By Wm. Axley Allen © 1983-2012
Issue: November, 1983
“You know what my grandbaby told me the other day, Caleb?” When the wrinkled old tobacco chewer drew no response from his neighbor and friend of 65 years he continued. “J.B.’s daughter, 15 year old Maggie, told me, ‘Grandpa, you’re no good at subtleties.’ I asked her what they were. She told me they were when you tell somebody something without really saying it. From the look on her face, she could tell I wasn’t catching on so she went on explaining. ‘Aw, Grandpa, you know, haven’t you ever told somebody something without coming right out and saying it?’ You mean beating around the bush, I asked? ‘Yeah sorta,’ she replied, ‘but Grandpa, it’s different than that. Haven’t you ever wanted to say something to someone without spelling it out. By just hinting at what you’re trying to say?’”
“Caleb, she talked on like that for an hour. Telling me that you ain’t supposed to speak your mind. I tell you, what are they teaching kids now’a days. Why she’s set that you’re supposed to beat around the bush and be “subtle” as she called it. A young fellow came by here the other day and asked me what I miss most about the old days. Couldn’t think of nothing in particular then but I’ve been thinking about it, especially since the talk with Maggie. You know Caleb, what I miss most is straight forward people. Why folks used to say what was on their minds more’n they do now. Weren’t no beating around the bush. Pa would a wore the seat out of my pants if he’d a caught me beating around the bush and not speaking up. Beating around the bush was a trait not thought much of when we was boys, Caleb.”
“Lord knows, I taught J.B. better but even he beats around the bush now a’days. I guess he’s just being subtle when he hints around about me moving into town with them and selling this old place. But subtle or not, this here’s home and I told him so, right straight out. These young folks get some strange ideas, Caleb. They think they can change the name from beating around the bush to subtle and it’s all right. Ain’t in my book and it won’t ever be. I like folks who speaks their mind with me and lays it straight out with no beating around the bush.”
Just as he was getting fired up enough to take a deeper breath and continue his tirade against subtleties, Caleb raised his chin up off his chest and said, “Shut up Henry, I’m trying to take a nap.” Henry smiled and said, “O.K. Caleb.” And the two old friends settled back in their rocking chairs for an afternoon nap. Friends for over 65 years and “pretty apt” to stay that way.