Whittle: The funny side of hi-tech

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There I was, MINDING MY BUSINESS, the Whittle way, and looking nice, well, looking as nice as one can while seated on a bathroom can.

The setting was a cold winter's night, during half-time of a 1990s-era basketball game between MTSU and Vanderbilt.

From out of the blue, as I sat quietly in the college tinkletorium, guy in next stall asks: "How you doing?"

It startled me, but out of courtesy, I mumbled: "Doing good, not bothering anyone ... tending to my business over here ..."

Stall guy next door didn't take the hint to mind his own business over there ...

"How's the family?" adjacent stall cat launched next inquiry.

"OK," I replied. "But we put Mother in the nursing home today."

"That's too bad, be sure and give Mom our regards," stall voice next door added warmly.

Then, bam, it hit me!

Dude next door was not speaking to me, but was speaking into a new-fangled "cell phone," that lets him speak to the outside world from just about any location on the planet, including an MTSU gymnasium toilet.

"Dummy Dan," I recall thinking with a red-faced smirk while I meekly tended to my paper work.

Former Woodbury Mayor Charlie Harrell has a favorite Catholic-related story dating back to the 1940s at a country store up near Short Mountain: "A man dressed as a Catholic priest, complete with the white stiff collar, came in asking the store man if he any parts to help repair a commode. When the priest left, a young local asked what a commode was. To which, store man replied: 'I'm not sure, I don't know that much about the Catholic religion.'"

I recall in 1947, when Daddy Whittle brought two smooth-sitting former indoor toilet commode lids and placed them in our shack out back. A comforting leap forward for our farm family.

The wave of cell phones came just after the technology era when every 18-wheel trucker in America had their "ears on" keeping track of other truckers, but especially where Old Smokey was armed with speeding tickets while hiding around the next curve of Interstate 24.

I recall being at the beautiful well-tended Confederate Cemetery at rural Beech Grove in the early 1980s, doing research for a future newspaper article, when I wondered to myself: "What would these old soldiers, who died at the hands of Union soldiers with their new-fangled repeating rifles during the 1860s' Civil War, think if they could wake up, not only seeing big 18-wheel trucks barreling down Interstate 24, while some big burly truck driver hollers out: "That's a big 10-4 ... roger dodger, and they call me "Chunky Monkey" on this boulevard, over and out!"

Fast forward to when computers replaced typewriters and Facebook replaced get well cards.

The newspaper industry that has not adapted well into the new digital world of communications. So when favorite newspaper publisher Ron Fryar suggested a column about modern-day communications' technology, it took me back to 1950, when Daddy Whittle perished in a grinding car crash.

"Could Daddy Whittle adjust to this new century, when the most complicated device he toted was his Dad's old pocket watch?" I recall asking myself.
Probably the most sophisticated machinery of Dad's era was our old two-piston John Deere tractor. Those old tractors may be obsolete, but they still run to this day, as evidenced each year by the spectacular tractor show down in Eagleville, Tenn.

Before tractors, there were mules, that legendary retired Cannon County banker Bill Smith credits with constructing first paved road (70S) between Woodbury, Murfreesboro and Nashville.

"Mules did the heavy work on that highway," Mr. Bill added as a founding member of the Middle Tennessee Mule Skinners' Association that pays respect to sturdy, hard-working lop-eared mules.

Telephones and electricity had not made it to our farm community in 1950. It's one Dan's opinion, electricity was the most revolutionary invention that brought farm families into the more modernized 19th Century.

But, the invention of radios in the 1920s also rates high in revolutionizing life for America's rural farm families and those folks tucked away in the remote hills and hollows of coal mining country.

As an author, I'm writing a book about how radio, especially powerful WSM Radio, helped bring music from Nashville's Grand Ole Opry to folks throughout the nation, and eventually, the world.

That included inspiring country gospel music that offered "hope" to hurting and starving folks during the Great Depression through groups like the Chuck Wagon Gang.

Television that followed radio has revolutionized today's world.

Fast forward to the 1960s, when Woodbury Mayor Harold Patrick recalls TV coming out with "instant replay" during baseball game broadcasts each Saturday.

"Former mother-in-law Mary was a big baseball fan, like me, and they put a small TV in their service station," Patrick shared. "One day as I walked in the station, Mary was complaining that an opposing pitcher had purposefully hit her favorite Cincinnati player. And when 'instant replay' showed the player getting hit, Mary got excited: 'LOOK, HE'S HIT HIM AGAIN!'"

I have interviewed Rutherford County's only resident to have resided in Outer Space, to wit, astronaut Rhea Seddon. Now, that's some "high flying technology."

I wouldn't be alive today without modern medical technology, including a pace maker, an implanted heart valve from some poor dead pig, and two bionic new hips when Doc Rogers over in Murfreesboro whittled on my backside during the mid-1990s.

Think about it. Millions of people, now over age 70, are still around into the 20th Century, due to modern medical technology. I remember when penicillin saved millions of lives back in the 1940s and 1950s.

Technology includes my lap-top computer that's extended my writing career due to the fact, the old typewriters that weighed at least 150 pounds, had literally worn out my hands.

Today, the internet has done something personal for me. It has reopened my connection back to 1960s-era classmates from our little country school of advanced thinking and higher ciphering.

I'm writing a book on the life of Garry Lewis, a high school buddy who left John Deere tractors and cotton fields to become a daring and brave Navy fighter pilot. After the Navy, he and wife Gayle launched his career as a successful investment lawyer.

Interestingly, Garry, after taking care of family, helps start small Pentecostal churches throughout America. The bulk of that research is happening over the internet and computers.
Meanwhile, pass me another computer chip, for I'm hoping for at least another 10 years of life, enough time to complete my writing projects here on earth.

Excuse me now, while I make "deadline" one more time for favorite newspaper editor, Sir Mike West. Computers, internet, etc., will never replace examples of good old fashioned "sucking up" to favorite publishers and editors. Amen!!

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Dan Whittle
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