Thursday, September 24, 2009

Peanut Farmers

I’ve thought about physically enhancing myself ever since a student popped up in a high school hallway one day and referred to me as “old baldhead”. That was twenty years ago and I had no idea I was in fact follically (don’t bother, I made it up) challenged. I went home that very afternoon, looked into a silver backed mirror I knew would tell me the truth and discovered I was indeed, heir to the Sean Connery dynasty. What else could I do…my hair was gone. I suppose I could have had a Biden hair transplant and a little plastic surgery and while today’s innovative marketers have expanded it to mean additional stuff, I just wasn’t into enhancement. So, in an effort to stay positive with this situation, I began to watch 007’s movies, realizing he was not only able to drive really fast without having an accident but in fact spent a large amount of time with fashionable females who found him “acceptable”, so to speak, in spite of his shortcoming.
Years ago down in Statesboro, we had what we used to call peanut farmers, weather beaten old salts whose faces looked like roadmaps when they came in to drop off their peanuts at the Rushing peanut plant. The plant was a combination tobacco barn and peanut receiving plant, where farmers brought their crop in for weighing and shipping in big trucks to Virginia, who then claimed they were Virginia peanuts and sent them on to the factory in Never Never Land where they became Peter Pan peanut butter. The farmers who brought them in were an amazing bunch of Americans who had probably done more physical labor in one month than Peter Pan ever thought of but he could fly so that evens it up. Their faces reflected years in the sun and seemed to be an open book into the lives they were living to bring the peanuts to a country using peanuts for everything from brittle to fudge. They didn’t know what sunscreen was back then and plastic surgery was deemed an extreme measure used to disguise years on life’s “tractor” and taken only when the potential new wife was the daughter’s best friend. Something we would never stoop to today. But it is possible they just didn’t care that their faces looked like a hundred miles of bad road and were in fact satisfied with the woman who had born their children and been a helpmate for the years following the wedding vows. They were just not into enhancement, although a few may have tried their luck. After all, it’s like going to Vegas and rolling the dice. Will this make me look more beautiful or more intelligent or just give me more lips and fewer lines? So what you had coming into the peanut plant was the real deal…weather beaten, ornery, might drink a beer on Saturday afternoon and still make it to church on Sunday, peanut farmer. When they lined their trailers full of peanuts up on ol’ Zetterhower street you could see the look on those worn faces that seemed to be saying, “Don’t mess with me, this is my place in line and by god I’m getting these things weighed and on to Never Never Land before sundown.” The thought that Peter Pan, who, as we all know, was older than he appeared and may very well have had a plastic surgery moment, never occurred to these men of the fields. So what is it with the Bruce Jenner usetabees and Phyliss Diller neverwases that makes them want to erase a hundred years of bad road and replace it with three square inches of wax? After all, it’s the only road they’ll ever own, unless their driveway qualifies…and they may as well lay claim to the road they’ve traveled. I think it has a lot to do with how you view Peter Pan. The peanut farmer I knew was focused on one thing, getting the crop to the Peter Pan people for the peanut butter. These other folks are focused on their thing, getting the most out of a face in order to look like Peter Pan when they’re ninety. You really can’t fault either one; after all, it’s their road.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Learning A Lot From Dogs

From the day I picked him up over in Eufaula, Ala., 12 years ago to the day I laid him to rest in the woods out back he made a difference in my life. He never weighed more than six pounds, but he was the “big dog” where ever he happened to be.
He had this presence that demanded your attention and respect. With just a snort or a bark, he could let you know how he felt about a situation and usually get his way. He was, as they say, “the runt of the litter” and, as he matured, had no hair except that on his face. We had that in common.
He was a Yorkshire Terrier, but took no stock in that or his status in the community of dogs. He was a special little fellow whose name was Deuce (from the tied score in a tennis match), and he was a fair-minded guy who knew when the other “dog” needed to win. “All bark and no bite,” as they say.
He was content with having a contest with most anything that could be tugged at, and he spent many a day tugging socks with Daisy, his “wife.” Daisy left us two years ago, the victim of a hit and run. She’s also in the woods out back.
Deuce saw most of the Eastern half of the U.S., from south Florida to D.C., and had pictures to prove it. He toured D.C. on a bicycle, left his mark on most of the Smithsonian buildings and played on the tennis courts in Fort Myers. While he never made it to New York, he seemed to be content with Milledgeville and her people, wagging his tail and barking whenever a visitor came to his house.
He never asked for more food than offered nor saw a female dog he didn’t love. I guess he was what we call fiscally conservative and socially liberal. Of all the talks we had, we never talked politics so I don’t know how he would have voted in the recent presidential election, but he would have voted.
I never saw him take a life, lizard or bug, but he was a staunch defender of his home, barking whenever anyone came up the driveway. I guess he had one of those “live and let live” attitudes. He didn’t own a gun.
Deuce never fathered offspring. Females found him rather rough looking and maybe the timing was never just right. I remember taking him to the park one afternoon for tennis matches and introducing him to this “knock out” female lying in the grass over by the courts. Deuce had his visor on and I thought he looked his best, sort of sporty and all. Well, she gave him the “what ghetto you from” look, swished her tail and walked away. Not fazed by this behavior, the little guy simply walked over to her owner’s purse cocked his leg and left the impression that he just didn’t care.
It is amazing how one of these little guys can steal your heart, as he did mine, barking and excited to see someone they care about after a day’s work. We could learn a lot from dogs.
Near the end he had several medical problems as most aging dogs do and developed an ulcerated eye. I took him to an eye specialist in Athens who took the eye out and recommended a prosthetic eye for replacement. We opted for a patch. I don’t think he ever missed that eye.We had him for a few more months and then one day I came home. I knew he was ready to leave. The last words he heard from me were, “you were a good dog.” Yes, he was a good dog and I miss him.