Where Common Sense Meets Brains

“Ain’t got the brains God gave a goose,” Dad muttered, shaking his head. 

He sat in his chair in front of the big old Zenith. Encased in a piece of furniture that fit the previous TV, the new one left a space of several inches of dead air around it. Its curved globe front took up the entire corner of our family room. 

Nightly news, 5:30 sharp and no DVRing, he anticipated that half hour the entire day. He never missed it. Walter Cronkite delivered, looking a lot like a Grandpa I never knew. I couldn’t understand why Dad wanted to watch the news every day, because he never seemed to like it. 

“Ain’t got the brains God gave a goose,” he would tell the politicians.  

The chair was his throne, and he ruled his kingdom from its turquoise upholstery with complete authority. No one sat in his chair, except when he was gone, or in the bedroom napping. Then it was fair game, and the four of us made a beeline to sit in it. But as soon as we heard the bedroom door open we’d gather up our legs from its comfort and move away. 

It was from Dad’s chair I heard a lot of Solomon’s Wisdom Proverbs with a slice of my dad Jacob, like “a man can be smart as can be and down right stupid.” It’s there, just really hard to find. 

At home Dad always wore faded OshKosh B’Gosh overalls over a round stomach, like a basketball or nine month pregnancy was hiding underneath. His overalls were another thing I couldn’t quite figure because gosh was a forbidden word.  I’d get my mouth washed out with soap over that one, but his blue denim advertised it throughout the farm all my life.  I asked him about it a number of times. 

“How come you wear OshKosh B’Gosh when we can’t say gosh?”

 He’d stop me in my tracks with, “What did you say? Don’t you say that word again, Sylvia.” 

It was a futile. 

We didn’t usually grumble about Dad’s chair, but sometimes a little irritation showed in the way we sighed, flayed our legs and arms with the effort to get out. That’s all the protest we dared. 

When friends came to visit, all of us went to great lengths to keep them off the throne. 

“That’s Dad’s chair,” we’d say with a warning. If they looked at us like, “so what?” and sat there anyway, we’d watch nervously until Dad walked by.  It always made me feel like a grapefruit grew inside my gut. 

Dad would say nothing on his first walk-by. Then, on his way from the kitchen, with a bowl of food in his hand, he would pause in their blind spot, drop a big hand on a thin shoulder and give a slight push. They didn’t argue after one swivel to look upward at him. They got it and the chair was empty again. 

“Intelligence and common sense can be worlds apart,” was another of his Proverbs gems. “The brains of Einstein but the sense of a donkey.” I would have had my mouth washed out for that one too. 

An open Bible sat next to the chair. After the nightly news, Dad would pull it over onto his blue-jeaned-stomach and go where true wisdom reigned. Words from the massive Bible righted the craziness of a world without sense, one “headed to hell in a bucket of smarts.” 

Dad’s gone. The home place isn’t. The chair is different, but when I visit the farm, I still don’t sit in his spot. 

Sometimes, from my DVR’ed nightly news perch, with the flickering screen showing what’s happening in our world, the words are clear in my head. 

“Ain’t got the brains God gave a goose.” 

Loosely translated his words seem appropriate. 

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs 1:7; NIV.

3 Replies

  1. RJ Thesman Reply

    Such a wonderful memory trip, Sylvia. And the photo of the field behind you – shadows of my growing up as well. Wonderful post!

    • Sylvia A Schroeder Reply

      Thanks Rebecca. Fun to look back sometimes, and I love that you relate to growing up on the farm.

  2. Bob Strong Reply

    Things haven’t changed much! I have my “grandpa’s electric chair” with buttons and every day, when possible, I watch the news. Opinions about politicians haven’t changed much since your dad’s opinions. Enjoyed your story! Thanks.