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Commentary: Odds and Ends

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Dr. Lucas Boyd, Columnist

Dr. Lucas G. (Luke) Boyd 

There’s this story about two doctors who became friends in med school. Then they both specialized — Dr. Smith in psychiatry and Dr. Jones in proctology.  Since they were both starting practices from scratch, they decided to set up an office together and share expenses. Dr. Jones had the task of getting a sign printed. He found that painters charged by the letter so he opted for the simplest two-line sign possible.  It read: “Drs. Smith & Jones/Odds & Ends.”  And that’s what I’ve got for you readers this week.

Recently, at a restaurant where Honey and I were eating, there was an older couple seated at the next table. The man was rather odd looking. I won’t describe him for fear that a reader or two might recognize a relative. He was having trouble getting enough pepper to come out of the shaker. After a while and a vigorous shaking, he stopped to inspect the device. Apparently, some excess pepper had collected on its top — so he just licked it off, which proves that no matter how long you’ve lived or how many absurd things you’ve seen, there’s always something new out there.

Some claim there is no such thing as a dumb question. I disagree because I’ve heard too many that just have to be put in that category.

One of my former students became an English teacher. In a unit on early American literature, she was showing a tape of a Ben Franklin impersonator talking about his life and quoting from “Poor Richard’s Almanac,” when one boy blurted out, “Is that the real Ben Franklin?” Before she could think of an appropriate response, a boy seated across the aisle from the question asker slapped him on the shoulder with the back of his hand and said, “Well duh you dummy.  You ought to know if he was the real Ben Franklin, it would be in black and white.”

Honey and I used to go on a cruise every year. There’s something — maybe the ship, the water, or some unknown factor — that causes the reduction of reason.  Some dumb questions from cruisers: “Is this the same moon we see at home?”  “Does the crew sleep on board?”  And probably the dumbest of all, “What do you do with the ice sculptures after they melt?”

One year we cruised to Nova Scotia where we made a stop at Peggy’s Cove. In that area they don’t just have rocks, they have boulders. Glacial and water action through the centuries have made them smooth. On a walking tour of the village, we were passing through a formation of these stones when a fellow asked the guide, “What do you do with the rocks after the tourist season is over?”

Our guide responded with a serious face, “There’s a little valve in the back where we can let the air out and put them in storage.”

The man turned to his wife and said, “I told you they weren’t real.”

When you’re teaching, sometimes your students do not get the same message you’re sending. I would introduce Napoleon by discussing the insurrection which was about to topple the government of The Directory when a young artillery officer (Napoleon), who was in Paris awaiting a new assignment, wheeled some cannons in place, loaded them with grape shot (small anti-personnel projectiles), and dispersed the mob. I would always quote one historian who said, “Napoleon came upon the pages of history with a whiff of grape shot.”

However, one student did not hear it exactly that way. As he later answered a test question on the French Revolution, he noted that, “Napoleon came upon the pages of history with a wrath of grapefruit.” Close but no cigar.

Back in 1960, I was teaching in a boy’s boarding school. One of my duties was to supervise a dorm and dining hall. The father of Mallory, a ninth grade boy in my dorm, had a unique way of teaching him about handling money. Most of our students got a weekly allowance for spending money. Mallory got a checking account with $100 in it when school opened. At the end of each month, he had to submit an itemized list of all his expenditures with the cost of each. His father would replace the money he spent each month — as long as it was on the list.  He could buy something he did not want his father to know about but if he didn’t put it on the list, its cost was not replaced. At the end of the school year, Mallory could use whatever was left over in his account to buy him something special.

One weekend when his parents came for a visit, I knew his mother had been going through his monthly expense list when she drew me aside and asked, “Can you please tell me something? What is a Honey Bun? Some days he buys three or four.”

A Honey Bun was/is an oval glazed confection measuring in 1960 about 4 x 6 inches. The boys loved them.  They cost 10 cents. They’re still around but not nearly so large. She was relieved to know he was not engaged in any nefarious activities.

Many people, when they vacation, like to purchase some token (a T-shirt or trinket) by which to remember their trip. A late friend of ours found an inexpensive way to do this. She’d just pick up a small rock. When she got home, she’d give it a good scrubbing, tag it with the date and place, and put it in her special rock box. One time as she was returning from an overseas trip, she was asked at customs if she had anything to declare. She replied, “Just my rocks.”  They were stuck amongst her clothing in her suitcases. Soon all her clothes were scattered about over a large table.  She liked to have never gotten them all packed back. From then on she just said “no.”

That’s all the odds and ends for this time. I find I have some left for later.



Dr. Lucas G. (Luke) Boyd is the retired principal of Battle Ground Academy. He lives in Franklin and may be contacted at 615-969-1368.

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