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Birney Imes: Pigs and bowling balls


Birney Imes



On the way to work Monday morning I stopped to commiserate with my gardening buddy Linda Spearing. A freeze over the weekend zapped what was left of many of our summer plants. 


I hollered and Linda came out. As we talked we drifted toward her backyard for a quick look at her latest gardening exploits. 


That's when I saw the bowling balls. She had painted one of them silver; the other was unpainted. My friend said she planned to paint them and put them in her garden somewhere. 


While I've seen a lot of extraordinary things incorporated into gardens -- hubcaps, car fenders, bathtubs, painted tires -- I can't say I've seen bowling balls. 


I had to ask. 


"Daddy used to raise pigs," Linda explained. "Somewhere we heard pigs like to play with bowling balls. We got 'em for the pigs." 


"Well, did they enjoy them?" I asked. 


"Yeah, they rolled them around," she said. 


As Aunt Sarah used to say, "Well, I'll vow." 


Anyone interested in words should subscribe to A.Word.A.Day. It's free and there are always wonderful usage examples and quotes each day. Recently the word was "icarian," which has its roots in the story of Icarus, the Greek god who made wings from feathers and melted beeswax and who flew so close to the sun the wax melted and he fell to Earth. 


The word is used to describe overwhelming ambition or the effects of such. The example given was from a review of the film "Man on Wire," a documentary about Philippe Petit's amazing 1974 high-wire walk between the World Trade Towers: 


"But the film is a warning about flying too high. Philippe Petit may have succeeded in the high wire walk, but he suffers an Icarian fall in his personal life." 


Speaking of wax, a friend reported that Anthropologie, the frou-frou chain specializing in women's apparel and home furnishings sells a candle made by Aspen Bay of Starkville. That's a big thing, one would think. It's the Capri line. Aspen Bay has a store on Main Street in Starkville, which this time of year I'm betting stays packed. 


And speaking of downtown Starkville, we had a great time riding on our float, which also doubles as Glenn Miller's pontoon boat, Tuesday night in the Christmas parade.  


Thanks to Rockey Felker, once MSU quarterback, now coach, who rode on our float. Rockey was wearing a cool, though considering the temperature, inadequate, MSU letter jacket. About halfway through the parade I decided I needed a Santa hat and offered Rockey my knit cap. He took it without hesitation. 


Had he lived Mark Twain would have been 187 years old Friday. The Writer's Almanac -- another email available daily -- had a long piece about the writer's life. It described in detail Twain's 70th birthday party at Delmonico's, a swanky New York restaurant. Twain, perhaps the most quoted American, made a speech comparing his 70th birthday with his first, saying that his 70th was far superior: 


"I remember the first one very well, and I always think of it with indignation," said Twain. "Everything was so crude, unaesthetic, primeval. ... Why, even the cradle wasn't whitewashed -- nothing ready at all. I hadn't any hair, I hadn't any teeth, I hadn't any clothes." He said, "I have achieved my 70 years in the usual way: by sticking strictly to a scheme of life which would kill anybody else." Then he proceeded to explain the lifestyle that had gotten him there, which included eating mince-pie after midnight; smoking at all times when he was awake (including in bed); avoiding exercise at all costs; and living what he called "a severely moral life." He ended his speech: "I am 70; 70, and would nestle in the chimney corner, and smoke my pipe, and read my book, and take my rest, wishing you well in all affection, and that when you in your turn shall arrive at pier No. 70 you may step aboard your waiting ship with a reconciled spirit, and lay your course toward the sinking sun with a contented heart." 


May you have a contented heart this holiday season.


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


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