Friday, August 24, 2007

Hicks on Phonics

By Kevin Duling

I went to college at one of the smaller state schools. The agricultural program at that school was a satellite program from the large land grant college. In my degree, agricultural resource economics, my graduating class had about twenty people in it. Most of us were from very small, rural backgrounds.

My best friend at school, Joe, thought it would be funny to have our class motto as “Hicks on Phonics.” We all joked about wearing old straw hats with bib overalls, no shoes or socks, the pant legs rolled up a little, and a piece of grass hanging from our mouths. We wanted to gather in this attire for a quick commercial where we would all yell, “We are hicks on phonics and we’re learnin how to read!”

I am amazed at where my classmates are today. One is the regional vice president of one of the large agricultural lenders, another a branch manager, a few of us went home to the family farm, a few have purchased their own farms and ranches, and then there is my friend Joe.

One of our agriculture professors phrased Joe and I as the bobsy twins. We tended to see things in life as quite funny, especially in those dry college courses where the clock seemed to travel in reverse. Two people who had similar senses of humor and adult attention deficit disorder was a recipe for disaster.

In college, Joe did not believe in telephones, computers, televisions, or any other form of technology. Having a motorized vehicle was a stretch for him. He would have much preferred his horse. His dormitory only provided “blue milk” to drink and that just wasn’t right in his mind.

“Why is it only 2 percent? It might be good for brushing your teeth with, but it sure ain’t good to drink!”

Some of Joe’s terminology included: britches (all pants and shorts), biscuits (every form of bread), feller (any man he talks about), and lids (hats). Most of our days studying in the library ended with the two of us running for our lives, or me typing up one of his papers because he didn’t like typing.

I just received a phone call from Joe stating he just got a large promotion. He will now be one of the three computer technicians that run one of the Northwest’s largest companies.

“But you don’t even know how to turn a computer on, let alone type on one,” I smarted.

“All I know is a feller came over and said it was time for me to get away from the distribution floor and move up where I belong,” he replied.

“Even after you played the theme from the Lone Ranger over the loudspeaker while the distribution carts were hurrying to catch up?”

“Well, I had to spend a little time in my boss’s office, but he told me, off the record, how that was the funniest thing he ever witnessed.”

“Do you have to dress up for this job?” I asked.

“Yes, I have to wear these tan, smooth britches and I can’t wear my boots. They won’t let me wear a lid either.”

One of my other classmates, Kanishiwa (Ken), was a Japanese exchange student who was fascinated with agriculture. On a three day field trip, he entertained us by doing forward flips the entire length of the rest area’s sidewalk. He was famous for always asking the question no one could answer, let alone understand. I would really like to know where he is today.

With today’s busy lifestyle, the thoughts and memories of my classmates rarely surface. How precious and timeless those days were. As we proceed through life, hopefully we can recognize opportunities to develop more memorable moments.

Despite our sense of humor, promotions still seem to chase us down. Not bad for a bunch of hicks on phonics.

Kevin Duling is a wheat farmer and freelance writer from Maupin, Ore. Kevin’s stories will be posted on the Capital Press blog every Friday. Comments are welcomed at

Copyright, August 2007

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