Friday, August 6, 2010


This is sort of a change of pace... In most of my stories where I am 'pokin' fun at country people I am not using myself as an example... Not this time!!! Enjoy......

The Cypress Tree

At the college I attended English composition (English 101) was a required freshman subject. As a historical fact during the early sixties colleges made an effort to weed out undergraduate students who were not serious about higher education. This was a simple time when higher education meant just that. Money was not yet the institutions primary motivator. Many colleges used English composition (theme writing) for this purpose. Failure was as common as average and I really feared this required course. Before college my high school English teacher had drilled us continuously on diagramming sentences and proper use of nouns, verbs, and other grammar rules. At the time I felt all these exercises were a waste of time. How would being able to diagram sentences help me to find a better job? Back at college I struggled through my first couple of themes that first semester with a “low C” and a “D”. One day my straight-laced professor with no visible sense of humor walked into the classroom and immediately wrote the numbers 1, 2, and 3 in descending order on the chalkboard. He was a dignified graying gentleman whose appearance and demeanor told me that he was a stickler for everything being in order. After writing the three numbers he stopped and without saying a work make eye contact with most everyone in the room. He then commanded each of us to take out our theme books and prepare to write a theme on one of the three subjects that he would write by the numbers already on the board. A dramatic way to start the school day and you could have heard a pin drop! I figured this would probably be the theme that finished me since I was off to such a poor start in his class anyway. By number one he wrote “Theory of Thermodynamics.” One down - I had no idea what that was about except that I thought it was an Engineering term. By number two he wrote “Works of Plato.” Strike two against me. Disney’s Pluto would have better suited my brain size. I did not have enough knowledge of Plato’s writings to write more than one line. Even though both of these subjects were quite general I did not have enough knowledge of either to be general. Neither of these subjects ever came up while I was doing my chores on the farm. By number three he wrote, “The Sex Life of a Cypress Tree.” Probably three down as he glared with disgust at the entire class. Many students got up shaking their heads and left the room after turning in a blank signed paper. A few nerdy brainchildren were writing away on one of the first two subjects. (Probably education and engineering majors - was my clenched teeth thought.) I sat in shock for about five minutes reflecting that I knew nothing of the first two subjects and the third one was probably only listed to let us “soon to be failures” know that we were on our way out. I started to think about the professor’s cruelty by listing subject number three. Everyone knows that a Cypress tree has no sex life. As my mind wandered to a happier place my humor kicked in and the little voice inside my head said that a Cypress trees’ sex life was a lot like mine. Nonexistent! I figured what the heck I would have some fun on my way to flunking out of college so I let my thoughts flow. I wrote for the remainder of the two-hour class using a comparison of the sex life of a Cypress tree to the sex life of a young hillbilly college freshman who had never been very far away from home in his life. I figured it would be an automatic “F” but I wrote on anyway. While I wrote I smiled to myself because I realized a powerfully strong feeling of accomplishment. The words flowed through my pen simply and with purpose as I wrote at a fevered pace. Upon completion I handed in my theme book and strolled out of the classroom with my head held high. I had given it my best shot regardless of the outcome.
The next day in my student mailbox was a notice to report to my professor’s office immediately. Well, I figured this meant the end of my short college career so I dropped what I was doing and went directly there. I announced myself to his secretary and waited, and then nervously waited some more. Finally I was called to enter his office and I noted that it was almost completely walled with bookshelves that were neat and orderly just like he was. He pointed to an uncomfortable looking chair and I sat down. I knew that the open theme book on his desk was probably mine. He thumbed slowly through it looking at every page without regard for my presence. The silence was deafening. He then looked up slowly and seriously asked me where I got the idea to write something of this nature in his class? As he asked this question he gestured at my theme book? I started to fumble through a weak explanation of my reasoning. I told him I had no knowledge of the first two subjects and wrote on number three because that was all I could muster from my memory bank. For lack of anything else to add I started to apologize to him but he held up his hands stopping me in mid sentence. To my surprise he started telling me about my easy transition from the Cypress tree to my own life and how my simple writing style reflected my honesty. I then realized that he appreciated my youthful attempt at humor! Evidently I had done something right! After we discussed my theme he handed me my book and it had a large “A” over the title on page one. I went on to make an “A” in his course.
How had I done this? The answer was by being myself and writing simply and honestly. It is hard to imagine the confidence and creative freedom you feel when you use your God given talents! Without conscious effort I had tied my ability for spontaneous humor into my writing and it had meshed perfectly. Heck, I even impressed what I thought to be a humorless professor.