Uncle Mort and Minnie Pearl

Commentary by Dr. Don Newbury

Minnie Pearl–queen of country humor for a half-century–”country-talked” her way into our hearts, mostly from the stage of Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry.

Nowadays, the $1.98 price tag dangling from her hat is but a distant memory. A character fabricated by Sarah Ophelia Colley Cannon, who made Minnie’s hometown of Grinder’s Switch and stories of “Uncle Nabob” seem real. (Cannon, with two degrees in theater, did well with her act, appearing largely on Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry, and on radio and television.)

Dr. Don Newbury

Anyways, it was she who claimed to hate repeating gossip, but she didn’t know what else to do with it.

Uncle Mort, my aged kin down in the thicket, spent many a Saturday night listening to the Opry, his radio turned to highest volume. He feels that Minnie helped him take the high roads in continual searches for the sunny side of life. 

“I’m an imagined figure, too,” Mort joked, “figmentary from the ground up.” (I admit unleashing my “uncle” in this column nearly two decades ago.)

Mort figures that if Cannon were still alive, she (Minnie) would have a field day with gossip on social media, where it now has a strong foothold.

Mort still relishes hearing–and repeating–good stories, hopeful of spreading them to amuse, inspire and make others feel better about the human condition.

He’s watchful about goings-on of political figures, particularly those with “funny names.”

One such person is U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “Reckon he ever checks with his cousins, Winkin’ and Nod?” muses my uncle, remembering a long-ago children’s poem.

He’s also happy to learn of children’s good deeds. He cites Little Rock’s Kayzen Hunter, 8, who looks forward to his family’s Saturday morning breakfasts at Waffle House.

His favorite waiter, Devonte Gardner, has been on hard times, barely surviving with his family in a rented hovel, and walking several miles to work.

Kayzen mounted a “GoFundMe” drive, raising $30,000 to buy Gardner a car and secure better housing.

Mort is impressed by the ingenuity of Girl Scouts, who have done well funding projects with cookie sales since 1917. This year, “Raspberry Rally” has been a sales sensation, selling out everywhere.

If you can’t wait to savor this new flavor, worry no more. There is hope.

Raspberry Rally cookies are available on eBay, but the price has increased tenfold. One vendor is selling boxes at $49.99 each, plus $12.25 shipping. (The scouts sold them for $4 box when they were in stock.) Oh, well.

Finally, Mort has found a “feel good” story in Washington, D.C., where a two-foot-tall raven was found, hobbling around a used car dealership in Chantilly, Virginia. (OK, that’s not D.C., but just 30 miles away.)

Euthanasia was recommended for the bird, downed by pellets. However, stubborn Catherine Sevcenko intervened, nursing the bird for several months. She dared to pry open its beak to medicate, as well as select favorite foods that seemingly helped him return to joyous living, even if it remained unable to fly.

Ravens are highly intelligent birds, capable of holding grudges, stashing food and using gestures to communicate, and this bird was no exception, Sevcenko said.

Now restored to a muscular three pounds and “running like the wind,” the raven walks around the Cayuga Nature Center in Ithaca, New York at his pleasure. He has been named “Bertrand,” a name shortened to “Bert,” of course.

Sadly, most seriously injured birds don’t make it; this one survives and thrives in his new environment. Trainers and keepers hope he will be open to learning new behaviors–such as perching on command–so they can bring him out of his enclosure when school groups visit. “He’s so smart and so present, and we all enjoy watching him hop around,” one keeper said, describing him to be a “genuine character.”

What a treat awaits visitors, who’ll be privy to seeing one of God’s creatures surviving on caring love.

   Dr. Newbury, longtime university president, continues to write weekly and speak throughout Texas. Contact: 817-447-3872. Email: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Facebook: Don Newbury.

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