I found out at Bryan County Elementary School the other day that kids are still way, way cooler than me.
My favorite was a pipe-cleaner skinny youngster who, whenever I pointed the camera at him, began flexing and posing and making a face I’ll probably be seeing until the day I die.
It was great.
“Dude, who are you supposed to be?,” I asked, and for the record I don’t call grade schoolers dude unless they’ve earned it.
“I’m being the Ultimate Warrior,” I think he said, as he flexed and grimaced and snarled and flexed some more, all 30 pounds of him.
There was a girl who found in one of the Bryan County News papers from last year a photo of a classmate, which drew a crowd of amazed children who couldn’t believe what they were seeing, since everyone knows we almost never cover what’s going on in Pembroke.
In the adult category, there was Georgia Power’s great Willie Cato, explaining electricity with rubber gloves and a little house that explained, well, electricity. There also were some surveyors and dental hygienists, and a banker, and interior designer, and a couple Army recruiters (thanks for your service), and Public Safety Director Bill Collins and Fire Chief Peter Waters (thanks for your service, too), and others, all doing their best to answer questions about what they did, me included.
There were more things happening outside, but since I was inside as a presenter I stayed put and missed those shows. I didn’t miss, however, the gifted Matt Longino, an adult with CS Coatings. He entertained kids (and me) by balancing one of those long roller brush extension handles on his nose, and chin too. Amazing.
“You’ve got do something while the paint dries,” he explained.
Pembroke Mayor Judy Cook and City Administrator Alex Floyd were there, too. They had with them the key to the city (actually it was the key to the old jail) and the city’s 100-plus-year-old official seal, which kids got to tinker with, and an electric typewriter, for some reason. And at some point during a break a grown woman stopped to talk to Floyd and before leaving she said “neato torpedo.”
Neato torpedo. I kid you not.
Now, in case you haven’t noticed, it’s Thanksgiving outside. I know this because of the abundance of Ohio plates in South Bryan. I also know it because our Christmas tree is up and the house looks like the North Pole because that’s how my wife rolls.
She is an unapologetic, unabashed, uncontrollable, unstoppable little bundle of love for all things Christmas. In fact, the only things Christmas my wife doesn’t love are those strings of lights left up on eaves all year round. She would pass an ordinance against it if she knew the right people.
Which brings me in roundabout fashion to this. About a quarter of a century ago and around this time of year, I got assigned by an editor at my first paper to go out and cover an annual event in which kindergartners got to tour a Christmas tree farm.
They did so by being piled cutely onto a wagon towed by a tractor, all under the grim supervision of what seemed a battalion of what are now called educators, lest one of the precious angels go AWOL or fall down a well or get gnawed by a squirrel.
I found this out later. First, I drove for half an hour or so to the tree farm and learned the tour had started early or I had gotten there late, but I was told if I wanted to wait the kids would be back in a while. So I waited.
To set the stage, it was a bright, sharp November day and I, on my best day a rangy 5-foot-6, sort of like Napoleon, was even then wearing a full beard at a time when few normal men and even fewer women wore them.
Five or 10 minutes went by. Uncut Christmas trees of various sizes swayed in the breeze beneath a brilliant Georgia sky right on the South Carolina border.
I heard the roar of the tractor and the sound of kids singing a Christmas carol — my wife would know which one if I hummed it at her.
This was in the days of film when you had to work for good photos, so I got my camera ready to capture the joy on the faces of the little tykes as they experienced the timeless wonder of a Christmas tree farm during the holidays.
The trailer hove itself into view.
I aimed my camera. I heard a kid say, clear as a bell after a good whiff of helium, “Lookit, there’s an elf!”
I looked around, startled, but he was pointing at me with an alarmed look on his face. I was the elf and Christmas had taken a turn for that bunch of kindergartners, who evidently thought I was part of the floor show. They began a chorus of “oohs” and “ahhs” and “elfs” which in turn prompted one of the educators on board to spring into action. “Hush, kids,” she said. “Don’t say that where that little man can hear you.”
Little man? Sigh.
I believe Napoleon would’ve invaded that Christmas tree farm. I just went back to work.
Happy Thanksgiving folks. I hope it’s a good one.