Friday, February 20, 2009


My wife of some 45 years and I get along just fine. Always have. Seems to be one of those “a match made in Heaven” deals. I can count on one hand any disagreements we have had. Well, make that two hands depending on your definition of “disagreement.” We never have had a “knock down, drag out” confrontation. If we have, then possibly I was unconscious and never knew what happened.

I was born at St. Mary’s Hospital in Port Arthur, Texas so I am a Texan. Mardell was born in Watertown, New York so she is a Yankee. Now I do not hold that against her. A child is born wherever and whenever a mother decides to give birth.

There is nothing wrong with a Texan marrying a Yankee. Well, almost nothing.
There are one or two innate problems that exist from time to time when a guy from Southeast Texas attempts to engage a Yankee in conversation. Especially a Yankee spouse. Little language glitches show up unannounced but with regularity.

For example the other evening while dining out, I mentioned to my wife that I was going to order some additional biscuits so that I could “sop up my gravy.” My wife turned into a horrified face and either asked or exclaimed, “You are going to do what?!”

By the way, my wife’s name is Mardell. As stated, we have been married for 45 years. She is a beautiful Christian lady with a sweet and gentle spirit. Sometimes that sweet and gentle spirit becomes a bit strained when some of my actions tend to fray on her beautiful disposition. I understand that. You see, Mardell is part German and part Cherokee Indian. I just try not to make her mad.

Anyway, Mardell explained to me that “sop” was an old word. “One that no one uses anymore,” she lectured. I tried to retort that I was an old man and that my language usage came with the package. In other words, not only is it what you see but also what you hear is what you get. She seemed un-amused with this great wisdom.

I thought to myself, “How ironic that someone who dunks her French fries in catsup would question my sopping gravy with biscuits.” I didn’t say that aloud because you really do not want a mad German and a mad Cherokee Indian coming toward you with unclear intentions.

But I did explain that “sop” still is a great word used in Texas by Texans. “Sop” is defined in the dictionary as, “… a piece of food dipped or steeped in a liquid.” And the word “steeped” is defined as, “… the process of soaking in a liquid.”

Also, our word “sop” is akin to “sup” which is from the same root as our word, “supper.” By the way, the dictionary defines “supper” as, “… the evening meal.”
Some folks such as my wife call the evening meal “dinner.” We get the term “dinner” from the French “diner” meaning “to dine.” So should you eat at a diner in the evening, you might refer to that meal as a “dinner,” because you are dining at a diner. But in reality you are eating a “dinner supper.” You might even eat breakfast at a diner. That would be a “dinner breakfast.” Lunch eaten at a diner would be “dinner.”

Mardell speaks what I call, “Yankan and she “dunks.” I speak Texan and “sop.” And I’ll not even get into a discussion of “sip” and “sipping.” But it is all related. Look it up but don’t forget your Dinner Jacket.

This Yankee/Texan couple get along great as long as I have a dictionary to keep her English straight.

Winston Hamby

Saturday, February 07, 2009

OK, I Confess...They Did It...

A year or so ago, I wrote a column of confessions telling of things I did in my youth that few if any ever knew.

For example, I told about drag racing a Beaumont Police Officer up Pearl Street in downtown Beaumont one afternoon. When we got to the end of the course, he looked over at me and said, “Hope you got it out of your system. I don’t ever want to catch you drag racing again.” He didn’t because I didn’t.

I ended that column by asking others to confess some things that they got into as a youth. Following are a few of those responses I received:

Bill English and Linton Cowart sent me this and I am quoting their letter:

“Hello, I don’t know if this is the kind of thing you are looking for, but one night in 1955, (we) took a ‘We Give Black Gold Stamps’ sign from in front of a gas station and put it in front of the Dixie Hotel, which was a well-known house of ill repute. As (we) recall, it made the Enterprise.”

Bill Fox, an old South Park Greenie classmate, sent me a 900-word confession of something he did early one morning in 1951. Take note, Bill. My entire column allows for only 600 words so next time, write with your scissors.

Bill told how that he and some other Enterprise paperboys were sitting on the porch of Raymond Eddie at the corner of Harriot and Kenneth Streets in Beaumont awaiting their papers. Bill wrote, “There was some discussion about how to dramatically dispose of a five-shot aerial bomb that just happened to be in possession of one of the guys that he had left over from the recent July 4th celebration.”

They elected Bill to be the honored one to ease across Harriot St., climb the water tower that was situated beside the small one-truck fire station, and then set off that bomb atop the tower. The vote on that decision was 8 to 1 (guess who voted against it).

Bill climbed the tower, lit the fuse and began his descent. He heard the first round go off. “It was loud,” Bill recounted. Then he saw a police car. He hid in the reeds that were growing beside the fire station while the police stopped and lectured the others who still were gathered on the front porch. Bill kept this story to himself until now.

Then I received a tome from retired Lamar University Professor David G. Taylor.
Professor Taylor writes from time to time and occasionally we talk on the phone. I have never met the man but I like him. I am persuaded that he is the most prolific story teller in Jefferson County and most likely a greater expanse than that. I called him the other night to ask him if I could share his “snake bite” story. One hour later, he said, “Sure, go ahead and use that story any way that you want.” The reason it took one hour to get a reply from the professor is that he interjected 15 to 20 stories in addition to the one I called about.

Anyway, Taylor was helping a friend, Leo Johnson, clean up his property at Lake Rayburn following hurricane Rita. He reached into a pile of wood and was bitten by a small copperhead. David killed the snake and appropriately named it, “Rita.”
A helicopter flew him to East Texas Medical Center, in Tyler. This is not exactly a confession. It’s more like a University professor admitting that he should not have been working bare-handed around poisonous snakes.

Confession times are interesting. Look for a sequel coming soon in a newspaper near you.

Winston Hamby