Sometimes when I speak I am asked to field questions from the audience. I shiver in my shoes when that happens -- which is similar to quaking in my boots, except I seldom wear boots to speaking engagements. You never know what someone may ask.
The most oft-repeated question is, "Does your lovely wife, Lisa, ever get tired of you writing about her in your column?"
If my lovely wife, Lisa, happens to be attending the event with me, I defer and ask her to answer the question for herself. She is usually not with me, however. While she may not be tired of having me write about her, she is very tired of listening to me talk, so she never misses an opportunity to send me on my way alone.
When I have to answer, it doesn't matter what I say because I know it won't get back to her anyway.
Another favorite: "Which is your favorite book?"
Now that's like asking a parent which of his children is his favorite. There is no good way to answer that question.
Along those same lines people often ask me to comment on which of my columns, over the years, attracted the most attention. Now that is a question worth pondering, which I think I will do right now. I started writing this column 16 years or aso go, give or take a Wednesday deadline, and have penned more than 2,500 over the years. It's hard to pick two or three from 2,500 -- but a few stand out.
My favorite column might be the one I wrote about visiting the Vietnam Wall in Washington, D.C., and looking for the name of my high school friend, Tony Piper, who was killed on July 31, 1971. I still read the column from time to time and it still makes me cry.
And Tony's name is still on that wall.
I wrote a column one summer about running into some obnoxious Yankee businessmen at a Bar Harbor, Maine, lobster pound and wound up convincing them that I was the lieutenant governor of Georgia. That column seemed to get a lot of traction and for many months, wherever I went, I was referred to as lieutenant governor and I still get write-in votes for that position every four years.
Among my favorites are the many I have written about my mother because she was such a hero to me and I feel like, in some small way, writing about her love and dedication and courage seems to keep her memory alive and I get to share her with my readers across the region. That's a nice thing.
Believe it or not, many of my readers tell me that their favorite column is one I wrote about Charles McCarthy -- also known as the "Goat Man." In case you aren't from around here or weren't alive in the 1950s and '60s, the Goat Man used to wander all across this great nation in his little wagon with a herd of goats, camping out on the outskirts of practically every small town in America at one time or another. An entire generation -- or maybe two -- could identify with that column because so many people had warm memories of the Goat Man visiting their village or town.
Some of my favorite columns have been the ones I wished I didn't have to write: Stories about good friends who passed on long before I was ready to give them up, and every time I wrote one of those stories -- every single time -- I found myself wishing that I had had the foresight to write about that person before while they could read for themselves how much I cared for them.
A lot of my columns have been quite controversial because I write what I think and I don't try to write to be politically correct. I can't please everyone so I simply try to please myself. I think Ozzie Nelson's youngest son wrote a song about that.
Sometimes people wonder if I ever wrote a column that I wish I could take back. The answer is always the same. No.
Another question I get is, "Do you ever get tired of writing about Porterdale?"
Lord, no. People might get tired of reading about Porterdale and there is a simple solution: Stop reading them. But I find that my stories about growing up in Porterdale strike a chord with people because it reminds them of their own childhoods -- wherever they might have been raised. I have talked to people all over who share common memories with me and my little linthead friends, even though we had never met before.
Looking back, I think my favorite column is always the next one, because it is such a privilege to have a forum in which to share my memories, opinions, thoughts and dreams.
Once in a while I get a smart aleck -- there's one in every crowd -- who thinks he'll stump me and asks, "What is the meaning of life?"
That's the easiest question of all. The meaning of life is to glorify God in every word, action, thought and deed. Y'all have at it.
Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.