OP-ED: THE IDLE AMERICAN – Olympic gains?

Published 12:25 am Friday, January 3, 2020

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Don Newbury

Uncle Mort, age 108, said he was ‘locked and loaded’ to give me an earful when he called recently.

Reflecting on our lengthy conversation later, I decided he had unloaded at least two “earfuls,” rapidity at 250 words per minute, with gusts to 300.

He had Olympic Games on his mind, but managed to include multiple topics during our “pow wow.”

I never dreamed that my old uncle down in the thicket would ever become sensitive about his age, but he apparently has.

“Since I reached three digits nearly a decade ago, it seems to me column references could be to your ‘aged uncle’,” he suggested. “I never tell folks you are 83 and still trying to string words together for a column each week.”

I responded that I would give it the old “college try,” as opposed to the new one.

He was angry enough to call every member of the biggest moguls of the Olympic Games, but figured it would cost a heap to make international telephone calls.

“Why don’t you write a column expressing how I feel, then I can organize a petition opposing radical changes approved for the 2024 Olympic summer games in Paris?”

I asked for details of his protest, and he relayed them with enthusiasm and rapidity.

“It’s a slap in the face to the whole world,” he moaned. “I just can’t believe the committee has approved wallclimbing, skateboarding and breakdancing.”

Mort figures orthopedic surgeons may have influenced addition of these events, all of which provide many opportunities for broken limbs.

He’s particularly incensed about breakdancing.

“Upon seeing youngsters breakdancing when it came along several years ago, I immediately thought of our hound dogs,” Mort moaned.  “When they wriggled around and contorted themselves like that, we gave ‘em worm medicine.”

My uncle also remembers dining on his and Maude’s 75th anniversary cruise. He said a waiter dropped a tray of dishes and a bunch of kids started breakdancing.

He bemoans not having “pushed and shoved” to get horseshoes, washer-pitching and watermelon seed-spitting approved for Olympic competition decades ago.

Long known for changing the subject faster than federal judges can deny pleas, Mort asked me to “be on the look-out for mobile homes.” He asked me to wave cash at folks, and to “be sure to offer less than the asking price.”

I had no idea where this request was going. I should have realized, and his explanation made perfect sense to me. He wanted to make a few bucks offering mobile homes for on-the-move coaches.

“It’s that time of year,” he said. “Finally, some of them are taking advice that I’ve been offering for 90 years or so. If they choose coaching as a career, they should always live in a home on wheels.  They are  “hired to be fired,” he opined, saying that “they’ll name a street for a coach one year, then chase him down it the next.” It’s hard to challenge his logic–at times, anyway.

His mention of mobile homes sent a shiver up and down my spine. It reminded me of employment during high school years at the now-defunct (as most are, of course) Sunset Drive-In Theatre in Early, near Brownwood.

One of my duties was to change the marquee, where plastic letters 18” tall were placed to identify the movies. It was a “no brainer” during warm months. I’d scale the ladder with ease, moving across the two-foot catwalk. It was in these months–or so it seemed–that titles would be short, such as Hud or E.T.

   Sadly, conditions shifted greatly in the winter, when ice often covered the catwalk. There was nothing easy about the climb sliding over the ice-covered catwalk 20 feet above the ground. On such nights, movie titles always seemed to be lengthy, such as The Long, Long Trailer, a Lucille Ball laugher centered on a mobile home, or maybe it would be The Creature From the Black Lagoon. But, I have survived.


    Dr. Newbury is a former educator who writes weekly and is a longtime public speaker. Comments/speaking inquiries to: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com Twitter: @donnewbury. Facebook: don newbury