March 21, 2024

‘Sometimes I sits and thinks, sometimes I just sits’


            Althea Poppell, Barbara Bilfelt, Mildred Jones, Gussie Richardson, Sara James, Ila Warren and Nanelle Bacon had something in common. My early educators didn’t know about ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder). Instead, my first seven teachers knew that I had AIP.

            What’s that?

             I can hear Nanelle Bacon right now.

            “Good Lord, son, you have ants in your pants (AIP)!”

            She was just announcing what my other teachers already knew. That was 1960, and I still have trouble sitting still.

Hyperactivity is why I flunked my retirement in 2021. After 65 days, I had to address my squirming. The remedy was founding a nonprofit and helping rescue a 148-year-old newspaper before it fell into its grave. For 28 months, I’ve been working harder for free than during my final years of receiving a paycheck.

Now The Oglethorpe Echo is thriving, thanks to a partnership with UGA’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, a super-smart staff, and a team of eager volunteers. I will never totally disconnect myself from the newspaper. But now, I just don’t have to be the first one in the office or the last one to leave.

If you think that I’m going to actually retire, I won’t. Somewhere out there, something has my name on it besides doing farm chores until sundown. Attending the games and activities of eight grandchildren will always be a high priority and a fun “something.”

A.A. Milne’s character Winnie-the-Pooh mused, “Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits.” While I’ve been “sits-ing” and thinking, I created a short list of now-that-I-have-some-extra-time possibilities:

1. Twenty-six years ago, I took piano lessons. I wanted to see whether I could make music from the 88 keys before I was 50. I could—a little—but never for public listening. This time, I’d like to learn some “hot licks.” I loved watching gospel pianist Ray Lane make his upright piano jump. I once traveled to Mississippi to see Jerry Lee Lewis shuffle to his Yamaha grand and make it do “a whole lotta shakin’.” If I could live to 100, I might be able to play “Great Balls of Fire.” But I would have to do a whole lotta practicin’.

2. Ditto for the harmonica. Eric, our younger son, and I once spent a week at a blues camp in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Eric got to be good. I made our dogs dive under the couch. Now that the dogs are resting in peace, I dream about playing the “Orange Blossom Special.” But I might have to live to 105.

3. Juggling fascinates me. Years ago, I bought a teach-yourself-how-to-juggle kit. I read the book and watched the video. A couple of hours of that reminded me of the old Brylcreem jingle: “A little dab’ll do ya.” A little dab of that $9.95 investment didn’t pay off. Guess work got in the way, again.

4. Whistling is another intriguing skill. A few of God’s children are world-class whistlers. The rest of us just make silly noises. I’ve known people who could hook their pinkies in their mouths and call their dogs from three blocks away. I’d like to call my mule, Maggie, to the gate for her apple. If someone could teach me that shrill roll-your-tongue whistle in one afternoon, I’d pay $100. Any takers?

Meanwhile, you might ask, “Why don’t you take Winnie-the-Pooh’s advice and just ‘sits’?”

I can’t.


Seven teachers knew.

I was born with ants in my pants.