The Idle American: Twenty Years Worth of Words

For two decades, Don Newbury has written about the lighter side of life and humanity in a world that offers too much bad news. Welcome to Column Number 1,000.

They say that age is just a number, so I suppose churning out my thousandth column with this writing might be comparable to a yawn, wry smile or the lame joke about the needle’s question to the thread in a nudist colony-“Sew what?”
To persons cracking wise, please remember that puppy love is real to the puppy. So are my genuine efforts to wring a bit of humor, inspiration and/or analysis of life. Admittedly, I’ve taken side roads, far from life’s freeways that gush of doom, crime, pestilence, world hunger, wars, COVID and its derivatives, inflation and other unending chunks of bad news.
In general, in 2022 and years leading thereto, man’s inhumanity to man may well be an understatement….

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A few sharp-eyed editors – and you know who you are – took notey that I’ve written weekly for almost twenty years, so maybe I should write something special.
I reminded this small cadre that writing about trivialities has been immensely appealing to me. I tried recently to take on an important topic, lamenting the many bungled pronunciations “talking heads” of television (as well as radio) referencing “Uvalde.”
It was – and remains – my contention that the way residents pronounce the name of their very own town should carry the most weight. I got several emails challenging what I suppose was a lackadaisical, unstudied and perhaps hurried observation, and each maintained an arsenal of reasons why their opinions were correct. Whatever….

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Retiring in 2000 from forty years in higher education, including presidencies at Howard Payne University and at Western Texas College accounting for almost two decades, I descended from my “ivory tower.” (Okay, I fell, or maybe I was tripped.)
In 2003, I embarked on weekly column ramblings, initially intending to provide helpful tidbits, even simple kitchen recipes that I thought might be popular.
Indeed, I have provided a paucity of recipes, but only one in recent years. Early on, a recipe called for a “capful” of vanilla extract (about a teaspoon). Sadly, it was sullied by a misprint, appearing as “cupful.” Some “kitchen novices” believed me. Several emails with content inappropriate for a family newspaper suggested the error triggered swearing, gagging and various digestive disorders. I don’t anticipate sharing too many more recipes….

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One reader suggested that I write about how different the world is now than it was 20 years ago. Two thoughts came quickly to mind:  In 2003, almost no funeral homes had “and cremations” on their signs, and few preachers knew that in upcoming years, their prayers to “remember the Sabbath and keep it holy” would face stiff competition from sports and other activities dominating many weekends. Many youngsters flock to sports programs, so the best clergy can hope for these days is rainouts. (Passes are given to participants who worship at other times of the week.)
To better illustrate “then and now” differences, I reference a 1907 item in the Abilene Daily Reporter. It was included in Abilene historian Jay Moore’s latest book, Abilene Daily Reporter: Snapshots of Home. (Details for purchase are available at texasstartrading.com.) I saw it in Loretta Fulton’s online edition of Spirit of Abilene….

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The headline blared: SUNDAY BALL BANNED. Word on the street was that, due to an earlier rainout, a makeup baseball game was set for the upcoming Sunday afternoon. In an emergency session, the Abilene city council leapt into action, unanimously passing an ordinance banning any Sabbath-day ball games, effective immediately. Specifically, the ban was imposed on “taking an active part in such a contest within the corporate city limits of Abilene, to include playing, umpiring or managing a team.”
Because time was of the essence – the usual rules governing passage of city ordinances – that it be read aloud at three meetings prior to taking effect—were suspended and the ordinance was immediately enforceable. Fine for violating the ban was set at $50 to $100.
There was no mention whether fines were ever imposed….

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Dr. Newbury, longtime university president, continues to write weekly and speak throughout Texas. Contact: phone: 817-447-3872. Email: [email protected]<mailto:[email protected]>. Facebook: Don Newbury

Please click HERE to find don Newbury’s humorous and inspirational Life by the Seat of the Pants on Amazon.

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