Uncle Mort skips birthday

Published 9:42 am Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Commentary by Dr. Don Newbury

   Nothing short of Uncle Mort’s enrollment in a ballerina class would have equaled the shocking “PS” on last year’s Christmas card.

“Kids, grandkids, greats and friends,” it read. “I am well aware that come July 4, many of you assume there’ll be a big ‘hullabaloo’ to observe my 104th birthday. You’ll be 100% wrong. I will be busy the rest of the year working on a new invention to be announced around November 1, in time for Christmas shopping. So, no cards, calls or gifts for my birthday, please. If you choose to order my new gadgets for Christmas gifting, however, that’s entirely up to you. In the meantime, please keep this entire matter confidential.”

Well, in most cases, that’s the best way to assure that cats will scramble out of bags. This time, though, folks and friends have–in the words of Archie Bunker–”dummied up.”

I yawned at the time, wondering what new invention possibly could trump his birthday celebration.

They usually are likened to dieting–going to great lengths to avoid great widths.

Often, Mort’s birthday parties make big news in the thicket, where he’s resided all of his life, well, not ALL, of course.

I half-dialed his phone number on his birthday, stopping short of the first ring. When Mort adds a “PS”–particularly on Christmas cards–he’s as serious as a political candidate on the hot seat.

Since then, thoughts of his strange admonition have come and gone, mostly the latter.

They came to mind the other day when he called. (Thankfully, this is a rare occurrence.) He was mighty “put out” by his new neighbors.

“I never expected to be a mentor again,” he began, “but looks like I don’t have much choice, being the neighborly guy I am.”

Neighborly? Turns out he does have new neighbors. They live a couple of miles up the lane. The 60-something couple has reached their bucket list’s bold-faced entry: “Living in the country.”

“It’s not going to be easy,” Mort said. “Maybe they saw too many Ma and Pa Kettle movies when they were young. They think they can put aside their ‘city ways,’ and pull alongside us who’ve lived here since birth,” he surmised.

He rambled on about the futility of “full grown bears” trying to become country folks overnight.

“They’re scrambling so much every day, it’s might nigh dusk before the dust settles,” he gruffed. Then, he got specific, citing their ill-fated efforts to raise chickens.

If I had to endure a phone call to hear just this story, it was worth it.

“My neighbor was nervously hand-wringing when he showed up after breakfast the other day,” my uncle said.

The harried guy said he’d bought several hens, all of which are “doing great jobs hatching their eggs.”

He wished, however, they were just as good at ‘mothering’.”

The guy moaned about “losing several chicks every day.” Mort asked, “What are you feeding them?”

Shaken to the core, the “newbie” waxed rhetorical. “What am I feeding them? I’m not feeding them anything. I thought this was the mother hen’s job.”

Oh, my. Uncle Mort wasn’t sure he’ll have time to mentor and invent simultaneously. “For this new guy, you’d have to add some color to qualify him as a rural greenhorn,” Mort joked.

Mort said his neighbor’s chicken-raising efforts put him in mind of a long ago call from a young newspaper reporter.

“Farming buffaloed him, too,” Mort laughed. “He wanted to know if hens are ‘sitting’ or ‘setting’ on their nests.”

Mort said he wasn’t sure, either, so he answered thusly: “Young man, I don’t care if they’re ‘sitting’ or ‘setting.’ What’s important is whether they’re ‘layin’ or ‘lyin’.”


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