Darrell Huckaby - I am thankful for ...

I may have told this story before, but it is worth repeating.

In the eighth grade I had a wonderful English teacher named Mr. J.T. McKay. We don't teach English in schools today, we teach language arts. Isn't that a heck of a note? But that's another story for another day.

We were talking about Mr. McKay and his prowess as an English teacher. He was a tall man with wispy white hair, a quick smile and enormous hands. He would often clutch a yard stick in those hands as he taught and I have seen that yardstick come down hard on the desk of an inattentive student more than once.

Mr. McKay shared lots of stories when he taught. He loved poetry and helped me learn to love poetry, too - and I can still recite from memory many of the poems he shared with us. "The Bridge Builder." "The House by the Side of the Road." "The Highwayman." "Casey at the Bat." I know them all. He also explained to us why "y'all" is an acceptable contraction and even defended the word "ain't," as long as we used it in place of "I am not."

Mr. McKay was quite a task master when it came to writing assignments, and heaven help you if you ever dangled a participle - and if you ever even thought about splitting an infinitive, well, you'd better just give your soul to the Lord, because the rest of you belonged to Mr. McKay.

As Thanksgiving approached in 1965, Mr. McKay assigned us an essay. We were to write about the things for which we were most thankful. That was right up my alley, because I did it every year, in the same style that Furman Bisher of the Atlanta Journal used - and still uses, by the way.

I was very pleased with my offering, but when I got my paper back, Mr. McKay had given me an "F" because of my repetitive use of "I am thankful for ..." Not only did he give me an "F," but he also threatened to "horse whip" me, because he said I ought to know better. I remember that because it really hurt my feelings and I wanted to tell my mama on him, but I didn't because I knew she would just take his side.

But when I explained to him that I was merely imitating the style of Furman Bisher, however, he apologized and changed my grade to an "A." My feelings were still hurt, but I have continued to imitate Mr. Bisher ever since, and will do so today, because tomorrow, as you know, is Thanksgiving, and I still have a lot for which to be thankful.

I am thankful, in this election year, to live in a nation that changes its leaders with ballots and not bullets - and I will really be thankful when the Senate runoff is over and we are no longer inundated with Jim Martin and Saxby Chambliss ads a hundred times a day.

I am thankful for the person in the drive-through window that gets the order exactly right and realizes that if I had wanted fries with that, I would have asked. I am thankful for a cold Coca-Cola on a hot summer's day and a hot cup of coffee on a cold winter's morning, and I am thankful for grits in any season.

I am thankful for rain any time, too - but selfishly hope we don't get any Saturday between noon and four. And I am thankful when that last bale of hay is in the barn, although I wish there were a few more bales there right now.

I am thankful when the lawnmower cranks on the first pull. Ditto the weed-eater and the leaf blower, and I will be really thankful when the last leaf has fallen and gutters are cleaned out for another year.

I am thankful when my son Jackson walks through the door, even if he does wear his baseball cap backwards, and I am thankful when I see my daughter Jamie's car coming down the driveway, also home from college. And I am thankful that we still have Jenna at home, even though we won't have her for long.

I am thankful when the mail carrier brings something besides circulars and bills, and I am thankful when I drive by the corner convenience store and see that gas has gone down another penny or two.

I am thankful when I get an invitation to come and speak at a church or some civic function, especially when it is a repeat performance, because that means I "done good" the first time.

I am thankful for Jason Hill and the unselfish service he gave our county, although I hope he is miserable Saturday afternoon between noon and four, and I am thankful for the voters who had the good sense to re-elect Jeff Wiginton.

I am thankful for all the wonderful readers who have welcomed me into their homes and sometimes their hearts for the past 11 years now - and I am thankful for Mr. J.T. McKay, and all the other teachers who helped me get where I am today.

Happy Thanksgiving Day, y'all - and may God bless each and every one of you.

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