Mincey's Musings

The silent observer

I was a silent stalker during elementary and high school.
Sounds ominous, right? Just exactly who did I stalk?
For whatever reason, from my first day of my two weeks as a Headstart student to the end of my public-school student experience, I was fascinated with schools and teachers. Same with church and preachers. Same with funerals and undertakers. Anything that had an air of formality and order attracted my attention.

Sweet Serenity

I related in my last article about my aunt Fleetie and her daily review of obituaries. This has rubbed off on me, and I know I’m not alone. I have at least one friend who is younger than me who also does a daily obituary check.
Occasionally both my friend and I notice an obituary that “stands out”. It might be due to the picture of the deceased, or the length of the obituary (the longer, the more impressive, when the cost of printing an obituary is considered).

I'm Still Here

I once went to visit an elderly friend who was near death. She occasionally lapsed into sleep. As she came closer to the end, she woke from one of these small naps, looked at those of us surrounding her, and said, “I’m still here.”

Watch Those Toes!

My nephew and I took a Saturday trip this past weekend to visit the Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee. The distillery is on the National Register of Historic Places. I had been there once, probably more than ten years ago, with my brother J. C. I had forgotten a lot of what I learned from my first visit.

Color Blind?

I have been a church attender all my life. Over the years, I have served as Sunday School teacher, occasional usher, trustee and treasurer. One of the greatest honors of my life was to have once been anonymously recommended as a deacon. I did not pursue that opportunity, but I found it humbling for someone to even have considered me worthy.

In the beautiful city of the sweet forever

Is there, or was there ever, a person in your life whose presence thrilled your very being? In my life, to now, there have only been a handful. Near or at the top of my list was my great-aunt Lidia (pronounced “Liddy”) Mincey.
When I was a pre-teen Aunt Lidia would come to our house for visits. Her visits were always surprises, for she never announced her coming. She just appeared. There were times when I would come home from school and there she’d be. No matter what might have happened during the day that was disappointing, all was erased by Aunt Lidia’s presence.

Can We Talk?

Several years ago I was charged with publishing the newsletter for the Union County Education Association. One of the first tasks was to determine a title. A good teacher colleague of mine suggested Can We Talk? for the newsletter’s name. I did not think much of the suggestion, but I had no better idea, so I went with it. Little did I know that phrase was something of an American iconic statement. A Google search will inform that there is a song by that name (recorded by American R & B singer Tevin Campbell), and comedian Joan Rivers used it as a catchphrase.

Can You Relate?

“Hello, Dear Reader.” Actually, I would be more hopeful to say, “Hello, Dear Readers!” I hope there are more than one of you out there.
Many times I approach writing, as Mark Twain prolifically stated, “. . . like an envelope without any address . . .” This state is commonly called “writer’s block,” and at times it seems I have enough blocks to build a high wall. Though it might take longer, it is easier to put thoughts into words. Writing leaves lots of room for correction, though public speaking is unforgiving. I have to either speak or write, for I’m like the man Billy Wilder noted had Van Gogh’s ear for music.

The Phyllis Diller Guide to spring cleaning

I remember watching Hollywood Squares on television when I was a kid. Many of the finer details of the show are slipping into the dark area of my brain known as the distant past, but I remember the major points.
Hosted by Peter Marshall, the show was something of a game show fashioned from tic-tac-toe. Nine celebrities were seated within a gigantic tic-tac-toe framework. Two contestants competed by selecting celebrities which were asked somewhat inane questions. The contestant either agreed or disagreed with the celebrities’ answers and received credit if correct.

The Greatest Leson

For many years in the Union County schools it was common practice for teachers to teach split grades. Funds for operating the school system were not as plentiful then as now, and the current laws that govern pupil: teacher ratio had much more latitude. It was nothing unusual for an elementary teacher to have forty or more students in one classroom, and many teachers taught two grades in one classroom. Additionally, some teachers concurrently served as principals.

In the Beginning

Having been officially employed to on August 3, 1987 left very few days for mental preparation for the beginning of the school year. That was the only form of preparation I could do, as I did not even know to what grade I would be assigned. At that point, I was just thrilled to have a job.

Present the Past to the Future

When I was an undergraduate English major at Lincoln Memorial University, I took a class in Appalachian literature. One of the books we read for that course was Lee Smith’s Oral History. By definition, oral history is a study of the past relayed through the spoken, not the written, word. The transcriptions then are written down for posterity.

Have you had a 'Brownie'?

Sometimes, someone unexpected comes into your life out of nowhere, makes your heart race and changes you forever. For some, this someone is a cop. This was not true in my case (at least, not until I got my first traffic ticket).
I suppose I was a somewhat sensitive child. Occasionally I would get my feelings hurt by a sharp word of criticism or correction. Luckily, I had a true pal who never failed to comfort.

Are You an “In-y” or an “Out-y”?

People who only see me at work or church are used to seeing me wear ties. Back in the fall I was at a Union County High School football game. As my nephew and I were planning to sell Italian ice to raise funds for the Union County Lions Club at that game, I was dressed in blue jeans. Hunter Collins, the new band director, commented, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you without a tie.” I’ve known Hunter for many years through our mutual attendance at the First Baptist Church of Maynardville. Hunter had just never had the opportunity to see me outside of a church service or on a Saturday.

Driving Ms. Mary

I recently saw an episode of The Andy Griffith Show that I must have seen dozens of times. A Google search will tell you that this was Season One, Episode 13, “Mayberry Goes Hollywood”.
In that episode, the town decided to really “put on the show” for the film crew. Everybody dressed up in false finery, and the storefronts spiffed up their window displays. I never noticed it before, but the window of the funeral parlor advertised its convenient “layaway plan”.

Food! Glorious Food!

An email I received quoted Robert Orben, “Old people shouldn’t eat healthy foods. They need all the preservatives they can get.”
I suppose this statement could be debated. Charlie Sampson, my maternal grandfather, was born in 1889 and lived to be ninety-seven. For a great part of his early life he undoubtedly ate food that was grown on the farm, most likely without aid of pesticides and preserved by home canning on a wooden cookstove. My great aunt Lidia Mincey lived to be ninety-three, and I’m sure she grew up under similar circumstances.

A Silver Lining Behind Every Cloud

At the beginning of June, 1987, I was a soon-to-be twenty-two-year-old. I still had challenges with acne and weighed 120 pounds “soaking wet”. I was degreed, certified, and looking for a job.
Actually, I started that process during Christmas break of 1986. I called David F. Coppock, then Superintendent of the Union County Public School System. Mr. Coppock listened to me “pitch” myself for a job, then responded, “I guess you want to come in and fill out an application.” I replied that I wasn’t yet graduated, and he said that was fine, just to put my anticipated date of graduation and certifications.

Were Times Hard? Were Things Bad?

The traditional course of college study for undergraduates in the teacher education program for many years, including the 1980s, consisted of a four-year undergraduate program ending with a bachelor’s degree and teaching certification in a specialized area of education. Back in those days, the college academic year was divided into four quarters (including summer, each about ten weeks long), not three semesters (each about sixteen weeks long). Traditionally, the last quarter of an education major’s college career was spent student teaching.

I Remember When I Was a Lad

I remember one day at the Union County Board of Education’s Central Office Ms. Pat Baker came in. She announced she was there to fill out her retirement papers. I was most surprised. Ms. Pat said that she knew that one day she would wake up and know it was time for her to retire, and she said that was the very day.

Change and contentment

One day while scrolling Facebook an item caught my eye. It promised to reveal the two words that would be key in my life in the new year, based on my birth month.
“Why not check it out?” I thought. Though I am not a believer in astrology, curiosity caused me to discover what my two crucial words were for the future.
The first word was “change.” What a no-brainer! Every zodiac sign could legitimately have that word as a guiding star. Every life changes, not just from year to year, but from day to day. The mystery is in the nature of the change.

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