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Tue, Jan. 28

Column: Trip yields 'teethbrush,' inventive obit

Preceding my peripatetic Palestinian pilgrimage to Texas earlier this month was a stopover in Richardson, a Dallas suburb, where I hitched on with longtime friends for a drive to Branson, Mo., and an annual reunion of mutual friends from high school and college days. (The trip wasn't all that peripatetic, actually, but I needed another "p" in the sentence in order to adequately augment the alliterative acumen, and "laid back" simply didn't qualify. Silly mission accomplished.)

My fellow travelers, Bill and Sharlene Gaither, go back more than half a century. Bill and I were fellow Fijis back at Texas Tech, having pledged Phi Gamma Delta together in the early '50s. He's a retired oral surgeon who over the years has also sandwiched in considerable toil in soil surgery on his 600-acre farm in Van Buren, Ark., not far from the Oklahoma line. 

Bill's also a jokester, having an appropriate one for every occasion. And, since he's been active in the dental along with rural farming fields, he came up with this one joke that pokes a little fun at his fellow Arkansans. His question was: "Did you know that the toothbrush was invented in Arkansas?" My answer: "No." Then his explanation: "You see, had it been invented in any other state, it would've been called a TEETHbrush."

All jokes aside, though, he also told me about an interview he had while quizzing a patient on his medical history. Well, the man replied, the only serious illness he recalled involved a case of "smilin' mighty Jesus." Bill helped him out with a notation that he had suffered from spinal meningitis.

Bill also provided me with a copy of an inventive obituary that he had clipped from the Dallas Morning News. This obit was one of those do-it-yourselfers that a fellow penned in anticipation of his demise:

"Born April 3, 1951, in North Carolina. He was one of eight children. His older sisters regularly beat him up, put him in dresses and then forced him to walk to the drugstore to buy their Kotex and cigarettes. After graduation from high school he went on to lead a life of luxury in the United States Air Force. After escaping from the government he spent most of his life as a mechanic, husband, and father. Bruce Merritt never met a stranger, and in many ways was stranger than most. He is survived by one daughter, two grandchildren, two ex-wives, unpaid taxes, and many loyal loving friends."

What a legacy!

During the driving trip we witnessed several exotic place names that included, in southeastern Oklahoma, the Muddy Boggy River, the Clear Boggy River, and North Boggy Creek. (Those names really "boggied" the mind.) Also, we passed over Big Skin Bayou and its kid sibling, Little Skin Bayou.

In Texarkana, on the other hand, we spotted Ta Molly's Mexican restaurant, Cubby Hole Storage, and a water tower that proclaimed "Texarkana is twice as nice." (It didn't note what it was twice nicer THAN, but you can say only so much on a water tower when making comparisons, I suppose.)

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