2018-05-12 / Viewpoints

The Old Timer

By Howard ‘Mac’ McDonald

For many years, I was a master plumb­er. Now, it takes me two days to com­plete a 15-minute job. I thought I had it licked today, but precise measurements are a must and I missed one by 1/32 inch. Now I have to cut the pipe again.

Plumbers out here charge you a $100 fee just to step inside your door and their per-hour rates make lawyers’ fees look cheap by comparison. I thought Jesse James was long gone. It turns out that he has some long, lost descendants doing their robberies in Apache Junc­tion, Arizona.

Transferring your thoughts from your brain to your hands sometimes is hard for an old man, but being stubborn is something you never get rid of. I am still going to fight that one last fitting or bust a gut.

When I went to plumbing school right before I became a citizen free from the military way of life, the instructor said, “The only thing you really need to know to be a plumber is that the hot on left, the cold is on the right and the crap runs downhill. Payday is Friday, and wash your hands before you go to lunch.”

Mother’s Day is at hand and our three sons are going to come through for Shir­ley and me. My hope is that we head up to the Painted Mountain Country Club and its excellent dining room.

The three turned out pretty good and that is because their mother raised these kids and did a fine job. I was gone from the home at least 20 days a month and I left them high and dry in foreign coun­tries.

During the Cold War, we were in France and the Soviets were rattling their swords. President Charles de Gaulle wanted us out of France because he thought they might hit us with a nuclear bomb.

The Air Force had an evacuation plan to get the dependents out of harm’s way, but the bad guys were afraid to start World War III. We moved back to Hahn Air Force Base in Germany.

If time really does march on, then I must be stuck in low gear.

I get my relief at the country club. Old-time country music is about the only sane thing I can find in this world.

There is never much celebration of Cinco de Mayo in the Land of the End­less Mountains, but it is a big deal here in this part of Arizona. May 5 in Mexico is like July 4 in the U.S.

A lot of booze was consumed last weekend in this part of the world. It was a hot time in the old town today, as the temperature was up around 105.

It is rumored that bananas are good for your memory. I can’t remember where I heard that. It’s time to buy some more bananas.

They also say that you are supposed to be able to polish your shoes with a banana peel. I have to dispute that. I gave it try this morning, and my sneak­ers don’t look any better.

Our dog Sarge likes bananas, too, but they haven’t made him remember any more tricks.

It won’t be long before students are dismissed for their summer break. I was thinking about the letter to the editor in Endeavor News a few weeks ago call­ing for a longer school year. The writer made some good points.

As we keep falling farther behind so many other countries when it comes to education, why do we insist on our schools kids having 185 days off every year?

That pattern was set many years ago because something like 80 percent of the students were from farming fami­lies and they were needed on the farm. Today, about 80 percent are needed around the cellphone with all of its connec­tions and gossip tools.

“School days, school days, dear old golden rule days. Reading, and writ­ing and ‘rithmetic, taught to the tune of a hickory stick.”

Well, at least that was the way it was when I went to school. Today, those rules would get a teacher 10 to 20 in the big house.

The misbehavers of yesteryear had a meeting with the big, hard “board of education.” Today, discipline and respect do not seem to be part of many people’s makeup, and that is not just among the young people.

I do believe that even the troublemak­ers have some good in them, but it is a real challenge to get it out of them. School is the place where character can be molded and that usually follows the person for the rest of his life. A good teacher can lay a foundation that a stu­dent can build his life around.

Parents who have disciplinary prob­lems at home often hope that the school will straighten out a kid. Lord help those teachers.

I remember my first day of school, not so much for what happened, but for how I got there. My mother was ill and the neighbor’s 14-year old son took me to school. This kid was more than a half a bubble off, but we made the mile and a half walk without any problems.

Miss Coulter, who taught first, second and third grade, got me going down the right path. When it was time to go home, my escort could not be found anywhere, so she took me home in her 1930 Model A Ford.

When I went to school, your wardrobe wasn’t important. Most boys got a new pair of bib overalls and a flannel shirt. There were no Nikes, so the common footwear was a pair of clodhoppers with cleats on the heel and toe, black wool socks and some BVDs.

I was not a girl-watcher at that time, so I cannot describe what they wore. Girl watching came later.

Becketts Run School did not have a cafeteria. If you didn’t live close to the school, you had to carry your lunch. There was no refrigerator to store your lunch, so most kids ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Indoor plumbing was not available, so we carried our drinking water from a spring across the highway. Our toilet was a wooden outhouse with a wall between the boys’ and girls’ sides. The boys drilled a hole in the wall, but if you got caught peeping you might get a sharp stick in your eye.

Old Ben Jones, our schoolmaster, would still be in jail today. He dealt out the discipline and it was brutal. He would hit you on the head with a big, thick book or work on you with a four- foot paddle. I never saw him punish a girl. I learned very quickly not to cross him. Under his command, I also learned how to spell, do math and appreciate history.

Sometimes his friend would come to our class with his high-powered micro­scope and we would look at different germs. It didn’t take much to entertain the country bumpkins at Becketts Run.

Eat plenty of bananas, if you remem­ber to, and keep you powder dry and nearby.

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