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February 18, 1978 Around Adair with Ed Waggener

The article below first appeared in the February 18, 1978 issue of the Daily Statesman. Topics included a Veterans' reunion, matching wits with local lawyers, some wisdom from John Burr, The Great Educational Walking Experiment of 1978, and more of his lifelong promotion of the importance of sidewalks. I remember hating that 2-mile walk to school, but Dad was right about the sidewalks. --Pen

By Ed Waggener

He's the same Howard Smith
Coy Rice, Columbia, has been involved with re-union plans for his old Army unit, the 102nd Infantry Division, in which he was a member in World War II. Recently, he says, his former lieutenant, Elmer Russell of Wingo, Texas, was going through the unit yearbook and came across the name Howard K. Smith. He wondered if the man were the same Howard K. Smith of television fame.

He wrote ABC-Television to ask if his Smith were the same as theirs. The word came back that, yes, indeed, he was the same man. And a few days later, Rice reports, Howard K. Smith contacted Elmer Russell to tell him he would attend the reunion, which will be held Labor Day. "It's funny how a uniform and a few years make people look different," Rice said. "I'd watched him on television for years, and I never thought about it being the same man I walked across Europe beside. I talked with him a lot during the war."

These lawyers are sharp
Don't mess around with this crowd of Columbia lawyers.

I heard a fellow say, "I had been beating some of these little, round lawyers on the pinball machine..." and I thought it was clever. Somehow, I repeated the sentence, not in a disrespectful manner, in front of Paul Barry Jones, Esquire. It brought a stern rebuke. "Eddie," he said, "don't try to get into a wits matching contest when you're only half prepared."

They are trained that way
I shouldn't have gotten into a fracas with Jones. Lawyers are trained to out- talk other people. I guess the Adair County court room is the county's ultimate wits-matching area. Michael Morris, the sage of Absher, used to tell about a fellow who would size up the intellect of his adversaries, find it lacking, and say, "I'd like to match wits with that -- down on the courthouse lawn."

I never did see anything like that happen. But the fellow could have made a lawyer and been matching wits to some real sharp people right to this day.

John Burr must have known Jones would be a lawyer
When we were going to Adair County High School, Coach John Burr taught the boys' health class.

One of the things he required in the class was that we give reports from newspapers on health developments. Every year, I'm told-and I heard it myself- he'd give instructions on how long an article it would take to give a give minute talk from. He'd make a caliper of thumb and forefinger and measure off, figuratively, about two inches of type. "Now," he'd say, "most of you can't talk five minutes on that size article. We never had but one who could. A few years back, we had a fellow by the name of Paul Barry Jones, who could talk for 15 minutes on an article half that size."

Then Mr. Burr would pause, and add, "He was a Baptist."

He should have said, "He'll be a lawyer."

Update: The walking experiment
I wrote earlier in the week about the walking experiment. I'll bring you up to date on further developments.

On Thursday morning, I took the long walk with my first-grader, Pen, from the Square to the school. I had thought that the 25 minutes it took Linda and Pen to go out there was too long, that Pen and his mother were just slow walkers.

Pen is faster than me. He set the pace, and it is a 25 minute walk for us.

The main reason was the condition of the sidewalks.

A person who walks out Greensburg Street in the snow ought to get the Golden Prat Award, if he or she doesn't fall on his or her respective prat.

The sidewalks are a solid sheet of ice.

Pen wasn't really as excited about being a Rugged Individualist as I was. And he told me so frequently. He didn't want to walk.

He even demanded to choose the route to school. "I don't want to go to school the way Mother and I went yesterday," he said.

"Why not?" I asked.

Under his breath, he said, "It's too damned long."

I said, "What!"

He said, "It's too long."

I dropped it at that. No telling where that kid is picking up that kind of language. His mother's side of the family, I guess, but we walked his route.

He said he wanted to walk by way of the curve, and we did, out beyond the Dillon Street turn-off from Greensburg Street.

From there, the walk is a hazard beyond belief. The sewers have left the yards and the drainage ditches and shoulders an unholy mess.

If you walk on the road, the cars have to dodge to miss you.

It was so unusual, walking to school, we felt self-conscious.

I was appreciative of the offers of rides. At least five people (Doris Depp, Becky Moseley, Gene Young, Wanda Beard, and Mary Allender) stopped, and three of those actually went to school and came back for us. It's a good feeling to know that somebody else is thinking of you, even if Cowboy Legg did pass laughing.

I walked back to town. The round trip took 50 minutes.

It really could be an enjoyable experience, if there were sidewalks and a few other people also walked.

As it is today, the desire to return to the good old days when we walked to school is darn near ended. Walking to Adair County High School is a socially awkward, self-conscious effort-besides dangerous.

Some buck-passing
I asked Superintendent Sullivan when he was going to see that sidewalks are built to the school complex. He said, "Coy (Mayor Downey) has promised to build sidewalks all the way to Milltown, that'll get us."

I reminded him that Mayor Downey might go to the Super Test Corner on Burkesville Street and cut across Hudson Street to Milltown. "That would leave the school totally off," I warned him.

It is enjoyable
Walking in Columbia is enjoyable. It even could be healthy and enjoyable to walk to school--if there were sidewalks, and if the community paid as much attention to the needs of pedestrians as their plight warrants.

I don't see how any public funds could be used in any better investment than in the construction of more sidewalks and bikeways, in more public transportation, and more protection for pedestrians, hikers and moped riders, and the users of bus and taxi service.

This story was posted on 2020-02-09 11:05:19
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