Vinson: An elbow flapping memory

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A beloved, departed family member – who would be 96 years old, if alive – shared this story with me several years ago.

So, to prep for this week’s column, attempt to mentally position yourself somewhere between “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “Real Housewives of Atlanta,” or better yet “Duck Dynasty” and “The Simpsons.”

 Back 60 years ago, during the early ’50s, decades before the cell phone, Internet, DVD, video games, etc., simple country folks didn’t have many options in terms of leisure activities and entertainment. Not all that many families had a television, a telephone (as in an old-fashioned landline), or even owned a motorized vehicle. 

For most who fell into this eco-geo-socio bracket, during the mentioned time frame, enjoying a local basketball game, going to a Saturday night square dance, or attending church on Sunday was about it.

Subsequently, people visited with family and neighbors much more than they do in the year 2013. Nowadays, it pays to call and let someone know you’re “dropping by,” whereas it was no big deal to show up unannounced back in the day. I suppose it’s safe to say that “visiting” back then served as a reprieve from the near-daily grind of working dusk ‘til dawn, a social outlet, if you will.

So goes the story, as told to me by the dearly departed family member, whom I’ll refer to as “Ms. M.”

Walking on foot, a neighbor lady and her three children showed up one spring day at Ms. M and her husband’s simple, wood-frame country home, located way out in the country, in Middle Tennessee. “It was just after lunch,” I recall Ms. M telling me. “She had these three rowdy, unkempt kids, and she – the momma, herself – was known to be a little bit on the crude side.

“She and those kids kept hanging around, and my husband and I just continued doing our chores. Before you knew, it was supper time, and she and her yungins were still there. As was customary back then, I invited her and the kids to stay for supper, and she readily accepted.

“Everybody was sitting around the table, eating, and the mother, all of a sudden, got this strange grin on her face. She made sure she had our attention!

“Looking my husband and I straight in the face, she proceeded to place one hand in the opposite armpit and commenced flapping her elbow up-and-down, mimicking someone loudly passing gas at a rapid rate.

“My husband and I just stared at each other – even the kids were dumbfounded. However, she nearly busted a gut laughing at herself. And, if that wasn’t enough, she would eat for a few minutes, then stop and repeat the same ol’ crude antic again. This went on throughout supper that night. ‘Lord have mercy,’ I thought.

“Well, it got to be bedtime, around 9 o’clock at night, and I told her that my husband and I had to hit the hay to get ready for the next day.

“My husband and I walked her and the kids to the door and bid them goodnight. I’ll be darn, even after all that, as she and her children walked down our gravel driveway, slowly disappearing into the darkness, she continued flapping her elbow up-and-down, the still of the late night making that awful sound even louder.

“I stared at my husband; he stared back at me, and he said something along the lines of, ‘She’s good at what she does. No doubt, she’s had a lot of practice.’”

There is a solid reason behind me sharing this story with you: Every time I think about it, I nearly bust a gut laughing! 

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Mike Vinson
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