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Stories Archives for 2017-05

MOTHER KNOWS BEST


 

 
 
BY: Neal Murphy
 
“Now, Neal, I want you to ride the school bus straight home today.  Your dad wants you to start weeding the garden”.  Those were the words of my mother that spring morning in 1944 -  words that eventually were providential.
 
My mother and father both worked in town.  Sometimes, after school, I would walk the three blocks downtown and just “mess around” until closing time.  I would go into Dad’s office (he was the county clerk) and play with a typewriter.  Then I would go into my mother’s beauty shop and see who was getting their hair fixed and listen to the gossip.
 
I was in the third grade in San Augustine Grammar School at the time.  On this particular day, a friend, Donald Renfro, asked me to ride with him on his brand-new bicycle downtown after school.  He was persistent, but my mother’s words kept coming back to me, “Ride the school bus straight home today.”  So reluctantly I said, 
“Sorry, Donald, I have to go home after school today.”
 
When school was over for the day, I boarded the school bus and got out at my home.  I was a “latchkey kid” at the time and did not know it. I began the unpleasant task of weeding the garden.  But I was still thinking about Donald’s new bicycle.  It was a really pretty Schwinn, bright red.  It even had a front fender light and a luggage rack.
 
My parents came home around five-thirty, and I noticed that they were rather quiet.  Finally, my mother said, “Come here, son, I need to tell you something.”  I could not imagine what news she had to tell me, but I went over and sat down by her at the dining table. She looked at me and said, “I have some bad news for you.  Your friend, Donald, and a Mitchell boy were killed this afternoon. They were run over by a pulpwood truck near downtown. Donald was giving the Mitchell boy a ride on his bicycle. They were both killed.”   
 
 
At nine years of age, I was somewhat confused by all this talk about death.  What did it all mean?  Why did it happen? And then it came to me - I could have been on that bicycle instead of Drew Mitchell!  And then it could have been ME down there in the funeral home, except for the fact that I obeyed my mother’s instructions.  “Take the bus straight home today.”  This is when I began to realize the truth to the saying “God works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform.”  This should be  a warning to all kids - obey your mother. Whether you like it of not, you should do what your mother tells you. Sometimes, it seems that they receive special revelations from God himself.  I am not one to question things like that.
 

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Being Bamboozled


 

The next several months we citizens will be subjected to being “bamboozled” by thousands of stump speeches and political commercials on television.  Yes, it’s election time in the United States again. We voters will be “bamboozled” by much “gobbledygook” from the many politicians seeking your vote for a political office.
 
“Bamboozled” is an interesting word.  The earliest meaning of bamboozle was “to deceive by trickery, hoodwink, or to take in by elaborate methods of deceit”.  This is why many believe that it arose among the criminals of the underworld.
 
“Bamboozled” is one of those words that has been confounding etymologists for centuries.  No one knows for sure about its origin.  One thing that we do know is that it was originally considered “low language”, at least among such defenders of the language as British satirist Jonathan Swift, who hoped that it would quickly fade from the English language.
 
One unlikely theory has it that bamboozle comes from “Bombazine”, a kind of fabric that when dyed black was used to be worn for mourning.  One can only imagine black-bombazine-wearing widows in the late 17th century bilking young gentlemen out of their purses.
 
By around 1712, the word had acquired the sense “to perplex or mystify”.  This idea may have emerged under the influence of the Scottish word “bombaze”, which means “to confuse”, similar in both sound and meaning.  Given the befuddling qualities of alcohol, it’s not too surprising that in the 1800s, bamboozle showed up on college campuses as a slang term for “drunk”.
 
Efforts have been made to connect the word to the French word “embabouiner” which means “to make a fool of”.  Of course, the word could just as easily been invented by someone to fit a momentary need and then went on to gain popular usage.  A good example of that is the word “gobbledygook” which was coined in 1944 by U. S. Representative Maury Maverick who was the grandson of Sam Maverick.  Sam had a habit of not branding his cattle which gave the name “maverick” the meaning of “independent”.  Representative Maverick, overseeing factory production during WWII, described the doubletalk and jargon he was encountering from government officials as “gobbledygook”.  The word was an instant hit.  He later explained that “gobbledygook” was his attempt to imitate the sound a turkey makes.  But, in one inspired moment he gave us the perfect word for the sound that a bureaucracy makes.
 
So, far from slinking into obscurity, the word bamboozle today has left its roots behind and found a secure place in the lexicon of our English language.  Its very longevity stands as a reminder that you can’t predict or enforce the fate of a word.
 
So, during this election cycle just beware of being “bamboozled” by the “gobbledygook” of the many politicians who will promise you anything just to get elected, then do as they please thereafter.
 
Remember what Mark Twain said – “The best day for people of any age to trick and be tricked is April Fool’s Day, when we celebrate being bamboozled by harmless hoaxes. April 1st is the day on which we are reminded what we are on the other 364 days.”
 
 
 

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RED NECKS AND GOOD OLE BOYS


 

East Texas is an area of the country in which “red necks” and “good ole boys” live, along with most of the deep southern states.  I know some of them and I suspect that you do as well.  Most people think that the “red necks” and the “good ole boys” are one in the same.  They are mistaken as there are notable differences.  I will list a few of the differences here.
 
We might begin by defining what a “red neck” person is.  The term dates way back to the early 1800s when uneducated white people worked in the fields all day.  Their skin, particularly the neck area, would take on a reddish hue due to sun exposure.  Thus, they were called “red necks” by the upper class folk.  They usually lived in small, rural towns, were known to drink a lot, and were offensive in other ways.
 
Around 1920 the use of the term was popular in the coal producing states of West Virginia and Kentucky.  Striking coal workers usually wore red hankies around their necks to reflect their position to management.  Thus they were called “red necks” by non-union people.  
 
Jeff Foxworthy has given us a number of ways to describe a “red neck”. You might be one if:
 
You think loading your dishwasher means getting your wife drunk.
You cut your grass and find a car.
You think the stock market has a fence around it.
Your stereo speakers used to belong to the drive-in theatre.
You own a home-made fur coat.
The Salvation Army rejected your mattress.
Birds are attracted to your beard.
Your school fight song was “Dueling Banjos”.
You keep a can of Raid on your kitchen table.
The tail light covers on your car are made of red tape.
 
Good Ole boys, on the other hand, are the sons of Red Necks, usually from eighteen to thirty five years old.  Good Ole Boys are normally from the Deep South and they like cheap beer, NASCAR, football, professional wrestling, hunting and fishing, and country music.  They usually carry a personal spit cup on their person while chewing their tobacco. 
 
They are not necessarily bad persons, but occasionally are portrayed as racist, though many could care less, aside from cracking a racist joke with his buddies.  Good Ole Boys are generally all about having a good time.  They may speed to impress a girl they’re taking on a date, but won’t hit and run.  They may have a few beers to impress her later at the bar, or even get in a fight there, but won’t get so drunk that he can’t drive her home.
 
Good Ole Boys most often drive a rusty muscle car or a four-wheel-drive pick up.  They are not looked upon as a bad person, in fact most are pretty good natured guys.  He is a Southern-born boy who is country to the core and proud of it.  He likes to hunt and could not be prouder of his gun collection.  He carries one knife in his pocket, and another one in his boot, in case the one in his pocket gets confiscated.  The Good Ole Boy is a hard working, honest gentleman who prefers the simple life and is just looking for a girl he can take shooting.
 
As one single country girl put it, “On our first date, he showed me a picture of him pulling a bullet out of a deer’s heart.  He said he keeps it on his desk.”
 
So, there you have the low-down on the difference between a Red Neck and a Good Ole Boy that perhaps you had never thought about.  Are you personally acquainted with any of them?
 
 
 

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