Each day tries to learn us something

If the school year were a dog and the first day of school was its head and the last day was its tail, you’d be picking it up right behind its front legs about now. You’ve got a good, safe grip on it, but there’s a lot of dog left hanging down.

October, which rivals May (for different reasons) as the best month of the year, is soured by only two things: one is that winter and cold is coming, and the other is that, for the young student, there’s lots and lots of school year left.

That is not a bad thing once you get older and develop an appreciation for how quickly time passes and how lucky you were to be able to go to school. But who cares for such drivel when you’re a teenager?

Once you get out of school you learn that, secretly, you never really leave. You’re always learning something, whether you want to or not, which would be learning things the hard way. Examples:

“Yes, your honor, I understand!”

“Oh, so if my card is declined, that means there’s no money in the account?”

“I don’t know, doctor. I guess it was that 12th pork chop. Or the third bowl of Blue Bell.”

There’s a trick in just learning how to learn. My dad says that on the first day of school, they taught him that two plus two three equals four, and then on the next day they told him that one plus three equals four, and he decided right then that if they didn’t even know what equals four, how was HE supposed to ever know?

But once teachers coach you up, show you there’s more than one way to skin a cat, you realize the world is your classroom. Some of the smartest people you’ll ever meet got that way without having many documents to frame and hang on the wall.

Often a friend named Gene writes me, which I’m thankful for because he is old school, born in an oilfield company house near a wide spot in the highway in Depression era- Garfield County, Oklahoma.

When he was in elementary school, his family rented the first floor of a house owned by a gentleman named Whitey Liddard. He lived upstairs and owned a nearby café where Gene’s father worked as a short-order cook. Whitey had barely a third-grade education, but he was a Rhodes Scholar when it came to running an oilfield-town café.

One day a young customer came in to celebrate his high school education, the first diploma earned by a member of his family.

“He proudly displayed the new diploma for Whitey’s inspection,” Gene said. “Whitey looked it over, front and back, then handed it back to the graduate.

“Now that’s a fine thing to have,” Whitey said. “Just don’t let it keep you from learning something.”

Hearing that from a wise man like Whitey Liddard kept Gene modest as he went through both high school and college, even on to some graduate work. “I still try to ‘learn something’ every day,” he said.

True, some things will remain forever a mystery. Why, for instance, is the word panties plural and the word bra singular? Think about it. Or not.

Why do we eat nuts out of socks in front of a dead tree in our dens in December? Why is “contraction” such a long word?

The older I get, the more I understand that “I don’t know” when I really don’t know is a mighty handy answer.

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu

(Ran originally 10-21-2012)