By Richard E. Noble
There I was, sitting in my usual position, pen and pad in hand, tape recorder rolling, doing my job of documenting tomorrow’s history - an awesome assignment indeed, when a loud mournful wail shattered the perpetual predictability and wafted down upon us from the back of the auditorium.
Now this was only small town history as opposed to big city history but history nonetheless. It may have been Mr. Putnal, local oysterman/fisherman representative expounding on his inability to find a parking spot at last week’s mullet toss or bar-b-que rib cook off or Commissioner Sanders commenting on her recent bream fishing trip out to the ditches with her retired husband, or someone at the podium requesting more lighting at the little league baseball field, or the perennial Mrs. Swanson complaining about the disturbing, constant unapproved activities coming at ungodly hours from her sister-in-law’s house across the road. I don’t remember exactly now what was going on at the time of the scream, but everybody stopped and looked to the back of the room.
We all saw a rather large man, now standing with his arms and hands flailing about above his head slapping at the air. The man’s wail was obviously one of frustration and not pain. And I suppose that it could have been caused by any number of circumstances totally unrelated to the events taking place. But for some reason my first thought was that this was a man not accustomed to attending County Commission meetings.
Most people have no idea what goes on at a County Commission meeting or the amount of minutia that is often debated for what might seem to the casual observer as “forever”. But as a semi-paid scribe assigned to document tomorrow’s small town history I have come to realize the importance of every bird dropping complaint, or flooded driveway or dusty dirt road annoyance. I realize that no one but no one comes to a County Commission meeting to relax and be entertained. This is serious business and the kinds of people who show up at these meetings are serious type people. They have something to say and they expect to be heard - eventually.
I watched this man leave the courtroom and struggle through the lobby pulling at his hair in what seemed to be an attempt to remove it from his scalp. I felt so sorry for the fellow.
Finally he exited the lobby and stepped out onto the sidewalk. Jerry, the on-duty everyday police officer, followed the man out the door. He was obviously trying to console the gentleman, but the poor man was still in a rather hectic rage. I couldn’t hear what he was saying but his mouth was opening wide and often, and his hands and arms were fluttering like the wings of a butterfly. Unfortunately the man was considerably over weight and his face was getting redder by the minute.
Jerry was obviously trying to be friendly and compassionate but yet keeping a safe step or two away from the poor fellow with his hand on his revolver just in case the dude really flipped out.
As I sat in my pew, I thought to myself “I remember when I used to be like that. But now look at me! I’m as calm as a potato. And I come here every damn week.” I felt like Ernest Borgnine or Lee Marvin, the hardened war torn front-line sailor or marine. I mean I do this every darn week - week after week after week ... after week ... after week. I get no medals or awards ... nothing. In fact almost never does anybody even say “good job” or well done. In fact most times when I bump into an old acquaintance his first question is “Hey, what are you doing nowadays?”
But I say to myself did anybody ever thank Flavius Josephus or Tacitus, or the Venerable Bede or Thucydides, or Herodotus or Plutarch or Gibbon? I doubt it. What about all them monks who hand-copied all them Bibles, with a feather pen and an inkwell before Guttenberg came along? And those cavemen who scratched things on cave walls - with no electric lights? What about all those forgotten souls who stacked all those huge stones on those pyramids? What about all them guys that you read about in those history books who dug their own miserable graves before somebody finally put them out of their hopeless misery and shot them in the head?
I’ll tell you folks, I feel that I am in a class with the greatest sufferers who have ever lived. I have been there without fail for three or four years now, and listen to this ... I am going to be there at the next County Commission meeting also - and the one after that too! My god, I think that I am actually turning into an American hero. Somebody ought to be taking my picture tramp tramp tramping hopelessly to a fate worse than death as I and an army of other plug ugly, unsung recorders of tomorrow’s history all over America and the world for that matter fade into anonymity and oblivion in numerous unpopulated and underattended County Commission rooms from Hell. What stamina, what courage, what endurance, what perspicacity! Time magazine ought to be taking my picture for their next cover. Somebody should be writing something heroic about me!