retro” for an hour or so, they should visit older relatives’ homes. There, they’d be taken aback by the, uh, “quaintness” of school annuals from bygone days.

They’d joke about students’ stern looks and stiff postures, wondering what their counterparts back then had against smiling.

And what about all those nicknames–usually encased in parentheses–between first and last names? Nicknames seemed to be mandated for members of athletic teams. Why, if old-time footballers didn’t have nicknames, they likely played little if at all, and may have failed to get the memo about showing up for photo day.

   I have a theory as to why nicknames today are rare. Blame it on urbanization in general and the introduction of tractors in particular.

These powerful mechanical beasts of the field basically put mules out to pasture. Kids today would find it hard to believe that we relished a series of movies about Francis, the Talking Mule. The late Donald O’Connor starred in the 1950s movie series. Youngsters thought nothing of plunking down a dime for admission, then sitting through the feature twice.

Not only did modernization of farms signal lessening the use of rural nicknames, mules’ demise stole from us the very animal we’d grown accustomed to accusations of being as stubborn as.

Mules–offspring of male donkeys and female horses–were handy animals to have around for purposes of comparison back when. Mention mules in the company of today’s younger generation, and they think of backless shoes. Google backs them up with numerous shoe references included several headings before the animal definition pops up.

Whatever, it is best never to expect them to join in with the “sweet singing” of the donkey as he goes to hay.

The other day, my wife of almost 50 years spoke of my being–in her words–”hard-headed.” I could tell by her facial expression, however, that she was sorely tempted to add, “as a mule.”

It set me to thinking. Is it not often complimentary to be considered hard of head?

I cite two recent examples.

In Houston last month, Texas Rangers pitcher Colby Lewis managed a half-turn of his head before the batter’s screaming line drive–estimated at a speed between 105-110 MPH–bounced off his noggin. This “hard head” stayed in the game, grateful his head and body were still attached. Further, he was glad teammate baseman Rougned Odor helped out, making a splendid catch of the carom in shallow centerfield. (Lewis, 37 come August, was credited with an assist on the play. Back in 2014, he got an assist from doctors who performed hip resurfacing surgery, stopping “just short” of a full hip replacement.)

During Lewis’ post-game TV interview, he was quick to extend birthday greetings to his wife, Jenny, back in the Metroplex. Now there’s a guy clear of mind, firm in resolution and, well, a proven “hard head.”

During a recent trip to the Texas Panhandle where I committed some speeches, I met a couple as mission-minded as they come, Rev. James and Dana Greer. They log hundreds of miles every week in their sprawling territory. Truly, theirs are lives of giving to others.

While enjoying a brief tour of downtown Pampa, we drove past his downtown office. Behind a bush near his corner window, he spotted someone hunkered down. He thought the man likely was a vagrant who needed help. We stopped. He approached the stranger with a “Can I help you, buddy?” offer, his hand extended for a hearty Christian handshake.

“Not really,” the guy answered. “I’m just skimming me an Internet signal.” James invited him to “skim away,” and we continued the tour.

   I contend that “hard-headedness” often masks strong, passionate resolve.

Surely this compliments a major league baseball player–who, despite advancing years, a hip replacement and what could easily have been a serious blow to the head—has a life well-ordered.

And kudos to a preacher whose aim always is centered on helping others. Long live Colby Lewis and Rev. Greer. If I’m “hard-headed,” I’m in good company.


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