October 18, 2017

That Really Bunches My Panties…by Brendon Marks

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While watching Jeopardy, that TV quiz show where they give you the answer and you have to make up the question, I started to reflect on another of life’s little inequities. On this particular occasion I was doing pretty well with the answers, but such is usually not the case. I thought about how, if I were a contestant, I would look pretty much like an idiot unless I was fortunate enough to get a bunch of categories that I knew something about.

That’s what started me thinking.

I know some pretty smart people that would never stand a chance on that quiz show, because they’re smart in a common sense way instead of memorize-the-encyclopedia way.

Most don’t know why a 16-penny nail is called that, but they can tell you how many pounds of them it takes to frame a three bedroom ranch and the number of whacks it takes with a framing hammer to drive one flush in a green Douglas Fir 2 by 6. And they also know how big a 2 by 6 really is.

They can tell you the name of the job for every member of a stock car pit crew and what it means to be “T-boned.” They can also tell you the car number of every NASCAR driver ever, and get excited about the paint scheme on the car.

They couldn’t care less how old King Tut was when he died, or who died in which Shakespeare play, but know every detail about the death of King Elvis–not to mention Patsy Cline, Hank Williams, Buddy Holly, and Ricky Nelson.

The person who doesn’t have a clue about what’s the percentage of nitrogen in the atmosphere can adjust the carburetor on your car by smelling the exhaust. They know the difference between a clove hitch and constrictor knot and can tie a trucker’s hitch before you can untangle your ratchet straps.

I think we should have a special version of Jeopardy for these folks. It would have categories like “Trucks of the World,” “Plowing,” “Varmints in Literature,” “Snuff ‘n Stuff” and “Fertilizer Philosophy.” Most country folk would give any grand champion a run for his money with these categories. Throw in an audio daily double featuring the song of a coon hound and our boy could tell what breed, how old, and how far he was behind the ‘coon.

I’m not proposing that common sense is more important than book learning, or vice-versa. What it boils down to is – what’s important to know – the names of all the kings and queens of England (in order), or the name of the extra axle on the back of a super-16 or even what the heck a super-16 is?

Come to think of it, maybe it’s not so unequal after all? The guy who knows all the kings and queens wouldn’t last four hours in a Georgia swamp, but the guy who knows about the super-16 would fare no better and be lost for days in the New York City subway, unless he had a real mean coon hound with him. Actually, common sense tells me, having a good dog along would help in the swamp or the subway, but wouldn’t help much on the show.

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