COLUMNS

OKIE IN EXILE — 2AM — Just a Hick from Pontotoc County

Bobby Neal Winters
Morning Sun

My 35th Wedding Anniversary is the first week of the New Year.

I woke at two o’clock this morning thinking about Rev Tevye. I identify with him. Both of us have a robust interior dialog. Both of us have a lot of daughters.

There is a duet that Rev Tevye sings with his wife called “Do you love me?” Within it he asks his wife that question, and she replies, “You’re a fool!” To which he answers, “I know, but do you love me?”

Ultimately, she discovers that she loves him, which takes a little time because it’s not something she’s ever asked herself, but the part I like is the exchange: “You’re a fool” — ”I know.” This is where I identify with Rev Tevye the most. I know that I am a fool.

That was one of the things I was wrestling with at 2 a.m. I am a fool; I have been a fool.

I was thinking particularly about my time in grad school. I started working on my master’s degree when I was twenty years old. I was pure, 100 percent hick from Pontotoc County, Oklahoma. The only contact with the outside world I’d had was through TV. I was meeting twenty-somethings from middle class families for the first time. Though I was smart as heck — you could’ve just asked me — I was entirely ignorant of the world I was going into. And, as I said, I didn’t know it.

Here’s the thing though. Many of the people I met were teachers, and most of them — at least enough of them — knew where they were. They knew what I was. They did their job.

In a movie, I would’ve been given a Cinderella-like transformation. As it was, they actually did better. They gave me the means for going to the next step so that I could work on transforming myself.

Life has been like that for me. At every stage, I’ve found myself surrounded by my betters. There has always been someone smarter; someone kinder; someone more graceful; someone more educated.

Like a blind chicken, I picked up a grain now and then, and at some point I had my revelation that I am a fool.

But I am a fool who knows it. I will cling to that nugget as the one thing that I do have. I can carry that around in my rucksack like a piece of booty from Dungeons and Dragons.

The best thing I got from my time at graduate school wasn’t my education (eventually a PhD) — or even the introduction to a larger world: It was finding my wife and the mother of my children.

She has been more patient a teacher with me than anyone I ever met in the classroom. Though I am a fool, I do know that.

I am also beginning to think — fool that I am — that while I did need, and do need, to learn a few things, being a hick from Pontotoc County, Oklahoma might be the best part of me.

Bobby Winters, a native of Harden City, Oklahoma, blogs at redneckmath.blogspot.com and okieinexile.blogspot.com. He invites you to “like'' the National Association of Lawn Mowers on Facebook.