Category Archives: Happening Now

12 Angry Men get Jury Duty while Wives Vacation at the Beach

My recent involvement with the community theater group Baldwyn Main Street Players may have unintentionally started a social experiment.

In December, I signed on to direct the classic play 12 Angry Men for BMSP.  This particular show has a 13-member cast, entirely male – twelve “angry” jurors and one jury room guard, who does NOT become noticeably angry during the production.  (So the count in the title comes out right, you see.)

This latest BMSP show opens in the Claude Gentry Theater on Thursday, January 23rd, at 7 PM, and will have a total of six performances.   We expect sell-outs.  It’s a good one.

12 Angry Men - Jak SmithAppropriately enough for this courtroom drama, Jak Smith, a practicing lawyer in Tupelo, has been cast in a featured role – Juror #4.  Expect Smith, a newcomer to our stage, to masterfully deliver the character originally portrayed by E.G. Marshall in the award-winning 1954 film.  He has been doing just that, night after night, for the last two weeks.

As for the demanding lead role of Juror #8, accomplished BMSP regular Bentley Burns more than ably meets the challenge.  Juror #3, a dangerous sadist and the story’s chief antagonist, will be handled, against type, by lovable local ham Anthony “Frog” Buse.  This deadly-serious role will be the first of its kind for the gifted Buse, who’s played the more light-hearted roles of Rodney Dangerfield, Thurston Howell, and Hee Haw’s Gordie Tapp in recent shows.

12 Angry MenBurns, Buse and Smith won’t be flying solo.  Talent abounds throughout the show’s cast.  Veterans Craig Gaines, Steve Collins, David Jenkins, Greg Lominick, and Jonathan Hancock return to action for BMSP in this one, and they’re joined by first-timers Gregg Tucker, Ricky Murphy, Ken Anderson, James Rinehart and Jamie Gray.

BMSP also tapped well-known Booneville native Marshall Dickerson for the role of Juror #10, a harsh and intense bigot, played by Ed Begley in the old movie.  Dickerson told me he expected as much from a “Baldwyn” community theater group.

“Sure, you HAD to put someone from Booneville in the villain role,” Marshall lamented.  “I’ll have to have a police escort to get out of town when this thing’s over!”

12 Angry Men - Stage RightI didn’t intend it that way … but it does seem sort of appropriate, don’t you think?

“So, what about that “social experiment” thing you referred to earlier,” one might ask.

Well, THAT allusion has to do with THIS fact:  I am also directing a “chick-flick” in May – called The Dixie Swim Club – which, ironically, has a cast made up entirely of WOMEN, five of ‘em.   (Auditions for DSC will be held February 9th, a Sunday afternoon, at 2 PM … for you ladies who might be interested.)

I suspect that I will find a significant amount of material for future columns as I compare the two experiences – directing an all-male cast on the one hand and an all-female cast on the other.

Dixie Swim ClubI can already say that directing the men through a holiday-compressed rehearsal process has had a “military” feel to it.  While scripts were passed out in December, rehearsals really didn’t start in earnest until after New Year’s Day – with a production opening night of January 23rd!  That’s tight.  But we all knew it going in, and the guys have worked hard to bring out every nuance of their characters.

In contrast, the ladies of Dixie Swim Club will have more than three months to perfect their show.  The men have brought this point up to me on more than one occasion.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must say that discussions among the men have generally moved to a conclusion like this one:  “Well, of course, you know men can get done in two weeks what it will take those women three months to finish … because we don’t have to stop and talk about every little thing.”

I look forward to The Dixie Swim Club’s response to a comment like that.  I’ll keep you informed.


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A Good Life, A Great Uncle

Gabe & JackMy great uncle, Jack Hamblin, Jr., is a World War II veteran.  He saved a dozen or more men from drowning when his ship was sunk in the English Channel during the Normandy invasion.  Jack Jr. and my grandfather Mort Gardner were my employers from the time I was 10 until I graduated high school at their Sinclair, Arco and Phillips 66 service stations here in Baldwyn. 

Jack told me a funny story several weeks ago.

Jack Hamblin Jr. & Charles Sidney SpainWhen he was a boy in the early 1940’s, Jack worked at the Union Drug Store, for Len Rowan and Archie “Fat” Frost, on Main Street in Baldwyn.  One day a local man named Bishop came in and approached Frost at the counter.  Archie, who was nearing 40 and balding, had had a long day.  He was seated behind the counter with his arms propped up, leaning forward. 

Bishop thought there was a little fun to be had.

Walking over to Frost, he clapped his hand down on top of Archie’s head, and loudly proclaimed “Archie, that feels just like my wife’s butt.”  And he laughed it up.

Archie Frost made no immediate response except to reach up and pat the top of his own head a couple of times.  Finally, he brought his hand down, looked up at Bishop, and dead-panned, “Damned if it don’t.”

Jack said Bishop never came in the Union Drug Store again. 

Certainly, Jack thought that was a pretty funny story.  In fact, he thought it was funny enough to relay it to his nephew more than 70 years after it happened.

Jack Hamblin, Jr., & Clark RicheyAs I debated this past week whether or not to write up the tale Jack had told me – I’m not sure the Baldwyn News will even publish the word “butt,” which is not really the term he used anyway – I realized I’d forgotten something.  Jack had told me what the Bishop man’s name was.  It was Claude, or Clarence, or Carl – something that started with a “C.”  But as I prepared my column this week, I couldn’t think of it for the life of me.  I had jotted it down on a piece of paper at my office, but that was months ago.  That scribble’s long since been discarded.  But I know that Jack knows it.  And I can get it from him later. 

Jack Jr. will be 90 this spring, I think.

Before Christmas, I sat with Jack at my niece’s wedding, and we talked about how he and my grandfather had started their service station business.  It was after the war, and they bought someone out – I can’t remember who he said – but he said they only had one tire tool in the place.  He told me one of the guys who had the station would wash someone’s car and then take the money and go straight to the pool hall.  He gave me the person’s name.  I can’t remember it.

Jack told me that when he and my grandfather thought about going into the service station business, people around town told them they were crazy.  Their competition – Brownie Coggins and Harless Rutherford, who in typical small-town fashion were also their brothers-in-law – had the gas business “sewed up” at Blue Top and Standard Oil. 

“But we did it anyway,” Jack said.  “Mort said, ‘I think it’ll be all right.’”

Jack Hamblin Jr., Claire & Hallie Goodson, Reggie RicheyJack told me how they saw that no one in town offered credit to black families in those days … and how he and my grandfather decided that they would.  He said they went to several solid men in the black community and told them directly that they wanted their business and that their credit would be good with “Mort and Jack.”  He called the men’s full names.  One was a Stewart, and I just can’t remember who else he mentioned.  Jack said when he and my uncle Dan closed the station 50 years later they had more business than anyone in town and that it had been basically 50/50 black and white all the way from the start.  I had never heard any of that before.

I’ve talked a lot over the past couple years with Jack Jr. and other elder statesmen around Baldwyn – Annie Laurie Arnold, Jimmy Cunningham, Wallace Pannell, Taylor Lindley, many more.  These golden souls are the ones who put flesh and bones on historic local names like Archie Frost for me.  They called him “Fat,” Jack told me.  I try hard to remember the details, to capture it all.  I don’t think I can.

But I called Jack back on Sunday anyway.  It was “Roy Stewart.”  He was the man Jack went to in the black community, in the fall of 1946, to offer credit.  He worked for the railroad.  And “Clarence” Bishop was the man who thought it’d be funny to pat Archie Frost’s bald head.  That was in 1941 or ’42, Jack thought.

At my niece’s wedding a month ago, my great uncle Jack Hamblin, Jr., told me, “You know, I’ve lived a good life.” 

Damned if he hasn’t.

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Batman versus Superman: Geek Food for Thought

I have long been a comic book geek.

Finally, at 45-ish, I have reached the level of self-confidence sufficient to combat any ridicule I might receive from hunters, athletes, mechanics or other stereotypical roles of masculinity regarding my love for the superhero genre.  Therefore, I am at last comfortable revealing that I know the difference in “a cyborg,” a being who is part-man and part-machine, and “Cyborg,” a member of DC Comics’ Justice League who is … well, part-man and part-machine.

Batman and RobinI can tell you the secret identity of almost any costumed, comic book hero – a gripping game I like to play on long road trips.  Believe it or not, my family very seldom wants to join me.  My youngest child Maddux WILL occasionally indulge me in a “name ‘em” game where we spread out a drawing of multiple comic book characters and then try to call the correct names of each one, no matter how obscure.

Look, I already said I was a geek.

One must admit that Hollywood, over the past decade, has validated MY position – that comic book heroes are the modern-day analogies of ancient mythological characters like Hercules and Beowulf.  Inarguably, Tinseltown has discovered that my fictional, spandex-wearing, new titans are very, VERY marketable.

I was way ahead of the curve on that one.

From pre-school days, I’ve been a fan of Batman.  Like many from my generation, I became aware of the caped crusader by watching him on television in the BIFF-BAM-POW campy creation that ran on ABC back-to-back weeknights from 1966 to 1968.  Even today, the show’s star Adam West, in his gray and blue long underwear, defines the Batman character for millions.

I was in elementary school before I found out that Batman was not just a TV show.  There were these picture books called “comics” for sale at Hopkin’s Big Star or Cunningham’s Grocery that painted a much fuller picture of the Batman and his teenage sidekick Robin.

RobinBatman was more, I found out, than a melodramatic, goody-two-shoes who chit-chatted with celebrities as he climbed Gotham’s buildings via the bat-rope.  The Dark Knight was a brilliant detective and a vicious but virtuous vigilante who could find ways to succeed regardless of the odds stacked against him – not comically like on television, but semi-realistically.  The bottom line:  comic-book Batman was cool.

Apart from the dynamic duo, I also discovered “others” out there, a whole DC Comics’ “universe” of characters.  And in that universe was, of course, the ultimate superhero, Superman, the granddaddy of ‘em all.

The red-caped, Kryptonian Man of Steel had a TV show of his own, too, I later learned – The Adventures of Superman – but his series was gone from the airways, along with its star George Reeves, long before my time.  I did eventually pick it up later in childhood, syndicated on Saturdays, but the strange visitor from another planet never could penetrate my psyche like Batman.

Frankly, I think it all came down to the idea that a regular person – if he was driven enough, talented enough, crazy enough – could theoretically BECOME Batman, at least as much as he could become Tarzan, or James Bond, or the Lone Ranger.  Because Batman was a man.

On the contrary, no matter how much Popeye spinach I forced down, I would never be able to defy gravity and fly or shoot red laser beams out of my eyes.  To be Superman was simply unattainable.

In the comics, I discovered another difference between Batman and Superman, more subtle but just as profound.

Superman sees human beings as inherently good, while Batman views mankind as untrustworthy, at best, and psychotically depraved, at its worse.

BatmanThat’s geek-food for thought.

One would want to see it Superman’s way.  From his vantage point above squeaky-clean Metropolis, a pinnacle of human civilization in the DC Universe, Superman looks down on people as generally noble beings, who in their heart-of-hearts desire to do right by one another.  It’s only the few bad apples – Lex Luthor, Toyman, Parasite, etc. – who are out there actively trying to spoil the bunch in the Man of Steel’s worldview.

On the other hand, Batman, whose parents were gunned down in an alleyway in gritty, dirty Gotham City, views mankind quite differently.  People are selfish, belligerent and dishonest or far, far worse – take the homicidal lunatic the Joker, for instance.

In black and white pre-school terms, Batman and Superman are both certainly out there vanquishing evil.  But the difference is Superman believes that ultimately he can win, that he can expunge evil completely.  The Batman, for his part, understands his quest is a never-ending battle against depravity which can spontaneously recreate itself anywhere human beings exist.

Batman’s realism versus Superman’s idealism is just one of the heady philosophical considerations that keep my status as a comic book geek intact after four decades as a fan.

Of course, I also like to see Lex Luthor and the Joker just get punched in the face.  So there’s that, too.

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Signs of the Times

Claude Gentry TheatreLast weekend, Thursday through Sunday, the Claude Gentry Theatre & Simon Spight Auditorium opened its doors on Main Street for the first time, and with great success – four sold-out shows.  The new 90-seat venue presented a Relay For Life, fund-raising variety show, produced by the 1st Baptist Church RFL Team, entitled “A Really Big Show.”

As the 500 or so visitors to Baldwyn’s Historic District – a total including audience, cast and crew – enjoyed the reemerging nightlife of Main Street, they passed under two new signs erected on the theater’s front, signs that had been carefully designed to evoke feelings of both nostalgia and progress.

The Claude Gentry TheatreThe Claude Gentry Theatre sign is an internally-lighted, steel replica of a neon sign that once hung just across the street at Audie Coggins’ Baldwyn Theatre.  When Claude Gentry purchased the theater in 1944, he changed its name to “The Ritz Theatre” and operated it into the 1960’s.  It was Mr. Gentry who changed the T-shaped sign to read “Ritz,” rather than “Baldwyn,” horizontally across its top, but he retained the “THEATRE” lettering running vertically down the leg of the “T” as it was originally created.

The sign that now shines over the new theater, 20-feet above the street, was matched to old pictures during its design process, and the exact perimeter shape and coloration was mirrored as closely as possible to Coggins’ original, the clear intention being the re-creation of an iconic sign on the street in Baldwyn.  Even the sign’s aesthetic effect on other storefront features, especially the historic Tom’s Drug Store sign hanging three buildings to the east, was considered before its final position was set.  As Baldwyn-ites pass on Main Street for decades to come, the Claude Gentry Theatre sign, shining bright white through acrylic panes, will provide a reminder of eras past while ushering patrons into new creative entertainment of the here-and-now.

Simon Spight SignAlongside the Gentry sign, just to its west, a Simon Spight Auditorium marker was erected on the same brick storefront last week.  The late Simon “Buddy” Spight, more than anyone, carried the torch of Baldwyn history into the present with his writings and collections of artifacts.  Donations from Mr. Spight’s estate, in fact, made the accelerated opening of the Claude Gentry Theatre even possible as curtains, lights, sound equipment and other theatrical necessities where specifically acquired with funds left for those purposes by Spight.  Simon Spight loved to write, not just for content, but to show off the flourishes of his penmanship.  The sign erected on the western side of the theater front is a burned steel duplicate of Simon Spight’s actual signature nested on top of the word “Auditorium,” presented in a western-style font.  Simon’s autograph was taken from the funeral registry of long-time Baldwyn alderman and post master Bruce McElroy.  A digital picture was made and copied into a mechanical design program at Quail Ridge Engineering.  The signature was carefully digitized with only a minor adjustment or two being made to hold all the pieces of the name together.  QRE then fabricated the sign in its Guntown facility, and Quail Ridge Properties erected it last Friday.  Now when people say that Simon Spight left his mark on Baldwyn, they can look at the south-facing wall of 110 West Main Street and point to the literal proof.

Tom's Neon SignThis week the Tom’s Drug Store sign is coming down – but not permanently.  The most iconic symbol of Baldwyn needs a make-over, and Quail Ridge Properties will begin refurbishing the sign immediately, along with the two building facades at 104 and 106 West Main where it has been posted for more than half a century.  It is unlikely that the broken neon tubes which once lit the pharmacy entrance will be restored at this time, but an original paint job, a more stable erection method, and supplemental external lighting will all be a part of this renovation.  The ultimate, overall goal for this property is the recreation of Tom’s soda shop which would operate hand-in-hand with a new Baldwyn History Museum.  More details are just around the corner on this project.

Soon signs for The Claude Gentry Theatre, The Simon Spight Auditorium and Tom’s Drug Store will all stand in an orderly row on the north side of Main Street, inspiration from the past, shining towards a bright future in Baldwyn.

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Mrs. Putt Called, Cow’s Out Again

As our group of friends drove to the Como Steakhouse last Thursday, we encountered a bull, free-ranging along the two-lane road between Holly Springs and Senatobia.  His herder/retriever, stick in hand, was not happy and trailed a good hundred yards behind the well-horned Angus-mix that had decided to go on the lam.  I felt his pain.  Loose livestock was one of the banes of my childhood.

Loose Cows In the early 1970’s, to hear it said that ‘So-and-So’ had just called and our cow/horse/pig was out again meant that, in short order, I would be joining my father, brother, uncle and grandfather in pursuit of some dumb beast who felt the other side of Gordon Road had more to offer than did his home pasture.  Hours later, we would finally shoo the escapee through the gap in the barbed-wire, pull it closed and walk the entire fence to find the weak spot.  We weren’t farmers, but most of the males of our clan did like to have a few animals on hand to try and trade for a small profit every now and then.  This male – the sweaty, fat kid in the Husky blue jeans – had no such desire.

We slowed and moved to one side as we motored past the black bovine.  “Uh oh, somebody’s cow got out,” my lovely wife pointed out from the back seat.  “Yep,” I said and sped away towards Como.

FFA MississippiAs a freshman in high school, I was a full-fledged member of the Future Farmers of America, even participating with the FFA parliamentary procedure team that won district.  I was on the dairy judging team, too.  I knew nothing about dairy cows, but the other choice available to me was poultry judge, and although I liked large eggs, I had no desire to manually confirm which hens could produce them.  Our Ag class had two teachers – C. Q. Hoover taught shop, hands-on, and Mr. Earl Lofton was classroom instructor.

The class’s all-male environment, coupled with the shop being located a significant distance from the main school building, led to, shall we say, shenanigans.  The best stories about Ag under C.Q. Hoover and Earl Lofton – goats in the library, etc. – can only be told by “career” Ag guys, not the students who took only the mandatory 1st year class but the lifers who followed it up with Ag 2, Ag 3 and Ag 4.  Nevertheless, here are a couple of tales in which I was either involved or had a front-row seat.

#1:  A close friend, who I won’t name, thought it would be a good idea one day to casually set a broom on fire and slide it under the tables where we sat during Mr. Lofton’s lecture period.  The slow burn became a blaze while we all sat there as though nothing was going on.  Finally, Mr. Lofton, sniffing, spun around from the blackboard to find a dozen blank-faced innocents with smoke boiling up between their legs.  I can still see his wild eyes as he slung the table to the side and stomped the broom out.  “Whatever [expletive deleted] did this is lower than a [expletive deleted] lizard’s belly!  I’m going to find out who did it, and I’m going to tear his [expletive deleted] up!” he gracefully pointed out.  True to his word, two days later, Mr. Lofton did find out, and he did tear his [expletive deleted] up.

C. Q. Hoover and the Ag boys working on a rat control device#2:  On a field trip to prune a local farmer’s fruit trees, this same friend, in either a bold act of defiance or a blatant act of stupidity, got our entire class, including Mr. Hoover, physically ejected from said farmer’s property.  As we sprinted away from the farmer, who ran after us yelling curse words that I didn’t realize adults knew, I looked back over my shoulder to see the tree my friend had “pruned.”  It had been a peach tree.  It was now a “pole” with a single, naked limb about 6 feet off the ground on its right side.  There was not a leaf, nor even a small branch, left on it anywhere.  I picked up the pace and dove through the doorway of the old yellow school bus, just as Mr. Hoover scratched off.  I think the farmer actually threw rocks at the bus until we were out of range.

Our group finally arrived at the famous Como Steakhouse.  I wouldn’t have made a very good farmer, I concluded, but I did wonder if the guy back on Highway 4 ever got his bull up.  “What would make that darn cow want to get out anyway,” I pondered as I bit into an excellent 10 ounce filet, medium rare.

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Up, Up and Away, Kemosabe!

When I was kid in the 70’s, there were three channels on television – ABC, NBC and CBS – plus ETV, which nobody watched. Every fall, there was a prime-time special on each of the three big networks previewing the new Saturday morning cartoons set to premier that year. I distinctly remember great excitement around my house surrounding first episodes of “Batman Meets Scooby-Doo,” “Inch High, Private Eye” and “Hong Kong Phooey.” There was no Cartoon Network. Kids had to get out of bed early on Saturday mornings if they wanted to catch the best hours of television the week had to offer, at least if they wanted to hear Jonny Quest’s sidekick Hadji say “Sim Sim Salabim” as he put his magical whammy on the villain-of-the-week.

The Lone RangerWhen cartoons ended at about 11 AM, the networks would shift to live original television for a show or two – The Shazam!/Isis Hour comes to mind – before local stations moved on to syndicated programs they deemed capable of holding the attention of kids but which were also attractive to adults across North Mississippi, those who were either 1) independently wealthy and just getting up or 2) working class folks, like my grandparents, who would be returning home from a half-day’s work at the service station or factory. Tarzan, Flipper and Lassie were regularly served up mid-day on Saturdays to uplift the masses with escapist adventure.

Saturday afternoon television in those days may best have been represented by two syndicated shows that on the surface appeared dramatically different, yet upon closer analysis were nearly identical in format and moral message – The Adventures of Superman and The Lone Ranger.

SUPERMAN and LOIS LANEThe Adventures of Superman originally ran from 1952 to 1958 and starred George Reeves as Clark Kent/Superman. I may have realized that the show wasn’t being filmed live in 1974, when I was 10 and watching, but I didn’t get hung up on it. You would hear the rushing wind, and suddenly the Man of Steel would burst into some mob hideout to save his damsel, Lois Lane. A pair of glasses and a fedora were sufficient to keep Kent’s identity secret, the key to his ability to righteously fight crime while keeping those he loved safe from evil-doers. Superman pulling a door from its hinges or using his X-ray vision to peer through a wall (NEVER Lois’s skirt) were all the special effects required to solidify the fact that this strange visitor from another planet was the guy we wanted fighting for truth, justice and the American way.

The Lone Ranger and his faithful Indian friend Tonto were as altruistic as the guy from Metropolis who could leap the tall buildings. They just did their thing in a “Wild, Wild West” setting. Clayton Moore played the masked Texas Ranger who suffered the loss of ALL his compadres, including family, in an ambush by the evil Butch Cavendish gang. The Lone Ranger donned a mask to strike fear into those who would operate outside the law. He shot silver bullets, and he rode a white horse, named Silver, whose intelligence was equal to that of any human.

Jonny QuestRemembering Superman and the Lone Ranger makes me yearn for simpler days, when I was a kid and right was right and wrong was wrong and there were heroes out there, somewhere, who could and would step up, ride/fly into action, on behalf of the oppressed.

This summer, The Man of Steel and The Lone Ranger are big budget motion pictures (“re-imaginings”) already released and seen by millions. Surprisingly, to me, each has received negative critiques from the elite Hollywood press. Now, I’ve seen both movies, and I unequivocally, absolutely LOVED them. I guess I’m just an idealistic fool who still lamely idolizes heroes and escapist adventure, or maybe, just maybe, I’m a guy from Main Street America who believes that good guys can still win, in the end. And that’s what I like to see on the big screen. And maybe the Hollywood elite and the media elite and the national elite just don’t get me/us anymore. Maybe they think the latest angst-filled, controversial topic du jour, wallowing in moral ambiguity, is what’s best for me. Well, I don’t. And as God is my witness, I still think for myself.

So, for my part … up, up, and away, Kemosabe! Go see a GOOD movie this summer.

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One Large Freakin’ Ocean Water

Sunset CarsonWhen my mother was just a girl of 7 or 8, she was sassy and bold.  At Baldwyn’s Ritz Theatre in 1951, Dale Gardner, my mother, went on stage with Hollywood star Sunset “Kit” Carson.  She held an autograph card in her small but steady hand as the B-movie cowboy took his pearl-white .22 rifle and fired a shot dead-center into the paper from across the theater.   She still has the card.

On typical Sunday afternoons in those days, she and my grandparents would visit family at Uncle Johnny Copeland’s home on Gordon Road.  It was usually a reserved, almost-stoic affair.  But into this restful gathering of peace-and-quiet-seeking kinfolk, my sassy and bold mother would launch an extensive repertoire of attention-seeking antics, to the consternation of her great-grandmother “Maw Maw” Copeland.

“She never liked me,” my mother would offer in later years.

Dale GardnerWhen Maw Maw had finally had enough and would say to my grandmother, “You need to get a switch to that girl,” my mother would take down Uncle Johnny’s razor strap that hung behind a door and walk a circle through the hallway, the kitchen and the living room, popping the strap as she went, essentially daring anyone to take it up and destroy the serenity of the Sunday afternoon.  No one did, and she remained bold and sassy.

The other day at lunch my mother pulled into our local Sonic Drive-In with my niece and nephew, Lee-Anna and Rob Richey.  Lee-Anna, a 6th grader, had wanted to go to McDonald’s, which is also where my mother had wanted to go.  And frankly, they would eventually HAVE to make a stop at McDonald’s because my father had sent along his pick-up order for a Big Mac.  But Rob, a lanky 14-year-old with a hint of a mustache, could not think of a thing at McDonald’s he could force himself to eat.  He effectively reasoned with his pliable grandmother that what he had to have was an “Ocean Water,” a blue, coconut-flavored drink now on the menu at Sonics nationwide.  My mother acquiesced, without sass or boldness, to a “second stop” on her trip for lunch, and the trio pulled into an open slot at America’s Drive-In.

Sonic Ocean WaterMother was all set to order her grandson’s drink, when Rob leaned across from the passenger seat and spotted a new Sonic offering – specialty teas.  A wide variety of flavors was displayed, and Rob descended into indecision.

“What do you want, Rob?” my mother asked.

“I might want one of those teas.  Ask them about those.  What are they?”  Rob came back.

“It shows on the menu.  Just read it.”

“Just ask them!”

My mother pressed the button.  “Can you tell me about these flavors of tea?”

The Sonic attendant, apparently unaware that Sonic made tea, fumbled around for a minute or two, an eternity in fast-food.

“Hold on please,” my mother finally broke in.  “Rob, you need to pick one.”

“I want to know about those teas.  I might want that.”

“Ma’am?  Ma’am?”  The attendant searched for life on my mother’s end of the intercom.

“You need to order something now!” my mother whisper-yelled at Rob.

“Just get me a large, freakin’ Ocean Water!” Rob shot back.

“Just give me a large, ‘Freaking Ocean Water,’” my mother relayed to the attendant, who was silent.

Finally … “Ma’am?”

“One Large Freaking Ocean Water,” my mother repeated.  “That’s all.”

“YES, MA’AM!”  The attendant clicked off, over and out.

Rob leapt into the back seat and scrunched down into the floor.  Lee-Anna screamed.  And an Ocean Water was delivered to my oblivious mother in record time.

Recently, my mother and I discussed her growing legacy of fast-food-ordering faux pas – the Sonic incident being merely the last in a long line of similar events – and I tried to convince her that it was her chaotic, goofy grandchildren that were the true source of her difficulties.  In grandmotherly fashion, she disagreed.

“That’s not it.  I used to be able to do anything,” my mother told me.  “Somehow I’ve lost my self-confidence over the years.  I’m just not sassy and bold anymore.”

She may be right.  But there’s at least one attendant at the Baldwyn Sonic who would disagree.


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