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Darrell Huckaby - A new texter enters the fold

Consider the cell phone. It's kind of like a wife. Can't live with it, can't live without it.

I was the last person I know to get one. I used to laugh at people who couldn't leave home without their phones. I would point them out in a crowd and make catty remarks about their perceived self-importance. I come from the generation, understand, when only drug dealers and physicians carried pagers and cellular communication devices.

It wasn't long, of course, before I, too, gave in to the temptation of modern technology and became available for conversation at the whim of the world.

I don't want you to think that I'm a true Johnny-come-lately to the 21st century. I've been carrying for years now. But I'll tell you a skill that I have picked up in the past six months.

Texting.

Don't knock it if you haven't tried it.

I know what some of you are thinking and I used to be the same way. I would look at teenagers - particularly the three whose bills I still pay - typing with their thumbs on their phones' keypads and just shake my head in bewilderment, wondering why they didn't just dial a number and talk to the recipient of all those tiny messages.

They would try to explain the allure of the text message, but it went right over this old gray head. And I've been that parent, too - the one who opened a cell phone bill to find that one or more of my children had gone over their text message allotment by 10,000 or so. And honesty compels me to admit that I eventually gave in and went with the unlimited plan.

But last October I decided to embrace that old adage, "If you can't beat them, join them."

My son, Jackson, was in Nashville - at the Georgia-Vandy game, and I was at home, watching on television. Now you need to understand, here, the bond that Jackson and I have. There aren't too many things we still have in common, but Georgia football is one, and if we aren't together at games, we still talk - thanks to the magic of cell phones. That's the love part. But for whatever reason, he couldn't get a call to go through on that particular October night from Vandy's stadium. That's part of the hate part.

But just as Vandy was driving for an apparent game-clinching touchdown, my cellphone "dinged" and a message popped up on the screen. "We need a fumble."

I don't know what came over me but I decided to answer. Now if you've never sent a text message, it ain't as easy as it looks - especially if you have big old thumbs and poor vision, like I do. You have to mash the keys once for certain letters and twice for others and three or four times for others. You get used to it, but it's hard for a novice. By the time I had typed "amen," Georgia had scored and won the game.

But I had experienced a new thrill - which ain't easy at my age - and decided to learn a new skill and, believe it or not, now I get it. I get texting. Not only can I do it, but I also understand why it is often preferable to dialing up and talking to someone. I can't explain it to you, but I get it.

Believe it or not, I told you all of that to tell you this. I have been camping all week at Jekyll Island. It's an annual excursion for my family and has been for 25 or 30 years. But this is the first time in 18 years that I have been here without Jackson. Something about needing to stay in Athens and attend classes.

Jekyll Island is the thing other than Georgia football that Jackson and I have in common and I have missed him mightily this week. I miss my daughter, Jamie, too, of course - but she's missed the last four trips and spent more time with her mother and the women the last few years she was here. Jackson was pretty much at my side the whole week.

We rode bikes together, playing our own little secret game of tag while weaving in and out of the moss laden Live Oaks. We competed fiercely in the annual miniature golf tournament we held among our group and we built campfires together and cooked fish and shrimp and for one week a year found something to talk about other than touchdowns and goal line stands.

So all week long, I sent him text messages, keeping him appraised of what we were doing at any given time.

"We are riding through the marsh. Tag you're it."

"HaHa. I don't think so."

"I shot a 57 today."

"If I were there it would already be over," speaking now of our week-long golf tournament.

"I'm fixing steak and shrimp. What is J. Michael Floyd serving tonight?"

"We're done talking."

You get the picture. I loved being able to communicate.

And then came that first night by the campfire, which is a really special time at Jekyll. Think marshmallows over the embers and silly songs and Uncle Remus stories and deep conversations about the meaning of life.

"We're sitting by the fire, now." I texted.

"I wish I were by the fire."

"Me too, buddy boy. Me, too."

I'm glad you can't see tears in a text message.

Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.