Slipping Off From Chores To Learn From The Best

The day after the Fourth of July, I spent the afternoon in our local theater watching a movie I had been waiting on for sometime. The movie was The Lone Ranger starring Johnny Depp as Tonto and Armie Hammer as The Lone Ranger. I would have to say it was not The Lone Ranger of days gone by, but it was sort of what I expected and it entertained me on a rainy afternoon. The thing about the movie was how it returned me back to some memories of my Uncle Rob and something he said once about The Lone Ranger.                          

My Great Uncle Rob was a person who lived life somewhat in the past. He never owned a TV, his bathroom consisted of a path out back, and he spent his days hunting and trapping. However, his way of thinking was, “I’ll leave you alone if you leave me alone.” He didn’t care for government programs or a handout. He grew his own meat, vegetables and considered the first five rows of corn on the side of the road as public property.

He would often say to me, “Tell me what you need and I’ll tell you how to get along without it.” And that is exactly what he did.  He got along without a lot of things and seemed to enjoy life just as much as anyone.  When he died, there was very little for others to argue over, not a whole lot to preach to the mourners about and numerous funny and fond memories of a man who did very little to muddy the water in that day’s world.

He did cause a great nephew, which was I, to long for the opportunities once again of slipping off from the house to go sit on his porch when the great nephew should have been doing his chores. But Uncle Rob was a folk hero to that kid, and all these years after his death, he still has somewhat of an influence.

Some of his advice included many things he had read from stacks of “Progressive Farmer” and  “Time” magazines that filled one room in his old, gray, weather boarded house. Most of those magazines came from fund raising drives I was involved in with FFA, along with many others given to him from neighbors who had finished reading them.  He considered that back room his library and never threw one of those magazines away.  You could go by his house at night and see him sitting in his rocker by the single lamp in his front room reading through the yellowed pages of back issues of “Progressive Farmer.”  Not that he was going to apply any of the new farming techniques demonstrated in the magazines to his old exhausted rocky farm, but it kept him educated on how to talk to others about what was going on in modern farming of those days.

One time during a visit, he showed me a quote in an old, well-worn “Readers Digest” that said, “Never argue with an idiot. They drag you down to their level, then beat you with experience.”  I can still see him smiling, somewhat inwardly, and telling me, “Pet, that is some good advice that you need to remember.”  To this day, that aged advice has caused me to not answer and even walk away from several people during many discussions. If you have had a conversation with me lately and I didn’t answer you, please do not take offense. Sometimes I do not answer because I’m thinking. I guess you have to be the one to decide which motive best fits my reaction to your discussion.

It sure is amazing what affect some individuals may have on us when we are growing up. I spent a lot of time around older people and still enjoy their company since now I’m one of the flock.  While attending a festival recently, I met a friend whom I had not seen for quite a while. She told me her mother really enjoyed my column and was with her sitting in a lawn chair not too far from where we were talking. She asked me if I would meet her since she was such a fan of mine. Feeling somewhat overwhelmed and getting a big-head from the compliment, I told her I would be glad to meet her mother.  After she introduced me to her mother, the nice, little gray-haired lady in her eighties looked at her daughter and said, “This can’t be Pettus Read. The way he writes he must be at least eighty years old!”

How quickly we can be lowered from greatness to a below-average individual. However, as Uncle Rob once quoted from one of his old magazines, “When confronted by a difficult problem, you can solve it more easily by reducing it to the question, ‘How would the Lone Ranger handle this?'”

And I did just that. I bit down on my silver bullet and immediately turned the situation over to my friend, who could have been Tonto, and left the area saying, “Hi-Yo, Silver! Away!”  And I wasn’t talking about my hair either!                                              


– Pettus L. Read is Director of Communications for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation.  He may be contacted by e-mail at