LIFE IS SIMPLE: Just in time: Wayne’s chaw clock
Since the dawning of mankind, humans have always been concerned with the measurement of time. Ancient civilizations first started equating the movement and position of the moon, sun and stars as a way of calculating time. The smartest members of their groups spent vast amounts of time and effort to establish accurate calendars in order to make critical decisions that would allow them to know when to plant and harvest the crops that had allowed them to evolve from hunters to gatherers.
Later civilizations became even more proficient by segmenting each day into equal parts, with the development of sundials, water clocks, candle clocks, hourglasses and, eventually, mechanical and electronic clocks—all so we could know what time it was.
Then there was Wayne…
I first met Wayne when I was entering my third year of teaching high school agriculture. The old man had already taught more than 40 years in a neighboring school district and was a legend among all the ag teachers in the area, with his quiet and humble demeanor that had already inspired two generations of youngsters to pursue productive and successful careers in agriculture. A great teacher and FFA adviser, Wayne only possessed one vice that I could identify—he loved chewing tobacco. And I’m not talking about the flavored, diced-up smokeless tobacco marketed in shiny, round tins or the sweetened leaves in colorful pouches. No siree. Wayne chewed the old, bare-knuckled, twist tobacco with no additives or preservatives—and he liked a mouthful!
The first teachers’ meeting I ever attended with Wayne, I watched as he used his pocket knife to carefully cut one, then two, and finally a third chunk of tobacco to cram into his mouth. Since most of our meetings lasted about an hour, I watched Wayne’s head tilt farther back the longer the meeting droned on. (Wayne never spit.) Exactly one hour after the meeting started, Wayne headed for the trashcan, and everyone knew why. The meeting adjourned.
Over the next couple of years, I watched the old gentleman go through the same ritual at every monthly meeting, and nobody ever needed an hourglass or wristwatch to know when one hour had elapsed. I was always grateful to the veteran teacher for providing a not-so subtle hint that a boring meeting should end, and I always figured it was a sign of respect that the 20-some other teachers agreed that when Wayne’s chaw was done, so was the meeting.
I do remember one particular gathering when a new, gung-ho, young professor was enlightening the group on some subject he thought was very important and I began to fear for Wayne’s well-being. I could tell that the young educator was just getting wound up at the 55-minute mark. All of us began to glance toward Wayne’s direction as his head tilted farther and farther back. At the one-hour mark, some of us had begun to notice some tobacco juice beginning to ooze out from the corners of his mouth when one of the experienced teachers interrupted the professor’s presentation by stating, “Doc, we’re going to need to either take a break or adjourn.”
A bit puzzled, the speaker asked if there was a problem.
“Yes, sir,” he answered politely. “By Wayne’s clock, your time is up.”
The meeting adjourned, on time, without any need for a sundial, hourglass or clock.
Copyright (c) 2018, Jerry Crownover