Whenever this world starts looking too complicated, I call my friend Skeeter Skates, owner of Skeeter's Tree Stump Removal and Plow Repair in Greater Metropolitan Pooler. Skeeter has a wonderful way of putting things into perspective.
"Hoss, this is going to have to be a quick conversation," he said. "I am right in the middle of trying to grease up the hydraulics on a 1200D heavy-duty Marshall bi-directional chain saw with a 29-inch stroke. Trust me, it ain't nearly as easy as writing one them egghead columns like you do."
Skeeter considers tree stump removal and plow repair a much higher calling than writing columns. There are many who would agree with him.
"I was talking to a buddy of mine who runs a tractor company," Skeeter informed me, "and he is pretty sore at you. He says you are picking on politicians in the Legislature who are small business people and can't always pay their taxes on time because the economy has been rough on little businesses like his and mine. I told him not to fret about it because nobody much reads your column and what few do can't understand it."
I told Skeeter I had heard from the same person and that I wasn't criticizing small business people in the Legislature who might not have filed their taxes on time; I was talking about people who didn't file at all.
"Well, now," he mused, "that's different. I got no sympathy for people that don't file their taxes. That's un-American. You call some of them hot-shot government leaders you know in Atlanta and tell them to send those deadbeats down here to Pooler. I'll put them to work digging up tree stumps. I'll pay them minimum wage because I doubt they are worth more than that. Then they can file their taxes like the rest of us."
I told Skeeter that I would pass along that information. What I didn't tell him was that I am not very popular in the governor's office or in the Legislature and wasn't sure anybody would return my calls. That's more detail than he wants to know.
I asked Skeeter if any of the stimulus money from Washington had flowed down to his tree stump removal and plow repair business.
"The only thing flowing around here," he growled, "is the Ogeechee River. People like me won't see one dime of that so-called stimulus money. It's all going to them big boys in New York who messed up, got bailed out and then gave fat bonuses to the ones that screwed things up in the first place. Like that big insurance company, HOG."
I think Skeeter was referring to AIG, but it is best not to interrupt him when he is on a roll.
"I'd love to have a business where I could remove the wrong tree stumps or dull every plow blade I put my hands on and get a bailout and a bonus," he said. "Maybe I need to move out of Pooler and up to New York City."
I was not about to tell Skeeter that there isn't much demand for tree stump removal or plow repair in New York City. Besides, he wouldn't be happy there. He hates the New York Times and people who yell when they talk.
I asked Skeeter if he had any thoughts on the current state of politics. He said, "My daddy used to say, Politicians are like squirrels. They look harmless, but they can cause a mess if you don't watch 'em.' I can't see things have changed much."
Before I could respond, he said, "Hoss, I'd like to talk more but I got a Massey Harris P4086 14-inch plow blade sittin' here that ain't going to sharpen itself. In the meantime, I trust you will continue to distress the humorless and the self-important and take up for the folks who can't take up for themselves. You do that and you may amount to something someday." Then he hung up.
I always enjoy my conversations with Skeeter Skates. Whether the subject is politics or plow blades, he makes his points well.
E-mail columnist Dick Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org.