THE IDLE AMERICAN: ‘Making do’ back when

“You oughta get yourself an Apple watch,” a friend suggested. I stopped short of suggesting that he should keep time however he chooses. I countered that I will stick with a calendar, sun dial and wristwatch.

Perhaps noting an ever-so-faint smile, he blathered on, explaining what Apple watches can do, even hailing an ambulance if a watch-wearer has a fall. (He did whisper a disclaimer on the 911 call feature if the carpet is too thick or the battery too low.)

I walked away in thanksgiving, not so much seasonal, but thinking that I am lucky to have a few friends who embrace technology and really want to do their part in keeping me “vertical and ventilating.” …

The conversation made me think of my old daddy, who probably never thought himself to be versatile. Familiar with grueling farm work and a do-everything guy with wrenches and pipes, he greatly valued his wind-up stopwatch used mostly when he officiated basketball games.

Athletically inclined, T. J. Newbury officiated high school basketball games at small schools in Brown and adjoining counties during the Depression.

Usually, the only game official, he often endured three days and nights working both boys’ and girls’ basketball tournaments, usually pocketing $10 for what today would be considered cruel and unusual punishment for such taxing toil.. His duties didn’t stop with whistleblowing. He also kept the “official time.” He’d likely have been the official scorer, too, had there been a way to hang the book from a belt loop. Further, he kept a close eye on the chalk board, where a youngster kept track of the score for all to see. …

Thankfully, this was before the three-point shot, so young score keepers only had to add one or two points (free throws or floor baskets), so advanced mathematical acumen wasn’t required.

At one game in the mid-1940s, a classmate who usually arrived at the gymnasium early enough with chalk in hand to be named score keeper languished at home with a “bad cold.”

My dad assigned the youngster’s duties to me. During one thoughtless moment, I blundered, and the recollection still causes moistening of eyes and twitching of body. …

After a successful three throw, I awarded the shooter two points. Immediately, Dad stopped the game, gently asking for a re-count.

Worse, though, were the cutting comments of classmates, some of whom were snickering that I couldn’t even add “one” and get the right answer.

Oh, the cruelty of it all. …

Dad didn’t bring it up on the way home. In fact, he comforted me, just as he had a year earlier when I was a third-grader.

During an arithmetic lesson, Mrs. Byrd asked, “Don, what’s ‘tootum’ three, ‘tootum’ four and ‘tootum’ five?”

Later, I realized she probably slurred the word “times,” but it sounded like “tootum” to me. I answered, “Mrs. Byrd, I’m not even sure what ‘tootum’ is.” …

I spoke to the Southwest Christian School football team recently, conveying details of a recent visit to the doctor, who asked me to recite the alphabet.

Expecting the question, I memorized a modified, rapidly-fired answer: “Z, y, x, w, v, u, t, s, r, q, p, o, n, m, l, k, j, I, h, g, f, e, d, c, b, a.” His jaw dropped, the doctor answered, “Now forward, smart aleck.”

It made Coach Jeff Dixon think of his late father, whose grade school desk was directly under the letter “Z,” one of the big letters of the alphabet strung above the blackboards. Jeff said that when the teacher asked him to recite the alphabet, he innocently began with “Z.”..…

Enough of this. I’m not buying an Apple watch. Challenged by QR codes, artificial intelligence and other technical stuff, I have drawn dirt lines that I have no plans to cross. I am, however, conveying deepest Thanksgiving greetings beautifully worded on a sign seen recently: “Pray for eyes that see the best in people, for a heart that forgives the worst, a mind that forgets the bad and a soul that NEVER loses faith in God.” Happy Thanksgiving!