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Birney Imes: At the corner of Main and Market


Birney Imes



Good thing no one was standing on the southwest corner of Main and Market Friday morning around 11:30. A miracle really. 


That was about the time a man police identified as James Poster attempted to turn left from Main onto Market and rammed a light pole about 15 feet from the front door of the Fashion Barn instead. 


At the time of the crash, Fashion Barn owner Homer Beaty was having lunch across the street with Bill Strauss and Frank Howell at Cafe on Main. Though the men had a window seat, none of them saw the car hit the pole. Beaty says he looked up and saw all the commotion. 


Beaty's daughter Shilo Goodman, who was standing behind the counter in the store, heard it though and ran outside. 


Poster's black Chevy Tahoe was wrapped around a light pole and he was pinned in the vehicle. A woman in a purple and black shirt got out of the passenger side. The woman told Shilo the driver was her dad, but when she heard a Fashion Barn customer calling 911, the woman decided to let dad fend for himself. She fled the scene. 


When I passed through the intersection just before noon, around 50 to 100 folks, most of them with their phones in front of their faces were taking pictures as rescuers pried loose Poster from his crumpled vehicle. 


As it happened Howell had been standing on the corner minutes earlier. As often as not someone is on that corner waiting to cross the street. The light pole, which feels as though it's made from 3/8-inch thick steel, was scratched, but not dented. The metal trash behind it didn't fare as well. 


"I guess they were thinking we're putting in a drive-thru," Beaty said later. 




Snakes and sunflowers 


Saturday morning the grandkids and I were out in the backyard looking under rocks for snakes when Kenny Lang pedaled by. At this stage of their lives, snake hunting is their favorite outdoor pastime when visiting our house. The snakes we "hunt" are garter snakes, hardly more than oversized earthworms. 


As it happens Kenny was patrolling for aluminum cans when he noticed the giant sunflower next to our curb, a victim of the recent winds. Kenny stopped, produced a box cutter and started cutting the sunflower blooms off the plant. 


"The birds love these," Kenny announced. "Gotta feed the birds." 


Kenny handed us blooms from one of my sunflowers and told us to spread the seeds on the sidewalk, which we did. 




Rote learning 


A friend this week said a prof at Miss. State recently told her it is obvious which of her students graduated from public schools. They have more difficulty with problem solving and reasoning, she said. 


Is anyone surprised? In our obsession to improve standardized test scores, we're not teaching kids to think analytically. And due to budget constraints we're taking away the things that do, art, music, drama, field trips. 


Charlie Mitchell wrote about it in a column we published Wednesday.  




Once the facts or skills are defined at the state level, it becomes a teacher's mission to make sure students can regurgitate facts or demonstrate skills on machine-scored exams. The four-letter word for this type of learning is rote. It works like call-and-response in church. 


Under this approach to teaching and testing, there is no development (or less development) and no measurement (or less measurement) of reasoning or problem-solving skills. 


The abilities of students to figure things out is not developed as thoroughly. Think about it this way. A good rote learner can be great at replacing a defective car part with speed and precision. But rote skills alone are not useful in determining what part needs replacing. That requires analytical ability. 




It's a dangerous trend. We're fast becoming a nation of lemmings with cell phones. We must nurture independent and creative thinking. It's the source of our greatness as a nation. And to the extent we have it will determine the quality of our future.  




Remembering Molly 


Speaking of independent thinkers, the Aug. 30 version of the Writer's Almanac had this remembrance of Molly Ivins: 




It's the birthday of the journalist and humorist who said, "The thing about democracy, beloveds, is that it is not neat, orderly, or quiet. It requires a certain relish for confusion." Molly Ivins (books by this author), born in Monterey, Calif. (1944), and raised in Houston, Texas. She went to Smith and to Columbia's School of Journalism and spent years covering the police beat for the Minneapolis Tribune (the first woman to do so) before moving back to Texas, the setting and subject of much of her life's writing. In a biographical blurb she wrote about herself for a Website, she proclaimed, "Molly Ivins is a nationally syndicated political columnist who remains cheerful despite Texas politics. She emphasizes the more hilarious aspects of both state and national government, and consequently never has to write fiction." 


Ivins especially liked to poke fun at the Texas Legislature, which she referred to as "the Lege." She gave George W. Bush the nickname "Shrub" and also referred to him as a post turtle (based on an old joke: The turtle didn't get there itself, doesn't belong there, and needs help getting out of the dilemma). She had actually known President Bush since they were teenagers in Houston.  


She poked fun at Democrats, too, and said about Bill Clinton: "If left to my own devices, I'd spend all my time pointing out that he's weaker than bus-station chili. But the man is so constantly subjected to such hideous and unfair abuse that I wind up standing up for him on the general principle that some fairness should be applied. Besides, no one but a fool or a Republican ever took him for a liberal." Clinton later said that Molly Ivins "was good when she praised me and painfully good when she criticized me." 


Her fiery liberal columns caused a lot of debate in Texas, with newspaper readers always writing in to complain. One time, she wrote about the Republican congressman from Dallas: "If his IQ slips any lower we'll have to water him twice a day." It generated a storm of controversy, and the paper she wrote for decided to use it to their advantage, to boost readership. They started placing advertisements on billboards all over Dallas that said, "Molly Ivins can't say that ... can she?" She used the line as the title of her first book (published in 1991). 


She went on to write several best-selling books, including Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush -- which was actually written and published in 2000, before George W. Bush had been elected to the White House. Ivins later said, "The next time I tell you someone from Texas should not be president of the United States, please, pay attention." 


Molly Ivins died of breast cancer in 2007 at the age of 62. She once wrote: "Having breast cancer is massive amounts of no fun. First they mutilate you; then they poison you; then they burn you. I have been on blind dates better than that." 


Molly Ivins once said: "I am not anti-gun. I'm pro-knife. Consider the merits of the knife. In the first place, you have to catch up with someone in order to stab him. A general substitution of knives for guns would promote physical fitness. We'd turn into a whole nation of great runners. Plus, knives don't ricochet. And people are seldom killed while cleaning their knives." 




Adopt a soldier 


An invitation to a 6-year-old's birthday party this week asked that we bring gifts for a U.S. soldier serving overseas instead of the birthday boy. The 6-year-old will be packing up the gifts and mailing them to his soldier "friend."  


The program is called adopt a soldier. What a good idea. For more on this program, go to 


Birney Imes is the publisher of The Dispatch. E-mail him at [email protected] 











Birney Imes III is the immediate past publisher of The Dispatch.


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