School reunions, White pickups, and a little politics
School reunions, White pickups, and a little politics
By Bobby Neal Winters
I’ve been down to visit my people at a school reunion. My school was so small, we don’t have class reunions; we have school reunions. They try to have it in the Chickasaw Community Center, but there was a mix-up this year, so they had to have it at the Central Church of Christ activity center. Not that we could’ve done anything at the Chickasaw Center that we couldn’t’ve done at the Church of Christ, but I thought I’d just give you a little background color.
Anyway, social time began at 4:30pm so my brother and I arrived at 4:15 and there were already quite a number of people there. My people arrive early for things. I found a parking spot and went in. As I did, I noted there was a white pick-up truck that was parked “whawmper-jawed” up next to the activity center. If you’ve never encountered this term before, I beg your forbearance because there is not a better word to describe it. Even if there had been lines painted there in that particular spot like there was every place else in the parking lot, he wouldn’t have been between them. Even if he was between them, he wouldn’t have been pulled in all the way.
This is not all that unusual among my people. We are oilfield people and there are not a lot of painted line in the oilfield. People drive trucks and other oilfield type equipment and they tend to park parallel to the road so they can pull-out instead of back-out.
When I entered the activity center, my eyes scanned the room for candidate for the owner of the white pick-up and I found several. Men who’d had sun cancers removed from their faces because of years of being unprotected from the weather. Men with enough wrinkles to impress a shiatsu. Men with open-faces and hands stretched out to shake. In short, the men who built this country and have earned the right to park any danged old way they please.
I proceeded into the gym wherein the tables were set up and began to mingle.
I am not the world’s best mingler because I am an introvert. I like smaller groups. The trick is to recognize a group like this is made up of a bunch of smaller groups. In our case, the group is like an Indian blanket. The threads in one direction are the classes and they are woven together by the families that span the generations. So I started working the room and I was reminded of what everyone in the group notices eventually. An inordinate number of educators have been produced by my tiny, little school and an inordinate number of those of superintendents.
I have my theory as to why both of those things are true. The ones who go to college become teachers because they have never really gotten to know any other educated person. It is a rural area and any professionals that might live there do their socializing in town. They become superintendents because in a community like that you get to know everything about everybody at a level of depth and detail that is difficult for someone who lives in a town even the size of Pittsburg to imagine.
You learn the depravity of man and his ability to transcend that depravity. You either become a superintendent or a preacher. We’ve produced a lot of preachers too.
I began to gently probe for political winds. I talked to one of the superintendents and we played a game I called “whose legislature is worse?” It goes like this. You ask the question and then alternate saying “Mine is” “No, mine is.” We had to draw on legislatures but he yielded on governors without a contest.
Politically the group spanned the political spectrum from conservative to ultra conservative with a couple of notable outliers on the left. There is a broad stripe of libertarianism painted down the middle of all of them. They wouldn’t mind if you were free to grow marijuana if they were free to gut you with a dull deer antler if you got their child hooked on drugs.
This is in stark contrast to the fact that most of them are church-going, fundamentalist Christians. I would say this paradox is resolved in the statement that the believe that you ought to be free to go to Hell if you want to, but they will be praying for you and trying to get you to church in the meantime.
Time passed and I was concerned as the meal hadn’t begun. I was slated to pray because I am Methodist and represent an insignificant neutral minority between the Baptists and the Church of Christ.
Someone went up to the microphone and I thought it was to announce dinner and the blessing but no. The MC announced that there was a white pickup that was blocking traffic and needed to be moved. Five minutes passed. Another of the organizers announced that they didn’t want to bother anyone’s visit, but the white pickup was keeping the caterer from coming in. There would be no food if the white pickup was not moved.
Five more minutes passed, a man with a cowboy hat (who I’ve known all my life but will keep his name out of the paper) got up and with a voice that has been used to announce rodeo told the crowd that they would soon be taking the pickup out in pieces if it weren’t moved.
Ten minutes later, I was called up to pray.
We are a people unto unique and wonderful. There are none to be had like us anywhere else. And that is a danged old shame.
(Bobby Winters, a native of Harden City, Oklahoma, blogs at redneckmath.blogspot.com and okieinexile.blogspot.com. He invites you to “like” the National Association of Lawn Mowers on Facebook. )