Pastor Rusty loves to write and he will periodically add funny or meaningful stories for your enjoyment. Being from Wise, he calls himself the Wise Guy and some of the stories he spins are based on true events and he calls them Old Wise Tales.
Michael J. Fox had the chance to go back in time and meet his parents as they were when they were teens in the movie “Back to the Future”. I would love to have the opportunity to do that!
I think I know who my mom was. She was a sassy girl who knew what she wanted and knew how to work the system to get just that. She also did not have to worry about people getting upset with her because she had an older brother in school with her most of her school career and two older brothers who would come to her rescue.
I can see her wearing cool skirts and plain tops, popping bubble gum and making sure everybody knew she was around. As an adult my had a way of still doing this, but it was likely different. As a teen, she probably flirted and batted her eyes to gain attention. As my mom, she wore wonderful smelling perfume and had a voice that could carry for miles. You could often hear and smell her before you were able to actually see her. So, I can see my mom as a teen.
I have a much harder time imagining my dad in his teen years. I know what he was interested in – cars. I know he liked to draw, but never pursued honing that talent. I know he was bright but was distracted by the idea of buying a car and starting his life.
There is no way this is true, but I see my dad as an Arthur Fonzarelli type (from the TV show “Happy Days”) or Danny Zuko, the lead male character in the musical “Grease”. Those guys wore white or black t-shirts under a leather jacket with jeans.
I imagine him hanging outside of school with cigarettes wrapped up in his t-shirt sleeve talking trash is other motorheads. That sounds cool, but I do not think that was the case. He liked cars, but the people who taught him about automobiles were family members, men who filled in as a father figure for my dad. His father, named Beldon, was killed in a mining accident when he was just a boy, so his older cousins and a couple of his brothers-in-law taught him some of the automotive basics.
My dad, with his interests and high school philosophy – I need a car so I can escape, would have been the opposite of the teenager I turned out to be. I liked school, not necessarily the studying, but the interaction and the opportunity to get to do new things. It was in school that I first tried speaking competitions and made it to the state finals one year. I liked being in student government and being a leader, something both of my parents balked at when I told them I had won the election to be the class president in 8th grade.
My mom’s first response was, “Why would you want to do that?”
So, when I got to high school, my tastes evolved, and I would never have been mistaken for my father. I remember the first time I turned in a preppy Christmas list.
Don’t get me wrong, my dad is a fine dresser. For a man who spent most of his adult life working in the coal industry, when he wanted to dress well, he could/still can and did/still does. I believe that he has much more dress clothing than I own, nice dress clothes, and I have worked in a professional capacity for all my adult life.
The struggle, if you would call it that, was for the kind of clothing I wanted to dress up in – I was becoming a prep.
For example, one Christmas, I was probably in the 8thgrade, the thing at the top of my wish list was a monogramed sweater. I had a hard time with monogramed sweaters because I didn’t want to use my actual three initials (FPM) because people would assume I stole it – You’re not an F, you are an R! I went with just two letters – RM.
I remember dad shaking his head and asking the age-old question, “Why in the world would you want a monogrammed sweater?”
I explained to him that it was in style and that I think they look nice. I believe that my dad looked back at me with the assumption that he likely pushed around guys who dressed like I wanted to dress.
Also, in this same period, I fell in love with corduroy Levi’s. Again, my dad could not believe his ears. His son “wanted” corduroy. I am not sure if he had ever had a conversation with anyone who wanted to wear pants with fuzzy ridges.
The final straw, the one that broke the camel’s back, was that I wanted new dress shoes. My father has always preferred a nice dress boot with an inner zipper. He looked at me like I was crazy when I requested, penny loafers! I asked for a black pair for Christmas and a brown/red pair for my birthday, just after Christmas.
“Why would you want penny loafers?” asked my mom, probably for my dad because he was so flummoxed.
“They are great dress up shoes and if you put a quarter in each of the slots, you always have change to make a call at a pay phone,” I eagerly explained.
“You are actually going to put coins in them” she continued.
“Of course, that is one of the things that make them so cool!”
Surely enough, by the end of my birthday I had completed my preppy Christmas list and every time I dressed in those clothes and shoes, my dad would look at me and wonder - where did that come from?
To ease his mind, he had a great answer – it had to come from Mary Jean’s family.
I don’t know how it started, but when I got to high school, I realized that I had been ripped off my entire life on Christmas Eve. My First Girlfriend invited me to come to Christmas dinner at her grandparents’ home and she asked me a question that blew me away – would you like turkey or ham for our dinner?
Turkey? Ham? That’s not what we ate when my family came together for Christmas.
Christmas Eve was the big day of my family growing up. We would open non-Santa presents in the afternoon and then travel to both of my grandparents’ houses. Mamaw’s house, the home of my mom’s family, was first.
It was always a spectacle. Mamaw’s outdoor decorations consisted of a string of huge multi-colored, steaming hot lights around her front door and she forgot to plug them in most of the time. Inside, the party was always loud with multiple conversations happening at the exact same time and none of them interesting to a child.
“President Carter got us into this mess and what is he doing to fix it?”
“The Raiders are the best team in the NFL for sure!”
“We are going to open a store where we sell cars, jewelry and furniture. What could go wrong?”
My cousin Marty and I, for a reason I never understood, would spend some time launching bottle rockets and firecrackers on Mamaw’s front porch. I never brought the explosives, but I was always outside watching. Scotty, Marty’s older brother, had to be in charge until we were closer to 10, but after that it was our show. Looking back, that was not a great life decision by our parents because I know that I had no idea what I was doing.
When I was inside, I tried to sit very close to the TV. The one who was closest had control of what was being watched in pre-remote-control days. Sometimes there would be sports on the tube and I would keep the volume down and pay attention to whatever game was being broadcasted.
Beside the TV was also a very safe place. It was a small house in the former Glamorgan coal camp. It was basically just four rooms in a square – living room and bedroom on the front with a kitchen, small bedroom and bathroom on the backside. So, 25 or so people milling about and carrying on conversations was not comfortable, so sitting in the front corner of the living room in front of the TV and beside the Christmas tree was an ideal spot for an excited child.
For some reason, there was not a dinner at my Mamaw’s house on Christmas Eve. Nobody ever explained why, but I have a distinct memory of what we would eat on that special night. The most traditional Christmas food of all time, wait for it. . . potted meat salad sandwiches and potato chips!
That’s right! While other families were diving into a Christmas feast, we were eating my mom’s classic and very tasty potted meat dish. All we had at that gathering was snack foods and mom always brought potted meat salad.
What is potted meat salad? You haven’t heard the latest? Here goes! Take cans of potted meat, mayo, relish and chopped up boiled eggs and mix them together until it is almost smooth. If it gets to being truly smooth, you are just eating a bunch of mayo, so the consistency should be just shy of silky.
I make fun of it now, but guess what? I would love to go back to that old, cramped house, at the bottom of a hill in Wise County and eat potted meat salad sandwiches again and again. It is a tradition that died when my mom passed away and my grandmother lived out her days in a nursing home.
You can have turkey or ham any day, but Christmas Eve was special with my mom’s high school home economics class recipe potted meat treat.
The first mission trip I went on was two years after graduation from college with a group from my fiance's school, Averett University in Danville, VA. I received permission to join a group of Baptist students, including Jennifer, to travel south and do mission work in Dania, Florida, a beach town on the Atlantic side about half-way down the coast.
I was very excited. I was 24 years old and had not been further south than South Carolina, so this was going to be my first opportunity to see the Sunshine State and I thought it was a really big deal because I was a life long Miami Dolphin fan. I was going to the home state of my favorite team!
We were partnering with a local church located on a primary thoroughfare of the area. One of the primary ministries of the church as serving as a dual home for a Romanian congregation. For a young guy from a pretty rural area, it was extremely different to worship with a huge group of people singing in a language I didn't understand. I found it very different, but even more amazing! They were singing to God in a different language that we were, but the same God was hearing us all the same. What a God He is!
I believe it was the Saturday at the end of the week when I got a message when I returned to the church telling me to call home as soon as I got the message. There were no cell phones at the time and I asked if I could use the church's phone. I called my home number and no one answered. I called me aunt, We called her Clara Belle, but she wasn't home either. The next number that came to mind was my aunt's business, so I called the third number, anxiety building by the second.
My uncle, not known for clear diction, answered with a mumble.
"This is Rusty. I was told to call home. I'm on a mission trip in Florida and I can't get anybody at home or your your house," I rambled quickly.
"I guess they are all at the hospital, Rusty," he responded.
"What happened? Who is in the hospital?"
"All I know is that Beldon (my younger brother) has been shot and he is in the emergency room. I guess everybody is at the hospital."
I was stunned at the revelation. How could a 17 year old, soon to be high school graduate, we hoped, get shot in our quiet little town?
Uncle Jerry gave me the number of the hospital from something many of you have likely never seen - a phone book. I thanked him for his help and hung up for the third time.
I was shaking a little as I dialed the number and asked for the emergency room. The ER receptionist answered with a chipper tone that I found to be a little unnerving, considering the situation.
"Wise Hospital ER, how can I help you?' she gushed into the phone.
"I was told to call here to check on my brother who was shot."
"Who are you looking for Sugar?" she asked popping HubbaBubba bubble gum in my ear.
"I'm Rusty Mullins, I am looking for . . ."
"Oh, you want to talk to Beldon's family. Hold on a sec."
The moments seemed to creep by while I listened to dead air, fearing the worst. Who would shoot Beldon? He wasn't a threat or one to challenge someone. He was a great young man that everybody respected. Where was he shot? Was he in jeopardy? Was everyone else ok?
I can't remember who it was that finally picked up, but I was not expecting their casual attitude.
I think it was Clara Belle. "Is this Rusty? How do you like Florida?"
Why would she ask me about being in Florida when my brother was lying in the hospital, probably bleeding out.
"We went down there once, but I thought it was too hot. We'd rather go to the Smoky Mountains. . ."
"Hey," I cut her off, "Jerry told me that Beldon has been shot. Is he ok?"
"Yeah, he's doing fine. He's going to be sore and he probably won't be able to sit up for a while, but he's ok."
"Can I speak to Mom?"
"Sure - Mary Jean! It's Rusty calling from Florida."
"Hey, Babes," sang the voice of my lovely mother. "Like Florida? Have you seen Mickey Mouse?"
"Mom, how is Beldon? All I know is that he was shot." I could hear sounds, odd sounds, possible ailing sounds coming from the background.
"I guess he is fine, but I'm mad at the police man," she said calmly.
What in the world was she talking about? My high school senior brother was shot by the police?
"George should know better than that," she added.
"Mom, I don't understand. What happened?"
The tale she spun shocked me and made me laugh out loud. Beldon, indeed was going to be fine.
"Sorry, Rusty, I didn't know you hadn't heard the story. Well, today is the first day of fishing season and I guess its a tradition for a bunch of people who fish out at the lake to gather around and wait for the very minute fishing season begins. The town cops go out there and they are supposed to shoot a round in the air to signal that start.
"Well, Beldon was with some of the other Explorers (police like scout group that works with the actual police) went out this morning with George to kick off the fishermen. We don't know exactly what happened next, but some have told us that George was joking with one of the other boys, pointing the gun at Beldon's butt and pretending to shoot him. George claims that when the time came, instead of holding the gun over his head, he pointed it down and fired. It was just a starter's pistol, but the metal that was welded in the barrel to keep from actually firing anything out of it was obviously loose. When George fired the gun at the ground, he says it ricochet off the ground and landed up in Beldon's bottom."
"So, let me get this straight, my 250+ pound teenage brother was shot by a town police deputy with a starter's pistol on the first day of fishing season?"
"Sounds about right," she said.
"Is that Rusty?" I heard in the background. "Here let me talk to him."
Mom handed my brother the phone and blurted out, "Hey, Rusty, I got shot. George shot me in the butt and it hurts too."
I could tell that Beldon was not fully himself, the pain killing drugs had kicked in. What followed was the last thing in the world that I expected.
In his low and loud voice I heard my normally quiet and unassuming brother begin to sing -
I've got friends in low places
Where the whiskey drowns
And the beer chases my blues away
And I'll be okay
I'm not big on social graces
Think I'll slip on down to the oasis
Oh, I've got friends in low places
Beldon continued to serenade the rest of the ER for a few moments and then managed to say, "I love you , Rusty" before mom wrangled the phone from his chubby hands.
"He'll be fine, but he is going to have to sit on a special pillow for a while. His butt is going to be sore," she reported.
"Just glad he isn't seriously hurt," I chuckled. "Next time, if I am far from home and leave me an urgent message to call home, if it's something like this be sure to add that it's not serious."
"It's serious to your brother," she concluded.
So, that is how my brother got shot in the bottom by and starter's pistol by a policeman on the first day of fishing season while I was in Florida for the fist time.
That, my friends, is and Old Wise Tale.
Currently, I serve a church that I would consider a "normal" Baptist Church. But, is there such a thing as a normal church?
By that I mean we are a part of our state convention, the original one, we interact with our local association and we have relationships with two national/international Baptist groups.
The church I grew up in was different - as I have found out, really different. Duncan Gap Freewill Baptist Church is located in Wise County, but its not that far from the Dickenson County line. As the crow flies, I imagine it is very close to the county border, but there is not a direct route. Instead, you have to wind your way around the mountain it sits upon.
The church was a part of a local group of fellow Freewill Baptist Churches, but there really was not more of a state or national group. The actual Freewill Baptist headquarters, found in Tennessee, did not see eye to eye with this southwestern Virginia/eastern Kentucky group of churches. It was literally only aligned with e handful of other churches that shared a special Appalachian root of Freewill Baptistness.
To say that it is in a rural area would be an understatement. Earlier this year, when visiting my hometown, I drove back to the church I grew up in and was amazed and how far away from town, and everything else, it really is, yet I have lots of great memories there.
When I was a child, the church had no running water or air conditioning. The "facilities" were literally outhouses behind the church. The only coolness on hot days or nights that we worshiped would be from open windows, three on each side of the small sanctuary.
Guess which of these "luxuries" were rectified first? Let's just say that it was comfortable inside until you had to use the bathroom and go outside in the heat!
My church has a budget, leadership teams, a group of deacons and several (too many?) committees that work together to allow the church to get everything accomplished. Duncan Gap WBC had a volunteer pastor, a few men who served as deacons, a treasurer and a person who served as clerk - keeping the membership of the church and all official records. My uncle Tommy was the pastor and my grandmother was the clerk until she could no longer handle the position and then it was passed to my dad.
Decisions were much easier in such an environment. I tell people now that nothing happens quickly in a church. That was not necessarily the case with my home church, which makes this true story possible.
Attendance was not great in our country church. Most worship services, held Saturday nights and Sunday mornings, had the same few dozen attenders, many of them related to me in one way or the other. Not all who attended the church lived so remotely. As a matter of fact, my grandmother had moved to "town" decades before, but all of the Mullins clan still drove to the little red brick church.
One of the people who lived on the edge of the town limits was a widow who did not drive. For her to get to church, someone had to pick her up and take her home. I believe that the person who served as her driver changed from time to time, but she was in church if at all possible.
On this particular Saturday, it was Uncle Tommy who had the job of getting the lady to worship. I can still remember the vehicle that he was probably driving at the time, an old VW Beetle that zoomed around the Wise County mountains.
So, the woman was picked up for worship by my Uncle Tommy, who was the pastor and who lived further out that the church. He also took her home afterward.
When they arrived at the small government supported apartment housing complex where she lived, Uncle Tommy reached into his jacket pocket and handed the woman a stack of money.
"The deacons and I got together before the service tonight and we felt that we should give you tonight's offering. It's not much, but I hope it helps," he said lovingly.
The woman, in her faded dress, accepted the money with tears in her eyes.
"Are you sure this is for me?"
"Yes, we just felt that we needed to do this. We appreciate you and your dedication to our church."
"How did you know?"
"I don't know what you mean," stated Uncle Tommy.
"I forgot to break the only bill I had to last the rest of the month before going to church. When it was time for the offering all I had to my name was a $20 bill. Thinking about all God has given to me I knew I just couldn't give nothing, so I put everything I had left in the plate and just prayed, 'Lord, provide' and praise Jesus He did."
When I accepted a call into the ministry I spent some time with Uncle Tommy and this is one of the stories he shared that I will never forget.
This is a true Old Wise Tale.
(Granny is on the right.)
In a crowd, she would never stand out. In fact, toward the end of her life, she was so humped over and feeble that she would have been difficult to spot in a crowd. So, her physical presence was never daunting.
The respect she commanded because of who she was (how she lived her life of faith) and who she raised her children (and grandchildren) to be, was simply incredible. Her name was Maggie, but for the time I was fortunate enough to know and deeply love her, she was Granny to everyone - not just family. When I introduced the girls I dated, I never said, "this is my grandmother Maggie." That would not work, she had earned the hallowed title of Granny. In our family that wasn't just a word we used for our female grandparent - it was an honored position that could only be filled by one person - our Granny.
Life was not easy for Granny. Both of my grandfathers were taken by the coal industry - my mom's father - Scott Porter - died of black lung after working in the mines for years. Granny's husband, Beldon - a man of great faith as well, died in a mining accident in the prime of his life. Granny was left with eight children, two of them still very young, to raise while living miles away from "town" and unable to drive herself.
I don't know the whole story about how she did it, but she moved her family from Duncan Gap to town so she could work, buy the necessities and have access to health care. The job that she landed was perfect for her - she was a lunch lady at the elementary school in town during the time where all the meals were actually prepared at the school, not warmed and served like most do today.
Before she retired, I had the opportunity to have lunch at that school at a time when both of my grandmothers were working in the cafeteria. That was special.
She managed to raise all eight children, provide for them and get them started in their lives. She must have done a great job because all of the children have lived productive lives and now have families who also have productive lives. For all the negative stereotypes of our section of Appalachia, our strand of the Mullins line have overcome them all. All three sons have had long careers, owned their own businesses and raised hard working children. The five women have also done wonderfully for themselves - two of them working for the local coal company that employed many of our family, another who worked many years in an insurance office and has now retired and the other two had an incredibly successful home cleaning business.
Only one of the eight finished college, but all were successful in their own way. If you ask them, any of them, why they turned out so different than other families in similar circumstances, I can say with great confidence that they would all say - "It was Granny."
In my last OWT, I told about the church I grew up in from an infant until my college years. It was in Duncan Gap Freewill Baptist Church that I got to see how much Granny really was respected.
As I mentioned before, Granny was not a driver and she lived in town which meant that she was miles away from our home church. In order for her to get to church, normally one of her children would have to pick her up and then take her home afterward. That, for a long time, seemed to fall to my Aunt Anna. Anna lived close to Granny and she was a devoted attender. Anna, however, I think most would say, ran on her own time. I guess that it could have been Granny's fault some of the time when running late for church, but Granny would have never admitted to that. So, Anna was regularly a few, if not several, minutes late.
Granny had her seat in the church. It did not have her name on it, but it is where she sat every time we worshiped. I can still see her sitting there, her dark eyes cast toward the pulpit. That's another little tidbit of Granny - she had darker skin than most. She kept a pretty good tan year around, something my father and I carry on. My face is not as dark as Granny, but my arms remain tanned looking all the time, something my daughters hate (why can't I be like that?). Some say that is because she had Cherokee in her blood line. I don't know for sure, but her family is much more difficult to trace.
Back to respect. She sat in the front seat, to the far right of the pulpit (when standing in the pulpit). Sometimes when she wasn't there, one of two adult men, I believe they were both deacons at the time, would ease up and sit in her seat.
As a child, I found things to pay attention to in church other than the music or the message, and this was one of my favorites. There would be days where I knew that Granny was not coming to church, so I would not pay attention to who bothered to sit in her place on the front pew, but on the days that I was confident that Anna was just running late I would sit and watch the situation unfold.
Many times, we would be 15 minutes into the service and one of the men would have decided to sit in Granny's seat until the back door opened and you could see the smallish woman with the teased grey hair walk through the door. It was funny to watch the men scramble if they saw her come in the door, but it was more fun to see what happened if they hadn't moved until she got to the pew! Men in their 50's, I'm guessing, would blush and turn away, trying to find a way to gracefully give Granny her seat back.
These "leaders of the church" had so much respect for Granny that they stumbled over themselves to allow her to sit in her seat of choice. She never had to say anything, she just emitted an air of respect because of who she was and how she had lived her life.
I would love for others to see me with a tenth of that respect!
This, my friends, is a true Old Wise Tale.
My mother was a goofball and she came from a family of goofballs, some of which I may tell you about later. She was originally Mary Jean Porter but took the common Wise County last name of Mullins when she wed my father, Freddie.
The Mullins last name is very prominent in my home area. I graduated with a class of 160ish in 1987 from J.J. Kelly High School and I believe 10 of us had the last name of Mullins, by far the most popular name in the class. While 10 of us actually had the name, I can virtually guarantee that there were dozens who could claim some Mullins relation.
Back to the story. My mom, who liked to refer to herself as "Mean Mary Jean", was the exact opposite of that nickname. Nobody could meet my mom and not fall in love with her - for all kinds of reasons. She was sweet, caring and extremely funny, especially when she wasn't trying to be funny.
She had sayings that I did not find odd, because I heard them all my life, but after getting out of the bubble that was our house, I realized that she simply had her own language that she only shared with her sister - Clara Gay. They could talk, just jabber, and understand each other perfectly. If you were not raised listening to them, you would have no idea what they were saying. Girls I introduced to the family, not that many, but all I did, were fascinated with how Mom and Clara Gaye communicated. Two of the young ladies were raised in the same area and had a similar background, but were in awe watching and listening to the two sisters talk. When she was just talking she was not trying to be funny, but so often she was. It was just a part of my mom.
She had the best laugh and when she got started it took a long time for her to stop. Her laugh was also contagious. She could change the mood in a room with her presence and she could transform the moment if she began to laugh, which is very important to this Old Wise Tale.
I do not know some of the specifics, but I remember that my brother, Beldon, and Mom were supposed to get a vehicle with a manual transmission from one place to the other. My brother was still young at this time, I think he had just gotten his driver's license. Beldon was learning how to drive a "stick shift" vehicle and wanted the practice, so he jumped into the car that needed to be moved and Mom followed him in her car.
Things seemed to be going fine until they got to a stop sign that was on an incline. For those of you who are not familiar with Wise County, there are inclines everywhere and those who drive cars with manual transmissions have to be pretty good at using the clutch or you will drift back and hit the car behind you. It's easy to burn up a clutch with all the hills that you have to be able to shift going up, and down.
Try as he might, Beldon was unable to pull out with the stick shift. Finally, he put the parking break on, hopped out of the car and walked to Mom and told her the problem. Mom, being the super woman she was, agreed to trade places.
She tried and tried. Each time she would try to get to the sweet spot of releasing the clutch and giving the engine gas, the car would cut off - the tern for that, I was told, was a "green horn".
Then, all of the sudden, Beldon sitting behind her waiting for her to get the car to go, noticed that she stopped trying and she was making exaggerated motions - something she was good at. He jumped out of the car and ran to see if there was something wrong.
When he looked in the driver's side window, he could tell she was not having a medical emergency. The reason she was making the exaggerated motions was that she was laughing so hard. Beldon looked at her and asked, "Why are you laughing Mom?"
After a pause, and she had a chance to catch her breath, she looked up at him with her brown eyes and said, "I was getting so frustrated that I started laughing and when I got to laughing I just couldn't stop and I made a puddle in the seat and in the floor and I have no idea how we are going to get this car to your dad."
So, the frustration led to laughing and the laughing led to Mom tinkling while sitting behind the wheel of the car that she couldn't manage to drive on an incline.
I don't remember how they finally get that vehicle to where it was supposed to go, but I do remember that the people who helped were not laughing at the time.
My Mom actually wore that episode and a badge of honor and would tell people, "Don't get me started laughing, I might pee on myself. I laughed so hard I peed in a car the other day."
Needless to say, Mom drove an automatic car until Jesus called her home nearly 20 years ago now.
I love my Mom.
That, my friends, is a true Old Wise Tale.
I never thought of myself as a politician, but when during orientation I heard there would be an election for class president for the 8th graders, I felt a tug. I got the application, got the needed signatures and sweated all day on that August school day even though I was running unopposed.
When I was named 8th grade class president during the afternoon announcements, I was elated. I had won my first election.
I enjoyed the leadership position and was excited to run again in the 9th grade, but the young lady who had won the vice-president election in 8th grade, decided to challenge me the next year. Much to my excitement, I won my first contested election defeating "Grandma" Valerie Sipple Breeding.
I lost for the first time, again to "Gradma", in the 10th grade and I thought my world would end! I had never lost and I was devastated. I bounced back to be 11th grade president and was ready to run for the school's executive council.
I decided not to run for student body president because I had watched people who had been in student government every year, lose the top spot to a fellow classmate who was more popular, so I readjusted my goal and ran for the executive council Secretary. I would be pleased with that.
I was not happy when I heard that "Grandma" was also running for Secretary of the executive council! The only person who had defeated me in my grade was also running for the office I thought would be much easier to win - not cool.
It was our school tradition for those running for the executive committee make speeches to the student body. The year before I had made a speech over the loud speaker system before losing in a run-off to a cheerleader who was a year ahead of me. This year, it was decided to have an assembly of the whole school where all the people running for school-wide office would have the opportunity to stand up and make their pitch. I fully intended to use that to my advantage.
In high school, one of my things was public speaking. I doubt many of my high school friends would have been shocked when I entered the pastor role. I was not going to be nervous when standing in front of my peers and I thought that a good speech could win the election I had been aiming for the last four years. I was sure some of the others would be more nervous and I also thought I could slip in a few jokes while I was at the podium - something I also loved to do.
The night before the day of the speeches, I was sitting in my bedroom trying to figure out the things I wanted to say and the things I should say. I was worried about Valerie on a school-wide contest because although some playfully called her "Grandma" she was actually a very pretty girl and a leader in many ways in our school. There were others running, but the only one I thought had a legitimate chance to beat me was Valerie, so I decided to attempt to rock the school with my opening statement.
On the morning of the speeches I was very impressed with how my friends had dressed up. I intentionally didn't overdress. Instead, I decided to wear a red and white striped sweater (our school colors) and a pair of Levi's (it was 1986, after all).
Two other young ladies had already made their speeches for the role of Secretary before I strolled to the podium. They had done fine, but nobody was going to remember a word they said. The same was not going to be able to be said about me.
I stood behind the podium, dropped my notecards and put on a bright smile, still displaying a gap between my two front teeth at the time (something that has been fixed with dental work over the years).
I simply said, "I may not be the cutest candidate for the job," intentionally paused and looked over my shoulder at Valerie then back to the 800 or so fellow J.J. Kelly High School students, and concluded, "then again, maybe I am."
The room erupted in laughter and it was hard to finish my speech. Valerie who went next, was not heard at all. I won by a landslide!
If you have ever wondered who it was that made it necessary for the school administration to check all school speeches beforehand, it may have very well been because of little old me.
That, my friends, is another true Old Wise Tale.