Who’d’ve Thunk?

From 1975 or '76: front row, from left  -- Mickey Bootle, Roy Walker, Monte Dutton, Thomas Chandler, Timothy Stoddard, David O'Shields. Middle row -- Susan Simmons Ame Jacobs, Jane Etta Cox, Annette Boyd, Susie Oakley; Back row -- Lou Ann Rogers, Karen Wessinger, Sherry Gilmer, Tammy Franklin.
From 1975 or ’76: front row, from left — Mickey Bootle, Roy Walker, Monte Dutton, Thomas Chandler, Timothy Stoddard, David O’Shields. Middle row — Susan Simmons Ame Jacobs, Jane Etta Cox, Annette Boyd, Susie Oakley; Back row — Lou Ann Rogers, Karen Wessinger, Sherry Gilmer, Tammy Franklin.

I grew up with Granddaddy Dutton and Papa Davis, and Granny Dutton and Mama Davis. It was always Daddy, never Dad. Mommy was replaced by Mom at puberty. Succeeding generations have added such innovations as Pawpaw, Meemaw, and Mawmaw. I’m sure they existed somewhere, but not around here.

Meemaw. It’s a modern term, at least in this family.

Once I pee-peed. Or wee-weed. Eventually, I came to piss. As Lilith once said to Woody in Cheers, “Why must men euphemize?” and Woody answered, “I don’t know. Mister Crane drank that beer pretty fast.”

People told ghost stories. In the Lydia Mill village, where my mother grew up and I spent my share of time, I always heard about the No-Headed Woman. Not the Headless Woman. The No-Headed Woman. That’s the way mill villages are. Or were. The mills are gone. Thus have the villages declined, bereft of any identifying element.

I read where half the world’s wildlife has disappeared since 1950. I expect language has increased. At the very least, a good bit of vulgarity has come out of the closet. Some terms have gone extinct, though.

Red China. Twenty-three skidoo. The Fearsome Foursome.

Others are endangered.

Compassion. Civility. Grace. Honor.

Tickets and ballgames.
Tickets and ballgames.

Somehow I managed to survive to this point. I swam the shark-infested waters that did not include seatbelts, bicycle helmets, and car seats. For a long time, seatbelts were difficult to detect, stuffed as they were by ample buttocks into the cracks where the seats and their backs met.

I do not begrudge the youngsters of today their protections. I made it, but I was lucky. Never once, when I was riding in the back of a pickup truck up Interstate Twenty-Six to Asheville, North Carolina, did a sudden touch of the brakes send me and my little brother through the air and off a mountain.

BB guns never put either of my eyes out. Firecrackers never cost me a finger. I never went blind. Frogs never gave me warts. Mama Davis managed to muddle through life in spite of almost always being both sick and tired. We always had black-eyed peas and collards on New Year’s, but against all odds, we never got rich.

Is there a kid today who ever blew dandelions? Or sucked the fragile sweetness out of honeysuckles? Who crawled around in the yard looking for a four-leaf clover?

Of course not. Neither would we if we’d had EA Sports. Our “devices” would have saved us the inconvenience of playing pickup games, going to the community pool, or riding our bikes uptown to the Broadway so we could “go to the show.” We wouldn’t have rumbled down Peachtree Street on all-metal rollerskates either. We’d have skateboards to bust our asses.

IMG_0412 (2)
From high school and college.

The world sure is changing. This is something my father said, and my grandfather, and my great grandfather who died when I was four or five, and Uncle Maxie and Aunt Linda, and Uncle Cas and Aunt Frances, and all the ones I never knew but heard about, like Papa Dut and Mama Kitty.

I’ve spanned the ages from typewriters to laptops, and wooden to aluminum bats, AM to satellite radio, “rabbit ears” to dishes, Baltimore Colts to Indianapolis, Luis Aparicio to Derek Jeter, Elgin Baylor to LeBron James, JFK to BHO, president to POTUS, offsides to encroachment, and three-speed transmissions to six speeds. Of the last, I could drive both, and now there’s not a kid I know who can drive either.

I read where, in the 1870s, concerned citizens fretted over the abundance of horse manure being spread across the countryside by riders, buggies, and stagecoaches. It was really piling up in the cities. They didn’t know the horseless carriage was on the way. They didn’t know the new vehicles would belch into the atmosphere instead of plop onto the ground.

What hasn’t changed? There still ain’t no telling what’s going to happen.

Thanks for reading my frequent meanderings. If you’re of a mind to meander a bit less, give my novels, The Audacity of Dope and The Intangibles, a read. They’re easy to find if you’ve got one of them computers, or tablets, or “smart phones.” You can read my novels in them. Also, take a look at www.montedutton.com from time to time.

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