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A Case Of Enlightenment That Went Downhill Fast
by Bill Melton



As I needed some divine spiritual guidance this week, I headed out Friday morning in search of some wise old sage to enlighten me. Wise old sages are getting harder and harder to come by these days. In the old days they used to hang out on the tops of steep mountains waiting for some lost soul to climb up, but now days the ones that can be found usually prefer hanging out at places that serve decaffeinated coffee.

After an exhaustive search, the best I could do for enlightenment was to attend the regular morning session of the Mt. Holly PHD Society, which was already in session upon my arrival. You will remember the Mt. Holly PHD Society – in this case PHD stands for “piled high and deep” -- that world famous group of august and ripe old men who meet each morning, Monday through Saturday, at Charlie’s Drug Store in Mt. Holly. It is here at a table located in the back of this wonderful old-fashioned drug store known as much for its unique liquid confections and square scoops of ice cream as it is for medication that these old devils gather to shovel and dispense the things they are famous for shoveling and dispensing.

On this particular morning, Jack Warren, Dwight Dellinger, and Aaron Goforth were already busy about the day’s work of shoveling and dispensing when I arrived, so I just jumped in and hung on.

Many things were being discussed this morning, including barber stories. Since Jack Warren, our retired town barber, is older than time itself, he has plenty of them to tell. Nobody around here really knows exactly how old Jack (a naval veteran) is, but if it tells you anything, most of us believe he served in the Confederate Navy. Jack claims his longevity and good health are the result of breathing the fumes of all those hair tonics he poured on peoples’ heads.

And Jack does tell a mean barber story too. One of my favorites involves the time many years ago when a man came in for a haircut and a barber other than Jack waited on the man. When the barber finished, the man asked the barber to tonic him up real good and the barber was more than happy to oblige. When the barber finished, the man then decided he wanted to have a singe, which was the old practice of having the barber singe the ends of your hair with a burning taper. The barber, forgetting that the hair tonic he had just used was made almost entirely of 100 percent pure grain alcohol, lit the taper and stuck it to the man’s head, which was immediately consumed by a ball of fire. The barber had to beat the fire out with a towel, and even though the customer wasn’t hurt, oddly enough he never did ask for another singe.

After a few more such tales, talk shifted to more serious matters. Like plumbing.

Several weeks ago I’d come through town and noticed three vans belonging to a plumbing contractor parked out front of the drug store, so I dropped in to see what was going on. When you see three vanloads of plumbers parked in front of the place where the Piled High and Deep Society meets, your first thought is that one of those manure filled old dudes has finally exploded in the back of the room.

I was relieved to find that no one had busted, but I did find that a rather a severe problem had developed in the drainage system. The old terra cotta pipes they used way back then had finally given up the ghost trying to exhaust all that PHD from the building and needed to be completely replaced.

The advanced age of the building, which some believe is older than Jack Warren himself, proved to be a daunting task for the army of plumbers that descended upon it and resulted in a monumental undertaking that even involved remolding the restrooms.

The project also required some other modern conveniences to be added as well, after Dwight Dellinger, the scientific and analytical member of the group, went in the bathroom and conducted an experiment to prove whether or not manure will run uphill. Dwight has now proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that it will not.

This week we will dedicate the Dwight Dellinger Lift Station after a brief ceremony.

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Bill Melton is a humorist, writer and Gaston County, North Carolina good ol’ boy. You can reach him at wsmeltoninc.

Bill writes to USADS: “This month, I had the privilege of speaking to Ms. Barbara Domville’s English class at W.C. Friday Middle School in Dallas about the joys of writing. These are pretty big doings for a cop who majored in history and started writing a newspaper column just to aggravate his wife.

“The real humor of my writing has been summed up by the Rev. Dewayne Rush, a Presbyterian minister friend of mine. To paraphrase Dewayne a bit, he says the funniest thing about my column is the fact that while thousands of men and women graduate from college each year with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English and literature, just dying to get something published, a redneck with a history major gets published weekly in newspapers around North Carolina.

"That is pretty funny when you think about it.

"I’ve found writing to be an addiction, almost as addictive as aggravating my wife. When I got serious about being funny, I did a little research. One of the things I found came from a Midwestern good ol’ boy named Garrison Keillor. Brother Keillor says when writing comedy, ‘You only need a few facts to get you started, and sometimes it helps if they’re wrong.’ In other words, we humorists can make some of it up as we go along and still get away with it. Sort of like politics.”

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Read many more great stories listed on our USADS Articles pages.

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