THE IDLE AMERICAN: Mort’s foibles on the fourth

Published 8:00 am Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The Idle American, Dan Newbury

That my Uncle Mort is determined to keep his enlightened self-interest inflated to the max is a foregone conclusion. For more than a century, he has claimed much from Independence Day celebrations, since he and Uncle Sam share the same July 4 birthday.

Mort, who turned 107 recently, has always chosen red, white and blue birthday colors, for example. Don’t waste your breath trying to convince him that some of the fireworks lighting up the sky aren’t fired to celebrate his day of birth.

At day’s end this year, he admitted to being “plumb tuckered out.” I took the bait, asking him, “How tuckered out are you?”

Flashing a smile that competed with the brilliant fireworks, Mort spewed out a long-planned, rehearsed answer. “I’m so tuckered out, I don’t think I could muster enough power to activate a hand-dryer that depends on motion detection to start blowing.”

We all laughed, but no one harder than Mort himself.

He’s a man determined to find humor, or make some of his own.

For a moment, we thought Uncle Mort was turning serious.

 “Everyone here, regardless of age, needs to think about what should be done in times of crisis, even though none of us plans on having one,” Mort expounded, his face “sombering.”

He then set up a hypothetical situation, describing instructions should he ever be on life support. “Should I ever be lodged between such a rock and a hard place, simply pull the plug,” he insisted. “Then, plug it back and see if that helps.”

He had observations about celebrants’ attire, always reminding guests to “dress down,” in case any of them want to compete in three-legged sack races, frog-gigging or crawfish-catching.

 “No one has ever come ‘dressed to the nines’,” he laughed. “I’d say most folks make it to four and a half or five.”

Mort said that several guests with tattoos to show off might not have made it more than a third of the way to the “nines.”

That started a conversation about the younger generation, and it steamed up fast. “Too bad youth is wasted on the young” was mentioned more than once.

 “Wait a minute,” Mort warned. “The signers of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 averaged 44 years, but more than a third of them were under 35. So, in addition to ‘founding fathers,’ we had some ‘founding teenagers’ and ‘founding twenty-somethings’.”

They started cutting slack with a break-out of opinions that some “full grown bears” in government have made a mess of things. “I just wish the guy who said that taxation without representation is tyranny would come back and see what it’s like WITH representation,” one of them said.

About that time, the gigantic ice cream freezer ground to a stop. One of the kids yelled, “Dibs on licking the dasher.” Mort put the “quietus” on that. “No way,” he said. “That gal over in Lufkin took just one lick from a Blue Bell carton, and news coverage has overflowed. Somebody would slap a picture on Facebook, and the FBI might find its way to the thicket and grill me.”

It stands to reason that Blue Bell is ticked off. The sad event could cause them to forever silence a popular old ad–the one where the Blue Bell driver “eats all he wants and sells the rest.” There’ll be critical take-offs on that, of course. Somehow, “licking all she wants and selling the rest” simply doesn’t have the same ring to it.

This reminded Mort about the long ago day when they started putting crushed ice in soft drinks. Hearing about it, a farmer drove to town, finding every stool taken at the drug store. They were all enjoying ice cold cokes for the very first time. “I’d sure enough like to have one of them cold Cokes, as soon as you’ve got a glass of ice that ain’t busy,” he said.


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.