He said he learned to kiss that way by siphoning gasoline from the tractor.


Uncle Mort
Uncle Mort

Kinfolks and neighbors threw an 80th anniversary reception for my Uncle Mort and Aunt Maude the other day. It was a sunny afternoon of fretful breath-holding that violent springtime weather predicted would take a different route.  And it did.

No doubt Mort had a hand in preparing invitations. They stated “no gifts expected, unless from charitable hearts without any reservation.” (Yep, he arranged for these words to be in bold face type.)

Gifts and gift cards covered the kitchen table, and guests leaned back in cane-bottom chairs to hear “way back when” stories from the pair whose combined age is 200. Figuring there’d be much ado about their 80th anniversary this month, Maude kept a low profile for her 100th birthday in March. Mort, on the other hand, has several walls adorned with calendars. They are turned ahead to July, with big circles around the fourth, when he’ll be 101.


    Someone asked what attracted her to Mort back in 1933. Slow to answer, Maude said three occurrences prior to their marriage set the stage—a “carnival game, a tornado and Mort’s freak injury.”

Early in their courtship, a carnival came to town. Mort and Maude took it in. On the midway, one tent was bulging with stuffed animals of all sizes. But the big ones were gigantic—reserved for winners who knocked down all six milk bottles.

And true baseball pitching marksmen could take a big prize home for a mere nickel – though no coins were “mere” in those days.


    In 20 minutes, he had emptied his pockets of all nickels, as well as several other coins exchanged for nickels. Alas, a bottle or two shook a few times, but none toppled.

Red-faced, Mort was speechless one of the few times in his life.

He was stunned and, well, uh, “mortified.”

“You’d better get me home soon,” Maude suggested. “It’s coming up a cloud.”


    Her suggestion – like her life so far – was understated. Maude and Mort were safe in their respective homes moments before a storm hit with a vengeance – including a tornado that ravaged the carnival.

At daybreak, Mort was on the scene where laughter and gaiety had reigned the night before. Now, though, the carnival was unrecognizable.

Aunt Maude
Aunt Maude

the Ferris wheel had been flattened, hobby horses untethered and Tilt-a-Whirls unhinged. The scene was a war zone. Game tents were shredded with stuffed animals ripped and scattered asunder. One of the biggest teddy bears – somehow undamaged – was snared in a low-slung mesquite tree.

Mort gingerly removed it, his mind whirling with anticipation of thankful shrieks from his true love when gifted with a giant panda. Then he glanced toward the spot where his three-dozen baseballs failed to fell a single milk bottle. There they stood, one on top of two and the two on top of three.


    Madder’n hops that he’d been hornswoggled by the slick-talking pitchman, Mort gave the bottles a mighty kick. Still, they stood. Sadly, though, he injured his foot and wound up at the doctor’s office. He had a fracture, but felt better when Maude arrived just before the doctor fashioned a cast.

When she spotted the teddy bear Mort salvaged from the storm, she cradled it. It was the very one she had hoped he’d win.

The doctor left the room, and Mort began his spiel about the “fixed” midway game. Maude, with her right index finger, zipped it across his lips in the same manner she has repeated many hundreds of times across the past eight decades. The “zipper” works; it shushes him. Then she gave him a big kiss—the one he had hoped for at the carnival.


    Mort, thankful there are worse fates than milking sympathy, invited her to join him for a Cherry Coke down at the drug store. He “crutched” slowly, the woman who would be his wife a few months later alongside to provide help if needed.

A coke with two straws ordered, he fished in his pocket for coins. There were none, but Maude pulled a nickel from her purse to rescue him. Gathering her courage, she asked, “Mort, where did you learn to kiss like that?”

“Beats me,” he answered, “Unless it was siphoning gasoline out of the tractor.”


    Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Speaking inquiries/comments to: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Twitter: @donnewbury. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com.

 4164SCSZFVL._Please the book cover to read more about Don Newbury’s book of humorous and inspirational vignettes on the human condition.

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