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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Fax: 540-483-8013

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Special talents make life interesting
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Friday, February 15, 2013


Aunt Bernice was the best liar I have ever known.

She could look you in the eye and regardless of how absolutely absurd whatever she told you was, doggone it, you just couldn't help but believe her because she was so dang sincere.

Now, she meant nothing by it, and the lies were usually part of a story, not directed maliciously at anyone, so nobody in the family ever called her a liar. Besides, that was a fighting word. They said she just liked to exaggerate.

Aunt Bernice came to mind recently when I was thinking about people who have special talents. Lying, er, telling a great story with an amazing ability to effectively use hyperbole, was certainly one of hers.

She was also a very good director of plays, which I covered in a previous column. For someone uneducated with very limited exposure to the world, she had a talent for understanding how a play should be staged, which was put to good use every Christmas at church.

I have known many other people who had special talents, some defying logic.

Rita Brown was one of those people. She was my childhood sweetheart who lost any interest in me when she grew up (my first broken heart).

But she had this uncanny talent.

If you said a word, any word, of any length, she could immediately tell you how many letters it contained.

When I say immediately, I mean as soon as the word came out of your mouth. Instantaneous may be a better word to describe it. In fact, if you said "instantaneous," she would say "13" as soon as the last syllable was uttered. Absolutely no time to count. It was just instinct, and a strange one at that.

No, she wasn't some sort of "savant." She was just an average, nice, smart (and very cute) girl-next-door with the most beautiful ponytail in the world.

Velty Cole was another one.

Velty was a mountain man who had not even finished grade school or had any kind of formal musical training at all.

The story went that at a barn dance one Saturday night he had by chance picked up a fiddle during a break in the music, put the darn thing to his shoulder and began playing like he had been playing a fiddle for years.

Under other circumstances, the man probably could have been a renowned concert violinist. He practically made that fiddle talk. He just had a gift for playing it that had no explanation.

Speaking of an unusual musical talent, my Uncle Warner had one as well.

Maybe others can do this. I don't know. He is the only person I have ever seen do it.

It's not easy to explain, but he would clap, snap his fingers, smack the side of one hand with the palm of another, hit his legs with the palm of his hands, all in the same motion.

He did this very fast and, in the process, provided what amounted to, I guess, percussion music for songs, which we would sing.

You really had to see it to be believe it.

Dutch Perdue had a talent that, thank goodness, he taught me, and, I suspect, a lot of people can probably do this.

I have always hated alarm clocks. I'm not sure why, but even as a small child, I did not want to be roused by the sound of an alarm. My mother's voice was fine because, thankfully, she wasn't too loud unless we were slow to rise.

Dutch was the brother of a neighbor I visited a lot and he was telling me one day when I was a teenager that he never used an alarm clock. He could wake up when he wanted.

Of course, I asked him how he could do this and he said it was easy -- it just takes practice.

Before you go to sleep, he said, tell yourself what time you want to wake up. Just keep that time in your head as you drift off, and eventually you will wake up at that exact time.

I was skeptical, but I decided to give it a try.

Well, believe it or not, it works.

With rare exceptions (I learned early on that the misuse of alcohol interferes with this little talent), I can to this day wake up at whatever time I think about before I go to sleep.

Then there was my late Uncle Boyd who, for more than 50 years, put up with my Aunt Ruby.

She was, by any measure, a catbird's kitten, demanding as she was entertaining, always the center of attention, and she never worked a day in her life. Poor Uncle Boyd would often have to do housework after putting in a full day at the plant.

Yet, no one ever heard him utter one word of complaint as she lived it up.

Folks, that takes a special talent.

And Aunt Ruby managed to pull it off.

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