Sunday, January 13, 2008

Shoe Laces, Skyscrapers and Mockingbirds

May I share a deep, dark secret with you? Promise not to tell?

Okay then, here it is: I tie my shoes funny. By 'funny' I mean, I've never mastered the technique of just forming two loops and wrapping them around each other. I know it's easy to do; everyone does it that way. You see, it's just that I learned a different method and my old familiar way seems to work well enough, so this old dog just can't find the motivation to learn how to do the trick right. It was my older brother Roy who taught me how to tie my shoes when I was five years old. And it wasn't until I was fifteen that I learned that I was ... well ... different.

I remember it clearly. I was sitting at my desk in old man Huckabee's Chemistry class when I noticed the lace on my chucka boot was untied. I bent down and did my usual job of resecuring it. From the desk next to mine Becky Saunders said, "I've never seen anyone tie his shoes like that before!" Becky proceeded to call her friends over to point out my perversion. "Hey, watch how Bobby ties his shoes; go ahead, do it again!" I, of course, refused.

Later I confronted Roy about my being taunted about the way I tie shoes. He admitted that he too had come to the realization that there was something peculiar about our shoe-tying heritage. I believe to this day Roy still harbors deep resentment against his lacing instructor, Eddy Porterfield, who undoubtedly also begrudges some earlier mentor. I (ever the magnanimous one) have long since forgiven Roy for this ligature legacy, but I do have other matters of contention with him.

To put it mildly, during my formative years my big brother oft proved himself unworthy of my faith. I remember Roy stating with all the self-assurance that an eight-year-old can muster, "Bobby, you know those airplanes way up in the sky (the ones that leave a jet trail)? They're called 'sky scrapers'. You see, they 'scrape' across the sky, kind of plowing a furrow behind them." I assure you, Roy's creative use of the word "skyscraper" was a big hit at Rusk Elementary. Or to be more precise, my use of Roy's terminology was a source of great amusement to my classmates.

But the story that really got to me was his bit about this large black bird. Roy declared it to be a mockingbird. I (as a mere six-year-old) was unaware that the habitat of the state bird of Texas did not extend all the way west to El Paso, but even my limited knowledge of ornithology belied this particular "mockingbird's" taxonomy. When I queried Roy as to the possibility of it being a crow, Roy countered, "Oh no, crows are much larger."

When I inquired why it made that caw-caw noise like crow, Roy assured me, "You see that's why it's called a mockingbird; it's 'mocking' a crow. Understand, mockingbirds and crows are often found together, so it's not at all unusual to find mockingbirds mimicking crows." Oh, well, that sounded reasonable enough.

In the self-same year that I discovered that my shoe lace tying was unnatural, we read "To Kill a Mockingbird" in Mrs Rosiers English class. I made the obvious connection between the falsely accused "black" man in the story (Tom Robinson) and this ventriloquistical "black" bird. Black man -- black bird. Obvious! Thereafter I knew with complete certainty that mockingbirds were glossy black birds that could easily be mistaken for crows or blackbirds.

It wasn't until age 35 that discovered the flaw in this bit of bequeathed wisdom. I naively asked a business acquaintance (who was quite the sportsman and should be keen on such fine distinctions), "Jim, how do you tell the difference between a mockingbird and a blackbird?"

His reply was simplicity itself, "A blackbird is black."

You just can't imagine how devastating it is to discover that a fact you've known with certainty for over thirty years just ain't so. Even now as my recollections stretch back over a half century, I sometimes have to pause and ponder, "Just what other bomblettes of misinformation has Roy has sent rolling down the corridors of time?"

So there it is: the obvious connection between shoe laces, skyscrapers and mockingbirds.


joyce said...

OOOooo I'm first to comment ! So, this is why you stayed up until midnight. Naughty. Naughty.

How we gonna get Roy to read this?

LadyBugCrossing said...

Hey, I tie my shoes different than the two loop method. I can't make that two loop thing tight enough -- it just doesn't work!!
My dad taught me - you make a tree... the bunny runs around the tree in the hole and you pull his ears to make sure he stays in there nice and tight.
Odd? I dunno...

I don't know how much of what Roy says - ever - I'd believe...

I'm just sayin'


Hula Doula said...

Oh Roy so needs to read this post.
Recently my husband's brother had the same unveiling. Up and to this point everything HH had told him had a thread of truth, but to his dismay some of it was just to get the giggles.
This also is true in other matters such as sliding down a glacier on a trash bag, jumping off the house onto the trampoline, popping wheelings with his sister's wheel chair and doing an obstacle couse with it. Thread of truth...they were fun. Big huge glaring lie...THEY HURT LIKE CRAZY.

leeann said...

I always tie my shoes like LadyBugCrossing does, but my papaw taught me that way... two bunnies wrestling, he called it.