Donald has a Southern drawl that won’t quit. It’s the same accent many older folks from his walk of life have.
I wish you could hear him. He sounds like an afternoon in the shade, swatting gnats. And if you don’t know what I mean, you probably own a snow shovel.
Right now, Donald is telling a story about his days picking tobacco in lower Alabama. But it doesn’t matter what he’s talking about. I could listen to him read the phonebook with that voice.
He uses old phrases, like: “you got it, buddy,” instead of, “you’re welcome.” Or: “by all means,” which is how folks used to say the word, “yes.”
There’s a difference between new talking and the old kind.
Try listening to a few elderly women chat, you’ll swear you’ve gone backward in time. All they have to do is open their mouths, and the old stories practically tell themselves. They’ll carry on about catching frogs by the pond, outdoor country dances, and sneaking past the ushers in the old theater.
While you’re at it, ask one of them for a sample of her poundcake—they always have cake on the counter.
When you do, all ten will answer, “Oh, by all means, help yourself.”
And, by all means, take two slices.
The truth is, people don’t talk or behave this way anymore. Often, when young folks open their mouths, they do it while gazing at smartphones.
I’ve seen studies claiming American vocabularies are bigger and kids are smarter. I’ve even read that today’s youth have more basic knowledge than their ancestors.
I don’t buy it.
Find someone who listened to war bulletins by radio, who slept piled up with younger siblings in the same bed, who picked tobacco to pay rent.
Then ask yourself who has more basic knowledge.
“We had a good life,” Donald is saying. “We never wanted for nothing, we worked hard…”
He stops for a second. “Aw hell, I done forgot what I’s telling…”
So, Donald limps to his feet. It’s time to go to his room. I have to help him stand since his knees are bad.
Men like Donald aren’t getting any younger. They disappear by the hundreds, each day. Soon, the world will find itself overrun with young folks who play games on their phones. Nobody will talk like Donald anymore.
“Well, I enjoyed it,” he says. “I ain’t as good’a storyteller as I once was, are you really fixing to write a story about little-old-nothing me?”
By all means.