When the telephone rang, I knew who it was. It was Skeeter Skates. The phone just sounds different when he calls. He can be intimidating, even to a telephone.
For those of you who may be new to this space, Skeeter Skates is the owner of the eponymous Skeeter Skates Plow Repair and Stump Removal in Ryo, Georgia, only never use the word “eponymous” when talking to him. He doesn’t like big words.
“Hoss,” Skeeter barked, “What’s all this stuff about you having written up a bunch of fancy columns? Folks here in Ryo was talking about it at coffee the other morning, like it was some kind of big deal.”
I told Skeeter that I had just published my 1,000th syndicated column. I’m sure that is what they were referring to.
“Well, I guess I ought to be congratulating you,” he said, “but that don’t sound like much of a big deal to me. You take apart a DR PRO XL Stump Grinder with an 11.7 HP engine, 19.6 foot-pounds of gross torque and tungsten carbide-tipped grinding teeth and put it all back together and then you will have done something worth bragging about.”
I said maybe I couldn’t do that but that I had made some very important contributions to society as an influential newspaper columnist. I am proud to say that I had helped mold public opinion on some of society’s most critical issues over the past two decades.
“Hoss, let me ask you a question,” Skeeter interrupted, “In all that time you’ve been molding public opinion on some of society’s most critical issues, did you ever get any grease under your fingernails or calluses on your hand?”
I told him I did not. Although when I first started writing, I had an electric typewriter and always seemed to get my hands smudged replacing the ribbon. Now that I am using a computer, there is the possibility of carpal tunnel syndrome and I occasionally take an aspirin to ward off the discomfort. I want Skeeter Skates to understand that writing columns is not as easy as I make it look.
“Have you ever changed the carburetor in a 208cc Briggs and Stratton engine on a Yardmax YT4565 Dual Rotating Rear Tine Tiller,” he asked, knowing what the answer would be. No, I said. You don’t need to know a lot about carburetors to mold public opinion.
“Maybe you should,” he said. “Folks might take you a lot more seriously if you dropped in some carburetor talk, like what a float chamber does or choke valves, instead of always running on about politics.”
Now it was my turn to scoff. I said it was my keen understanding of the political environment, not carburetors, that had earned me my reputation as a molder of public opinion.
“If you are so important,” he said, “how come you can’t stop that ol’ orange-haired boy who is supposed to be running the country up in Washington from spending so much time insulting everybody and picking fights with that bunch of weenies in Hollywood?”
I said the president doesn’t listen to me and to please not use the term “weenies” because that gets me in trouble with liberal weenies who don’t like to be referred to as — well — weenies.
“And what about that big-shot politician over in Blue Ridge who calls himself a lawyer but is so busy running around raising money to get himself reelected, he ain’t got time to get to the courtroom?’’ Skeeter inquired. “Have you molded some public opinion about that?” I’m trying, I said, but he has a lot of friends in high places.
“You ain’t in a high place?” Skeeter asked. “I thought you was influential and all that other stuff you was bragging about.”
I am influential, I protested, but when you are always battling the possibility of carpal tunnel syndrome, molding public opinion can take more time than one might imagine.
Skeeter said, “Hoss, let’s face it. You are writing a bunch of stuff nobody is paying much attention to. Unlike the plow repair and stump grinding profession, what you do is about as relevant as a turnip. Now, if you will excuse me, I’ve got to get back to work. Since I moved my eponymous enterprise to Ryo, I’ve got more business than I can shake a Toro-compatible stump tooth at.” With that he hung up.
I am irrelevant? Skeeter Skates is eponymous? Well, knock me over with a four-barrel carburetor dash pot!