Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas


April 9, 2014

Uncle Mort: For the Birds

Corsicana — Personal experiences racked up across three-quarters of a century — including yips and yaps at lecterns spanning five decades — offer positive proof that many times, utter silence is preferable to spoken words.

I was reminded of this age-old truth the other day when my Uncle Mort called. Upon his mention of a new-found interest in ornithology, the call — received in the morning hours of April 1 — likely meant my 101-year-old relative was up to his old tricks — “spoofing it up” on April Fools’ Day.

Interrupting him was as tempting as a clearance sale on banana splits, a promise of bonus airline miles, or biggest-ever senior citizen discounts. Assuming this was his annual big joke for the holiday, it was little short of miraculous that I remained silent.

Maybe I was stunned to hear Uncle Mort pronounce “ornithology” with both clarity and unbridled excitement. What sparked this new-found interest in birds? It couldn’t have involved “tweeting,” since he stated that if God had intended us to “tweet,” we’d all look like “Tweety Bird.”

Perhaps his mind was jarred with the long-ago memory of Mr. Wallace Wimple, the little mush-mouthed guy on Fibber McGee and Molly’s radio show. (Wimple, always the patient listener, worked in mentions of his every-present “bird book.” A standard line on each episode: “That ain’t the way I heerd it, Johnny.”) Or maybe Mort was prepping me for the old story of two buzzards, flying lazily aloft on a hot summer day. One of the buzzards said, “Patience, heck, let’s kill sumthin’.” Another possibility involved the two feisty magpies in “Heckle and Jeckle” cartoons seen in olden days at the picture show. Or, maybe Sesame Street’s “Big Bird” was in play.

Okay, I admit it — my mind was largely in neutral when Uncle Mort said his interest centers specifically on crows, and how they’ve developed New England accents. I was hooked, eager for him to fill in several additional blanks.

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