The Idle American: Wisdom from the Thicket

Big Thicket Nature Preserve sprawls in front of Uncle Mort’s front yard.

Sometimes, when a mad dog barks. it’s best to say goodbye before you’ve had a chance to say hello.

Residents in the East Texas thicket where my Uncle Mort hangs out almost never leave, so welcoming a new family is quite a topic of conversation.

Larger communities have welcome wagons delivering goodies to newbies, but it’s not every day that the guy bearing gifts drives up on a golf cart, carefully balancing one of Aunt Maude’s red velvet chocolate cakes that often takes top honors at the county fair.

Two days after the moving truck had departed, my ancient uncle attempted to deliver the mouth-watering gift, but before “howdies” were exchanged and hands shaken, a large guard dog broke his chain, and in an eye-twinkle, things went decidedly south….


   Mort claims he saw the hundred-plus-pound canine, marveled at his sparkling teeth, heard his menacing growl and then wished ever so much for a tree to climb or even a flagpole to scale when the dog broke the chain, speeding straightway toward him.

My uncle shoved the cake straight into the dog’s face, knowing that it wouldn’t take the animal long to consume it, and fearing that the dog’s next objective would be a generous portion of protein. “I thanked my lucky stars that I had just come from a crawdad pond, and still had my waders on,” Mort said. “I figured he’d have a hard time gnawing through my rubber boots if he tried to bite me on the leg.”

Luckily, the new neighbor heard the scuffle, appeared through the front door, grabbed his dog by the collar and offered apologies that were over the top….



Don Newbury

“I was afraid something like this might happen,” the new neighbor whined. “My dog is not used to anyone coming to our house. Before moving here, we lived so far down in the swamp, no one ever passed our house going to town. I was so afraid something bad might happen, I had him neutered.”

“You had him neutered?” Mort asked in bewilderment. His neighbor nodded.

“Well, when he broke that chain and made his flying leap toward me, I could tell he didn’t have romance on his mind. You should have had his teeth pulled.”…


   After a few minutes passed and pulse rates lowered, Mort assured his new neighbor that Maude would bake him another cake, but it might take another week to get all the necessary ingredients.

“Why don’t you and the wife come over for dinner tomorrow night?” Mort asked, assuring that he’d found crawfish aplenty for a good boil.

Mort said they’d build a campfire, enjoy good food, cut a watermelon and tell big fish tales….


   My uncle was likewise excited when he told me that his grandkids had presented him with a cell phone for his birthday.

“It’s one of them ‘smart aleck phones,” he joked.

He’s always said that his only reason to own a cell phone is to place and receive calls, nothing more. Siri, “that woman who knows everything and never sleeps,” has broadened Mort’s horizons by a heap….


   “She is simply amazing, ” he told me. “I’ve yet to ask her a question she can’t answer. Fact is, she may know too much.”

I asked him to cite an example.

“Well, I asked her directions to a funeral home, thinking she’d give me specific information about driving there. Well, she did, then added a startling statement. ‘The funeral home gets two stars; do you still want to go?’”…


   He said he asked Siri about old-time religionists who took a hard line against dancing.

Siri was ready for him.  “In pioneer days, many strict church-goers predicted much grief–now and later—for persons regularly frequenting dance floors.” Mort said he was satisfied that she’d provide “chapter and verse” if so requested.

One old preacher was quoted regularly by parishioners whom he’d convinced that dancing should remain a “square deal.” He said that a bended knee and a dancing foot are hardly ever found on the same leg….


   Dr. Newbury, longtime university president, writes weekly and speaks regularly throughout Texas. Contact: 817-447-3872. Email: Facebook: Don Newbury.

Please click HERE to find Mostly Mort, with wit and witticisms from the Big Thicket, on Amazon.

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