Roy Exum: My Garden This July

Wednesday, July 1, 2020 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

So, we enter into the second half of the most challenging year I can remember in my life and the only thing that I am most assured of is this: whatever’s next, the United States and its people can handle it, just as we have responded to one catastrophe after another in an indescribable first half of play. We’ve proven it: “C’mon, I got this! Bring the worst you’ve got, and we’ll make the best of it. Always have, always will. We Americans have got this.”

So, help me I believe every word of it. That said, as I pause in my garden and take all I see in view, there are first the lush flowers, the bright red of the geraniums and the stark whites and blues and purples of the impatiens, but what is this! 

Admittedly, these are challenging times, the masks we are wearing are devoid of smiles, and – worse – in our grocery aisles we are so bent on the six-foot rule that no longer do any of us offer, “Hey, how you getting’ along” to fellow shoppers like me who thrive on the kindness I always lavish from strangers.

The first thing we must do, and I can best illustrate this in my July garden, is instead of dressing like rocks and pebbles, we must embrace the flowers.

That’s what we all admire, yet we dress like rocks – drab grey, shirts the color of sand. Droopy shorts of washed-out black, or Vietnam vintage camouflage. A hippy-style linen top that up until 10 years ago would have been starched and ironed to accent its allure but, no, today it looks like a hastily tucked in napkin.

Lordy, we’ve got to flash back. Dress like healthy flowers rather than rocks! And another thing. You know what the sexiest smell is on earth? S-O-A-P, when freshly applied. I promise, take pride in yourself, embracing the colors of flowers against dark-green or khaki or white paint of shorts with just a hint of men’s sweet-smell or a ladies perfume. What's true in my garden will become as true in yours. Never forget a key rule of nature: the prettiest flower of the day makes all of the others more beautiful.

Try it. It works. Now let’s find this month’s orchids and onions:

AN ORCHID for the IBM rule. For many years, “the IBM Rule” was that every sales person who called on the public was to be seen wearing a navy business suit, starched white shirt, red or yellow tie. In more recent times it has been relaxed: “Look as good, or better than, any person you will meet today.” If you want to be a success, dress like it, or as Zig Ziglar said it best: “You cannot climb the ladder of success dressed in the costume of failure.”

AN ONION for when the “Lord taketh away” as we mourn the passing of Jack Frost, Luke Morin, Navy Admiral Robert Kurz, Lumber Morrison, Grady Jacoway, Dolores Cooley (man, could she sing!), Johnny Majors, Sid Hetzler, Noah Oliver, and, of course, Mary Lu Sherrill … who taught her daughter Chris Vass (one of the top editors at the Times Free Press) and an all-star group of sons: “Sleep is sloth!” Yes ma’am!

AN ORCHID for Buck Johnson, the genius school master for 30 years in the Hamilton County Public Schools before he parlayed a glorious career into just as strong a “second verse” as Sports Editor of The Chattanooga Times for 28 years. That made us intense rivals for years but there was never one instance when he was anything less that the consummate Southern gentleman.  I fought the Times for over 25 years for every reader and only after I left the newspaper business did I find out Bill Casteel, Wes Hasden, Mike Loftin, Pam Sohn, and Barney Morgan were actually people who I found I absolutely adored. Seriously: true story – fate would have it that one afternoon the ever-despicable Times columnist Casteel and I finally crossed paths. We talked two hours. You have no idea into what brilliance he grew in my sight in such a short time. We met some more. Do you know how many world wars we could have prevented? Ol’ Buck was a little different; he had my admiration and respect from the very get-go. Everybody else felt exactly the same way, and some of his very best lessons, for the record, were those he taught me.

AN ONION to those at UTC who actually launched an investigation of an admitted black activist who allegedly ran a stop sign and morphed it in front-page headlines. The UTC review “found there was no racial profiling, and the officers involved with the traffic stop stated they did not know the race of the person in the vehicle. The review also showed the officers treated the driver with respect and dignity and followed standard training and protocols for making the stop.” Mind you, the woman was not even issued a citation but she exploited the story into such a way she maneuvered her whine onto the front page of Chattanooga’s “without fear or favor” newspaper when the facts held absolutely no newsworthy reason whatsoever. I’m sorry ... that’s where we are … are you happy?

AN ORCHID for the huge public push-back to Shuford’s BBQ being forced to cancel a $1,000 order due to heinous threats after it was learned they had a paid order for a support-police rally. This weekend’s barbecue orders at Shuford’s will be the restaurant’s biggest bonanza in its history and there have been no protests or signs supporting the telephone cowards. Surprised? You’d be very honestly advised to know trains never travel in both directions on a prejudiced track.

AN ONION to UTC’s investigation into the racial stop that wasn’t. The news release also included, “However, (UTC) will continue with de-escalation training, community policing strategies, and we are implementing policy revisions and clarifications.” Dandy. Tack that up in the development and admissions office with a P.S. that reads, “Be real careful what you wish for … ‘cause you’re fixing to get it.”

AN ORCHID to the thousands of good-hearted and well-intentioned humanitarians among us who protested properly in the “Black Lives Matter” demonstrations and are now urged to properly deliver a very candid message to all involved: “We all have equal rights but we all must accept the lawful and spiritual responsibility that manifests every one of our rights.”

AN ONION to the horrible manipulation of mail-in ballots just uncovered in Patterson City, N.J. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service was alerted when – get this – hundreds of bogus ballots were stuffed by some idiot into the very same post office mail box. More than 3,000 ballots were denied – one in every five ballots cast. Councilman Michael Jackson won by a mere eight-vote margin, and new Councilman Alex Mendez had a 240-vote margin out of 16,747 votes cast.  The New Jersey Attorney General has filed multiple mail-fraud charges and alleged falsifying records against the two councilmen and four (or more) others, with each individual punishable by “years in prison.”

AN ORCHID for the fact that two Republicans endorsed by President Trump were beaten in Kentucky and North Carolina primaries by “far better” Republicans, giving great leverage to Tennessee trauma surgeon Manny Sethi’s bid in next month’s Senate primary against Bill Hagerty. The former (appointed by Trump) Ambassador to Japan is a transparent “Washingtonian” who it is believed Trump and the Republican Party are using the Volunteer State only as a thinly-guised veil to boost the President’s loyalists. Sethi is for Tennessee, Hagerty can most certainly not make the same claim

AN ONION to 28 Democrats in Washington who have signed a letter in Congress to allow biological males who identify as transgender to play for girl’s sports team, saying to not allow it violates Title IX civil rights legislation. It is widely believed if such biologically-different human beings are allowed on all-female teams, for all rights and purposes it will be the end of female athletics in high school and college. Incidentally, Presidential hopeful Joe Biden has pledges to get what is being called the “Equality Act” into law within his first 100 days of office if he wins. “Transgender equality is the civil rights issue of our time,” he has said. "There is no room for compromise when it comes to civil rights.” 

AN ORCHID to the kid who valiantly tried to make his case when a State Trooper pulled him for speeding: “Sir, when I bought this car with my own money, I bought the whole speedometer. I want to use it in whole, not in part. Doesn’t that seem logical to you?”

AN ONION to those who still think wearing a mask protects them when, the real fact is, it protects others from you if you unknowingly sneeze – the mask will block your sneeze droplets from infecting others. If you refuse to mask, first consider the safety of others. Change the priorities and use your mask to save someone else’s life. Mask whenever it's appropriate.

And finally, a huge BOUQUET OF ORCHIDS to my dear friends Neal and Britt Oehmig, who are the first in my childhood crowd to just celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. Trust me, these two are “insiders” in my life and, as a keen observer, I’ve laughed hysterically and prayed desperately with ‘em, both real hard at times. The sunsets, the fireworks they watched, the many smooth seas and gentle winds they’ve sailed, is a given. Yet when it comes to gut-wrenching, when the family’s iron must be hammered into steel, the true lesson in their personal story is neither could have stood up the toughest cards except for the strength and love and spirit of the other. “We can’t go anymore,” one will say, while your life mate, “I’ve got another five minutes in me … whatcha say!” So help me, the tide will always turn at that very last second. “Just five minutes more” has worked for an eternity and in my dictionary, under “perseverance,” is a picture of Brit and Neal. Today, as they are my first most-beloved chums to turn golden, I am solid in the belief I can hitch these two thoroughbreds in the same rig and no matter the turf or the track, they’ll win at any distance, because together and side-by-side, their stride is sterling. I am so very thrilled Brit and Neal are my newest champions, a living testament to, ‘yes, you two must never give up on the other, stick in there holding hands no matter what comes, and when you kiss the 50-year gold … this is a promise … you’ll recognize its face. And, to my special kiddos, may the next time we giggle, allow my tribute to simply be, “The drinks are on me after watching your two-step of envy and delight …” Just perfect, yessir, I’m talking, fine as it gets.

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