Meet my neighbor; his nickname was Nick

Published 9:17 am Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Column: Tales from Exit 22, by Al Batt

My neighbor Nick (it’s his nickname) bought a raffle ticket at the fair and won a snazzy fishing boat with a motor big enough to climb the tallest water.

Nick grew up so poor that his family read by lightning, and he’d never owned a boat before. He couldn’t wait to get it on the water, so he ran it out into a field in which he’d been unable to plant corn due to 18 inches of snow falling in May. That snowfall caused him to mumble to himself, hoping for both pity and tolerance, “Why am I always the one who has to eat mistake cake?”

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Nick had been nurturing a bad attitude since he’d bought a horse. The guy who sold it to him presented the horse as the next Secretariat, but after owning the hayburner for a bit, Nick found it to be lethargic. He had a veterinarian give the horse a once-over. The vet completed the examination and found nothing wrong with the horse. This delighted Nick, who asked, “Will I be able to race him?”

The veterinarian looked at Nick, and then at the horse, before saying, “Sure, and you’ll probably win!”

Winning the boat had changed his tune. Nick sat in that boat surrounded by bare ground and weeds. It felt good.

He brought along a rod and reel and began practicing his casting.

I came home from work and saw Nick fishing in the field.

Odd things occur in my neighborhood. I think it might be the water.

I called Nick later and asked him how the fishing had been.

“Good,” he replied, lying like an experienced angler. “The curly dock and giant ragweed were biting. You should join me in the boat.”

I told him that I’d love to, but I couldn’t swim.

Nick’s wife claims he has “selective hearing” and hears only what pleases him. She might say that in retaliation for his favorite joke, which he tells frequently. Nick was president of the Two Bits’ Toastmasters Club when he got his false teeth. At the first meeting after he got the dentures, Nick talked for eight minutes. At the second meeting, he talked for 10 minutes. The next gathering, he talked for over two hours. The membership had to use force to get him to shut up. When their anger had subsided, they asked him what had happened. Nick explained that at the first meeting, his gums hurt, but he wanted to give the teeth a true test. At the second meeting, his gums hurt even more, so he’d hoped talking longer would ease the pain.

One of the other Toastmasters asked, “Then what happened at the third meeting?”

Nick said, “Well, I put my wife’s false teeth in by mistake, and I couldn’t stop talking.”

Nick is an avid golfer. He went golfing with his nephew recently. Nick no longer hits the ball very far, but he plods along consistently. His nephew, who hits a ball a mile, maintained his patience by repeatedly saying, “Serenity now.” They reached the ninth fairway and the young golfer found himself with a tough shot. There was a tall pine tree directly in front of his ball, right between his ball and the green. After several minutes of debating how to best hit the shot, his uncle said, “When I was your age I’d hit the ball over that tree without even trying.”

With that challenge placed before him, the nephew swung hard, with a loud grunt included, hitting the ball high into the tree trunk, and it rebounded back onto the ground not a foot from where it had been. Nick offered one more comment, “Of course, when I was your age, that tree was only 4 feet tall.”

Nick is a good man who has taught me many things. Things such as, there isn’t anything that can be sliced so thin that it has only one side.

One day, years ago, we walked a bean field together. As we pulled stubborn weeds, I noticed Nick was limping.

“What’s the matter?” I asked. “Do you have a hitch in your get-along?”

“Nope,” he responded. “I have a rock in my shoe.”

I asked him why he didn’t remove it, he replied that he would when he got to the end of the row.

I chuckled and said, “If I had a rock in my shoe, I’d take it out right away.”

Nick laughed back at me and said, “Then what would you have to look forward to?”


Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appears every Wednesday and Sunday.