THE IDLE AMERICAN: Mort’s birthday miseries

Published 8:00 am Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The Idle American, Dan Newbury

Radio listeners heard it from the lips of England’s Prime Minister–the inimitable Winston Churchill. In the 1939 radio broadcast, he said Russia “is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.”

Fast forward 80 years to Uncle Mort’s 107th birthday party on July 4. This old Churchillian quote fits my kin quite well, but perhaps deserves one additional phrase, like “scattered in gun powder packed in a blunderbuss.”

Anyway, there’s mounting evidence that maybe God did make Mort after He broke the mold.

The mention of Mort’s name in The Thicket invariably elicits groans. This is particularly true at meetings of the Commissioners’ Court, where county financial decisions are made. When they hear the “putt-putt-putt” of his golf cart, they know he’s arriving to request something.

At a recent session, he followed the guy seeking the endorsement of an upcoming golf tournament planned for charitable benefit.

Mort wanted the county to fund a truckload of caliche “one more time” to “smooth out the ruts” on about 400 yards of roadway no one seems to own. They call it “NML,” or No Man’s Land since surveys of the area are approximations at best. The stretch–dead-ending at Mort’s place–is used mostly by attendees at Mort’s birthday parties. When the creek’s running high, it covers the road. At such times, guests have to grab a vine and “swing like Tarzan” to visit.

Seizing the chance to garner goodwill, Mort said he’d enter the golf tournament, returning any winnings to the charities. Further, if the creek turned out to be running high on his birthday, he’d make the first swing over the creek himself!

The commissioners okayed providing the caliche and smiled at the prospect of Mort swinging golf clubs.

They remembered his long-ago claim of knowing “nothing about the sport–not even which end of the caddy to hold.”

Mort’s golf pledge was all the talk, particularly about “shooting his age.”

The day of the tournament had a bright and clear dawning, and he showed up on the links a full hour before “tee-time.”

He had no idea that soon he’d qualify for “bonehead of the day” honors. Some of the comments between him and his caddy suggest that if he did shoot his age, it would be on the first nine holes.

Following are “snippets” ‘tween him (“UM” is the abbreviation for Uncle Mort, and “SAC” stands for the smart-aleck caddy.) Their conversations were short, but packed punch, and warranted a few paragraph breaks.

I’m pretty sure you’ll agree that Mort was generally “one-upped” by his caddy.

UM: “Stop fiddling with your watch.” SAC: “It’s not a watch; it’s a compass.”…. UM: “Do you think it’s a sin to play on Sunday?” SAC: “The way you play, it’s a sin any day.”… UM: “This is the worst golf course I’ve ever played on.” SAC: “We’re in a pasture. We left the course about an hour ago.”…UM: “I’m thinking of drowning myself in the lake.” SAC: “Think you can keep your head down that long?”… UM: “I’d move heaven and earth to break a hundred on this course.” SAC: “Try heaven; you’ve already moved most of the earth.”

UM: “Do you think I’m improving?” SAC: Yep. You’re missing the ball by much less now.”…

UM:  “Do you think I can make the green with a four iron?” SAC: “Sure. By tomorrow at the earliest.” …UM: “That can’t be my ball; it’s too old.” SAC: “I’m not so sure; it’s been quite a while since you teed off.”

UM: “How do you like my game?” SAC: “Interesting, but I think I prefer golf.” UM: “You may be the world’s worst caddy.” SAC: “Not likely, sir. Too much of a  coincidence.”

And so it went. Mort bragged that he “showed them a thing or two.” Witnesses say his “thing count” is as erroneous as his golf scorecard.


Dr. Newbury is a former educator who “commits speeches” round about. Comments or inquiries to: Ph.: 817-447-3872. Web: Twitter: @donnewbury. Facebook: don newbury.