THE IDLE AMERICAN: Year-end Mort musings

Published 4:56 pm Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Commentary by Dr. Don Newbury


Rarely is “pensive” used as a descriptive for my 105-year-old Uncle Mort. In the hours unfolding from an old year to a new one, however, he grows silent. This is the claim of his bride, Maude, who repeated wedding vows with him 80-something years ago.

And, when Maude makes a claim, it is a take-it-to-the-bank kind of truth. She became beholden to Mort in an odd sort of way. She’d never mentioned her reaction to his proposal for marriage, but–in a manner of thinking–it was an offer she couldn’t refuse.

She was the oldest of three daughters blessing the marriage of her folks, Luther and Imogene Pole. And, but for her unusual last name, she might have been okay with the given names chosen by her parents. “Maudie Lou,” would have been acceptable under ordinary circumstances, but the last name of “Pole” greatly changed things. Like her dad whose name was shortened to “Lu,” she feared a life of spinsterhood might be her fate, and that a schoolyard name that stuck would redden her face throughout life. “Lou Pole,” the shy lass believed, would forever draw giggles.

Not only did Mort promise to “love, honor and obey,” he also vowed that he’d squirrel away money to fork over to lawyers. They’d jump through legal hoops leading to the names “Maudie Lou,” consolidation to one syllable: just plain “Maude.”

Such was on Mort’s mind as 2017’s beard grew long. “We never did get around to the official name change, but we did the next best thing,” Mort said. “In the early going, I let the hammer down on anyone who called her anything but “Maude.”

It was an admission long in the making, this account of a maiden who understandably grew tired of childhood ribbing. Particularly galling were fifth-graders who gouged her regularly. “Don’t guess you’ll ever become a law,” playground classmates would giggle. “But you may always be a ‘Lou Pole’.” Though Mort shied away from spending cash to legalize her name, she’s been “Maude” for a long, long time.

Typically, though, Mort’s end-of-year thoughts are mere twists of news items. He milks what he can from positive news accounts. Then, he may add a question or two, trying–in his own weird way–to change the odor of news stories that too often “stink to high heaven.”

Sometimes, he commits considerable time extracting the tiniest nugget of good news from the quagmire of stories that aren’t. One recent example resulted upon his learning that bird watchers–applying numerous new techniques–know much more about birds than did ornithologists just a decade ago.

“There’s a bunch of new information on snowy owls,” Mort claims. The mere thought of owls shifted his thinking. “I wonder if owls become wise only in old age,” he questioned. “Maybe they do….I’ve never heard of a “wise young owl.”

Readers of the Community News in Aledo, TX, look forward to annual Christmas editions featuring pictures made at elementary schools. Favorites are photos of youngsters with wide smiles, making it obvious which students might express requests to Santa for “two front teeth.”

The News’ Rosealee Hoffman laughed so hard at one youngster’s question she almost dropped her camera. A lad at Coder Elementary School asked if the pictures would appear in the newspaper. She assured him that he’d soon see the photos in print. Brow furrowed and deep in thought, Crue Siracek finally responded. “I don’t know if I’m ready to be famous yet.”

I’ll end 2017 on such a note. Thanks so much for reading as we conclude 15 years of weekly writing. May an abundance of happiness abound for you and yours in this Christmas season. My prayer is that you’ll enjoy good health and much happiness in 2018. We look forward to making more weekly observations in the new year.


Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Inquiries/comments to: Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: Twitter: @donnewbury. Facebook, don newbury.