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HUCKABY: Never one to quit on a perfectly fine garment

In 1975 my mama bought me a nice winter coat for Christmas. It was brown corduroy with a thick warm lining. I remember the year because a couple of days after Christmas I took the coat back to White's in Covington and exchanged it for the cash. I then used the cash to help finance a trip to Dallas to watch Georgia play Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl.

I probably hurt my mama's feelings and I am sorry for that, but I have never regretted going on such a grand adventure and prefer having the memories that I made on that trip to warmth and winter comfort any day of the week. And I eventually got another winter coat.

It was a brown leather jacket with knit cuffs around the sleeves and a genuine nylon/acetate liner and polyester filling. I bought it at the Sam's Club at Southlake for about $40. I must have bought that coat about 24 years ago because I have pictures of myself wearing the coat while playing with my daughter Jamie Leigh, and she is pretty small in the pictures.

Former cotton farmer David Hays turned me on to Sam's Club shortly after it opened. He convinced me to give it a try because they were, according to him, "Practically giving stuff away." They were, too, and when I came home from my first Sam's Club shopping expedition there I was loaded down with large economy sizes of items that I didn't need and would never use -- but I bought 'em cheap.

I also bought a lot of stuff that I did need and would use -- like my leather jacket, which is why I brought it up in the first place. You see, after 24 years, I still wear that coat almost every day during the winter. The cuffs are beyond frayed and the lining is almost in shreds and I gave up putting anything in my coat pockets years ago because anything I put in the pockets would work its way into the lining and disappear forever.

But I'm like the character Deets in the western classic "Lonesome Dove" who wore the same hat for more than a decade. Gus, played by Robert Duval, said of him, "Deets never was one to quit on a garment because it got a little age on it."

That's like me and my leather jacket. I have worn it everywhere to do everything. When it was much newer, much shinier and much less frayed I would wear it to dress functions. Honesty compels me to admit that back in the day I cleaned up pretty good and Arthur Fonzarelli didn't have anything on me. Sunday morning? Time for church? Cold outside? No problem. I'd just throw on my new leather jacket over a dress shirt and tie and head to church.

Friday night? Big date? Supper at Henderson's, City Slickers or Red Lobster followed by a movie? My brown leather jacket was just the ticket.

Night on the town in Atlanta? Dinner at Benihana and a play at the Fox? Or a trip to Athens for a lube job at the Varsity and maybe a Bulldog basketball game? No matter the occasion, my trusty jacket kept me warm and stylish. Well, maybe not stylish, but at least Lisa never complained about how I looked in it.

And she ain't just a show horse, y'all. She's a work horse, too. When the hawk is out and the wind is up and it is time to roll the trash up the hill, bring in a stack of wood or head to the hay barn to feed the cows, I would grab my brown leather jacket and -- viola! It doubles as a work coat.

I have worn that coat around gravesites and as I frolicked through the snow with my kids and their friends. I wore it while Gary Bridgewater dragged me around a Lexington, Ky., stud farm when it was 3 degrees outside. If you have seen me outside in the wintertime during the past quarter century, you have seen me in that jacket.

Now I told you all of that to tell you this. I decided over Christmas that Old Faithful had done its due. I used a couple of gift cards and some money I had put aside and bought myself a new coat -- a humdinger, too. It's a thick black wool overcoat --just like the folks wear on the sidewalks of New York in all those movies you see. It made me look quite distinguished and would well suit my current station in life.

Last Saturday I had an opportunity to wear my new garment out in public. I liked to have froze to death! The wind cut right through me and I felt like a woman trying to wrap it around me. I came straight home and hung it in the hall closet, where it will stay until the weather warms up in the spring. Then I went straight to the Goodwill bin and retrieved the brown leather jacket that I had decided to donate to the needy.

I decided that I needed it as much as anyone, and besides, I never was one to quit on a garment just because it got a little age on it.

Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. E-mail him at dhuck08@bellsouth.net.