September 2011

Musin’s and Thinkin’s

A Monthly Stroll Down Folksy Byways

with Jack Pendarvis

To those who fear that the old ways are fading from view like the gentle rays of the dwindling sunset that casts its wayward sparks of sweet decay hither and yon, I offer a piece of simple advice: shut up. Perhaps my greatest joy as a humble purveyor of folksy wisdom is getting out amongst the people at various hootenannies and shindigs and so on and meeting so many youngsters who are eager for “tips” about how to follow in my footsteps. Naturally my first response is one of rage and paranoia. Have they heard something? Am I being replaced? Are the higher-ups huddled in a conference room somewhere, grumbling that I’ve resorted to too many anecdotes about hay? The fascinating things I could tell you about hay are nearly infinite, so sue me.

Such self-doubt is fleeting, I am happy to report. Thank goodness my line of work is one in which repetition is not only called for but relished. In fact, people would be upset if I became too “good” at what I do. This tradition goes back to the early T’ang dynasty in China, when guys would get old and go off to live in isolated thatched huts and write a million poems about their hair turning white or the cry of a crane in the distance, and everybody was always like, “Great! Another poem about a crane!” And they weren’t even being sarcastic.

At my speaking engagements, I encourage the kids out there to hurry up and become fusty—the sooner the better. The smell of mothballs, Jergens lotion, and Listerine isn’t just for Grandma’s house anymore! Sure, in our rapidly changing modern world, creaky truisms are available at the touch of a “computer” button. But that doesn’t make earning your right to spout them any easier. As I never fail to suggest, a good first step for the novice “plainspoken philosopher of the people” is moving to the woods.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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Jack Pendarvis has written three books.

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