My late grandfather, Will Herod Brim, had a few verbal expressions that were his very own.
In the Riddleton community, he was known for one particular phrase. There were a few people who even referred to him as, “Ol’ dad blame, you know what?”
Any time he expressed dismay or wanted to emphasis a point, he would throw a “dad blame, you know what” in the sentence.
Here’s an example or two ... “I went to the barn this morning, and dad blame, you know what, that ol’ ewe had found triplets last night,” or, “I told him he’d better fix that fence, and dad blame, you know what, I meant it.”
He was also prone to say “I gad.” Here’s an example ... “I gad, you’d better get busy.” I think it was his way of stopping just short of taking the Lord’s name in vain.
My long-time friend and retired barber, Randy Johnson, from Lebanon, told me that his grandfather’s favorite expression was “dod darn.” We decided that this, too, was just this side of saying something worse.
When I was a small boy I would sometimes answer my grandmother, Lena, in the negative by saying, “Naw.” She would respond, “Naw? Rats knaw.” It was her way of chiding me into saying, “No, ma’am.”
She also had a way of mildly chastising me by saying, “Be the job big or small, do it well or not at all.” I kind of got tired of that one.
My grandmother, Amy McCall, never used the word aggravating. She said, aggawaitin. Whenever someone would ask, “How are you feeling, Granny,” she would answer, “I’m feeling with my hands.”
My grandfather, D.T. McCall, had a patented response whenever his grandchildren thanked him for a favor. He would say, “That won’t feed my hosses.” He also had a warning for us whenever he saw us drinking a soft drink (cola, soda, etc.). He would say, “Every time you drink one of those, it takes a day off your life.”
During the Ray Mears and Roy Skinner eras, my late father was an avid fan of both University of Tennessee and Vanderbilt basketball. He was a faithful radio listener on Wednesday and Saturday nights. One of his favorite players was a kid named Jan van Breda Kolff. My father called him, “Buttercup.”
One morning at breakfast, he declared, “Ole Buttercup scored 21 points last night.” Someone corrected him by saying, “Daddy, it’s van Breda Koloff.” With a boyish grin, his response was, “That’s what I said, Buttercup.”
My father always pronounced aluminum, “aluneum,” and he never got mayonnaise
right. Every morning at breakfast, he had some mayoneez with his scrambled eggs.
It may have been as many as 10 years ago when my bother, John, and I attended a basketball game at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. On our return trip home we stopped at Wendy’s at the Rockwood-Harriman exit off of Interstate 40.
After placing my order, I stepped down the hall to the restroom. I was third in line at the men’s restroom where I hardly noticed the young man who was standing just outside the door, but I could not miss the gentleman who was standing between us. The very sight of him took me back 50 years. A tall, slender man in his late mid-70s, he wore faded overalls that sported multiple patches on their front. There was even one big patch that had been patched. His shoes were Red Wings, well worn, but well oiled. His long-sleeved shirt was frayed at the edges of the collar and cuffs. And his red Co-op cap, deeply stained by dirt and sweat, I suspected had seen a half-dozen crop years.
When our eyes met, his look was one of slight embarrassment, as if he couldn’t believe he was standing in a restroom line in a public place. As he looked away, the door was opening and a young man came out of the restroom. The old gentleman quickly disappeared inside.
After a few moments, I heard the door being unlocked. He opened the door and stepped out into the hall. When our eyes met the second time, he could not hide his embarrassment. He smiled sheepishly and admitted, “Well, I reckon if you are going to eat and drink, you’ve got to get shed of it.”
I said as I chuckled, “Yes, sir. I guess we do.”
I had not heard that expression in more than 50 years ... “getting shed of it.” A generation or two ago used that phrase to mean to dispose of or get rid of something, like a snake shedding its skin.
I watched as the old gentleman ambled across the parking lot to his truck, and I loved him for whom he was and the generation of people that he represented. And I whispered to myself as if I were talking to him, “Ole boy, you are one of a dying breed. We will miss your kind when you are gone.”
And, dad blame, you know what? ... in that fleeting moment, I wanted to cry.