I grew up in the card catalogue era. If you don’t know what that is, ask your parents. Today I can ask my students a question they don’t know the answer to and they can give me the information in a few seconds by googling it on their Mac or iPhone. But I have found that some of the greatest sources of information are people who have been students of life and surroundings such as my wife’s Uncle Tommy.
In all my years in my wife’s family, Tommy is the one I most enjoy talking to because he knows so much about so many things.
Tommy drove a semi-trailer truck so long that he was honored for driving over two million miles without an accident. One day I asked him, “What is the one thing you did that helped you drive that many miles without an accident?”
His response came quickly: “Always look a mile down the road…for brake lights.”
That line has guided me often since; there are so many applications besides to my driving habits. Look to the next day before retiring for the night. Look down the road at what needs to be covered before midterm exams, or remember to check special family days that you want to honor.
Tommy’s breadth of knowledge amazes me. He and his wife, Deba, recently moved from the city to the country and he loves to spend time working outside. When I was there a few days ago admiring his garden, I asked a question about the green plant that looked like radishes. He said, “That is mustard and we just ate that recently.” I then got a commentary on several unusual vegetables I was not that familiar with.
Tommy is a great fisherman and I had the privilege of going fishing with him on his pontoon boat on Old Hickory Lake near Nashville last week. I was amazed at how adroitly he maneuvered his truck and the huge boat down a narrow road to the place where he could put the boat in the lake.
Once we got in the lake, he began to point out certain houses around the lake. He referenced some landmarks and gave a little history of the lake. I asked how deep and how long the lake was. He knew the answers to both questions. Although it was not a great day for fishing he still caught several and I mainly observed—though not by choice.
Tommy is also a great chef. I’ve eaten his homemade biscuits and other traditional Southern breakfast items. One time he discussed how he created some of the dishes he is known for. His fish fry dinners are the best and people who are invited to one make every effort to attend. I’m not sure how many pounds of fish you will find in his freezer at any given time, but he can always make time to “fry some up.”
He is an expert marksman and hunts all kinds of fowl. He mentioned dove hunting season and when I told him I had never eaten dove, he went into a discussion of how to prepare the meat and about its taste.
Each time I visit Tommy, I learn new things. I thoroughly enjoy learning from people who study life and all that goes into making a meaningful life. A favorite source for me is my friend and uncle, Tommy. Did I mention that Tommy is 79 years old?