You Don’t Say
By Beverly Hicks Burch
I am a hard sell. I don’t know if it’s the Scotch-Irish in me, or a touch of Cherokee. It could even be the frugal German. Better yet, a throw back to the East Tennessee Mountain roots that run deep through my veins. They were hardy, independent, self-reliant stock. My paternal grandmother never did totally trust that confounded contraption called a washing machine. Even though she could have afforded the best machine on the market, she truly believed clothes were only clean if you took them down to the local creek and beat them with a rock.
Versie Allman Hicks was born in Cherokee County, North Carolina in 1903. She was that mix of Irish, German and yes, they say Cherokee that floats in my DNA…she certainly looked the part of Native American. Once when my son was very young, pre-school age, he rode with my dad from Birmingham up to Maryville, Tennessee to visit Mamaw. When they got home, I asked him what he thought of her. He thought a moment and replied, “She reminded me of one of those Presidents.”
What? I had heard a lot of words used to describe Mamaw, but Presidential was not one of them.
So, I asked him, “What do you mean, baby?”
“You know, Mom, her face looks like one of those Presidents up on that mountain. She has a bunch of lines on her face and her nose looks like a President’s nose.” Evidently he was talking about Mount Rushmore. Humm…you don’t say…out of the mouths of babes. Mamaw was not acquainted with Estee Lauder or Clinique, bless her heart but she could pick beans, shuck corn and make blackberry jam.
Mom, as her boys called her and Mamaw as the some of grandkids called her was a formidable force. There’s an old southern saying…“a head as thick as a pine knot”…well, that means a really thick-headed or hard-headed person and that describes Mamaw to a “T”…and on occasion the rest of the Hicks descendents that sprang from her womb. Yep, that would include me.
I’m that way about ads…resistant…I absolutely despise most ads. When the VCR was invented…Hallelujah! I could fast forward through the commercials. Even better yet TiVo…oh, my gosh! How cool is that?! If I’m very, very careful I almost never, ever have to watch a commercial…did I mention ever? (And do not get me started on telemarketers!) It’s kinda funny because at one time Tall & Handsome owned his own ad agency.
So what got me thinking about this? Well this morning, I had the misfortune of hearing one of my all time least favorite commercials. It goes something like this:
“Hi, I’m real man So-in-so. (He’s a famous sports guy.) If you’ve tried other weight loss programs and found they don’t work for you, this one will. And you can eat like a real man. It worked for me. My wife says I’m not as disgusting to her anymore.” (Names of the stupid and idiotic have been changed…just because they need to be.)
That commercial makes my teeth itch. If I was as big as an Amish barn and had to be buried in a baby grand piano I would still avoid that “nutrition” program. Here’s why. It doesn’t do much for people’s heart, soul, psyche, personality and general overall better development of humanity. They’re not addressing the inner self. If that man lost “x” number of pounds and his wife still finds him disgusting AND he’s getting up on national TV bragging about that, he’s got bigger problems with his wife and he doesn’t realize the stupid program is just using him and his famous name. That’s sad.
Beyond that it points to something else. We are a nation who has lost its kindness. Instead of his wife saying, “Wow, great job! I’m so proud of your accomplishment” it was, “You’re not as disgusting to me as you use to be, but you’re still disgusting.”
Yeah, yeah , yeah, I know it was just an ad, but it’s representative of our national mentality at times. We’re enthralled with shows called Jackass and shock jocks like Don Imus and Howard Stern. Look where Imus’ mouth got him into…in the middle of a whole lot of trouble…just because he was trying to be funny and entertaining. Did he have the right to say it? Well, yeah he did…Freedom of Speech. Should he have said it? Heck no!! He took away from the accomplishments of two groups of beautiful young ladies…the Rutgers Basketball Team and unfortunately the Lady Vols Basketball Team, the University of Tennessee team who won the tournament and kinda got lost in the fray and became an afterthought of the Imus debacle. Does anyone outside of Knoxville remember they won the title? I would hope so, but thanks to Don Imus and his unkind, thoughtless words, the main memory of the game is his ugly words and the aftermath.
Just this morning there was a report on the news about a death in Greely, CO. Two teens, an 18 year old and a 19 year old bought a car, cut the top off the car and drove the car off into a watery pit. The 18 year old died while someone was taping the “event”. The “shock” of pulling of an event like this cost a kid his life. That’s more important than being a kind, caring human being in our society. Better to die being a Jackass than say volunteering time at a local animal shelter, a rape crisis center, Habitat for Humanity, Samaritan’s Purse or any other worthy cause or charity.
Kindness is a rare commodity in our world today. That’s sad. When I look around and see coeds laying dead in woods, a wrestler killing his family in cold blood, men killing their unborn infants, children and the mother of their children, missing children and abducted children…I want to scream, “Stop the inhumanities!” Kindness is not a weakness, but it is perceived that way by many today. It can be strength. Sadly, if you treat someone kind, they may think you have a hidden motive.
Remember my grandmother? Well, after a rough start in her life, she did eventually know kindness in her life…his name was Jonas Jenkins Hicks, a tall, lean, quite man who saw something worthy in her and married her. Papaw had evidently been considered quite a catch in his day and had been engaged a time or two before he settled down and married Mamaw. He was a few years older and came from good family stock in East Tennessee. His Mama’s people had been the Walker family of Blount County. That was cache back then.
Papaw was smart although he didn’t have a lot of formal education like a lot of other mountain folk of the time. He was musical, clogged (that’s dancing kids) and was a carpenter. On occasion he carried mail in Cades Cove. My Papaw was like God to me…oh, I know he had faults…he was a man, but he was wonderful and he was kind and caring and made this little girl feel special (and helped me learn my multiplication table). He use to take me for walks and tell me about the trees and sights that surrounded his place. Nothing was grander than a walk with Papaw. With his carpenter skills he made me cradles for my dolls and other toys kids nowadays would probably turn their nose up at.
Papaw put up with Mamaw’s piccadilos…I don’t know that I ever heard him raise his voice to her or anyone for that matter. They had five children, three boys who survived to adulthood. My daddy was one of them. I guess you could say, in a round about way, I’m here because of kindness.
To show you the kind of man my Papaw was…even though they had some rough years…they lived through the Great Depression, my Papaw did something “special” for my grandmother. I don’t even know the story behind the reason he did it other than he and the boys went together and saved and got her a set of silver-plate flatware. Even though it wasn’t sterling silver, it was still a big deal and a special thing for a mountain born man and his boys to do for the woman of the house. Probably by then they had moved down from the little mountain town of Townsend, Tennessee into the “big” city of Maryville. But, it was still a really big purchase for a mountain woman. I’m sure my Papaw knew what he was doing…Mamaw, well, I’m sure she was grateful in her Versie way…and then she went on to enjoy in Versie fashion. A few of the larger soup spoons she used to dig in the garden and a few of the pieces look as if they have been cleaned with Mamaw’s all time favorite, super-duper cleaner…Comet!
I inherited that set of silver-plate…and I wouldn’t give it up for anything. A few years ago I was at an antique and flea market and there was a silver dealer set up. She had an identical set to Mamaw’s. It had been sitting in an old store somewhere and had never bought and never been used. There was a certificate with it and everything. I was ecstatic. Needless to say I picked it up…for a bargain and expanded the set my sweet, kind Papaw started for Mamaw…you don’t say…
My Tall & Handsome is a kind man…he can be one of the kindest men I’ve known. I kid him sometimes about being a little formal, but, he is kind and has a huge big heart. Every morning, before I even open my eyes, he has a fresh glass of iced tea and a hot cup of coffee waiting on the nightstand by the side of my bed. He is a pleasure to wake up to and share a cup of coffee with before seeing him off each morning. He’s the kind of man you would walk on hot coals for…yes, kindness will instill that kind of loyalty a lot faster that a brow beating and fista cuffs…any real man…real person will know that and should know that…you don’t say…
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
© 2007 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.