Poet, my friend who reigns supremely in the Mississippi Delta, has few complaints, so when he voiced one the other day, I was not only surprised, I was astounded. Particularly when I heard what was troubling him.
While there are those who have questioned Poet’s serious commitment to a life of hard work – I have on occasion been one of those – he has stepped up to a commitment to public service. The fine folks in his small town have elected him to various and sundry positions over the years until they saw fit to make him ruler of all. He is now the mayor.
He reigns with a gentle but dedicated hand, though he is ruthless when it comes to slashing budgets.
“I shall not allow unnecessary money to be squandered,” he declares.
His complaint is that now he is a town’s mayor, folks – like me – introduce him by his given name and then ceremoniously announces, “He’s the mayor of his hometown back in Mississippi.” He was grumbling at length about it. He had even been in Argentina on a hunting trip and found that his diplomatic service had trailed him to Buenos Aires and labeled him as a politician.
“Why on earth does that bother you?” I asked, knowing I was as guilty as anyone of such treachery.
“I’m indignant!” he railed. “I have before and behind me so many more notable accomplishments.”
I could have been nice. Instead, I was realistic. I threw back my head and laughed heartily. “Notable accomplishments? Like what?”
“I would much prefer to be known as a renowned adventurer and man-about-town.”
I laughed harder. “So, that’s how you want people to introduce you?”
“Absolutely. It’s a much more accurate indication of my personality and the exciting scale of my life.”
Come to think about it, Poet is the Southern man’s answer to Ernest Hemingway. While he has never traveled to a foreign land to cover a country’s civil war as Hemingway did in Spain or been an expatriate, Poet is constantly on the move.
No day holds him hostage to a mundane foray through 24 hours of dull and uninteresting. Instead, his days are packed with hours of rambling along miles of byways and back roads. He has a child’s sense of wonderment and an insatiable curiosity.
Honestly, I find that tremendously appealing about my friend. I like people who refuse to be backed into normal when abnormal is their norm.
Each morning, Poet, the scion of a cotton fortune, rises and determines where life and his red, Delta dusty truck will take him that day. When his grandmother suddenly turned ill, the hired help began a search for Poet to call him back from wherever he was.
“Where were you?” I asked.
“Aw, I was out roaming the countryside.”
“Of course, you were.”
When Poet found himself unwillingly stranded at my house for what amounted to him as “house arrest” for four days because a broken-down Ford truck had put a temporary halt to his rambling, he was like a feral cat that had been caged. He stopped short of scratching at the front door, begging for release.
It was also the occasion to which Poet was exposed to something unfamiliar to his lifestyle – hard work.
Each morning, he rose lazily, consumed cups of coffee which he drank while he sat on the back porch swing. Through the day, he settled on the sofa and watched financial news while I carried on with business as usual. On the third day, he looked up from the living room and watched, amused, as I scrambled from one room to another.
“Do you always work this hard?” he asked with smiling puzzlement.
“No. I usually work harder. I’m slacking off since I have company.”
He shuddered. Exactly what you’d expect from a renowned adventurer and man-about-town.
[Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of “What Southern Women Know About Flirting” and “The Town That Came A-Courtin’.” Her newest book is “What Southern Women Know about Faith.” She lives near Gainesville, Ga. Sign up for her newsletter at www.rondarich.com.]