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God, Please Make Us Some More Gilberts
HOW MY PAL, GILBERT, WOULD LOOK TODAY
MORE LOOKS AT GILBERT ABBOTT'S LIFE IN PICTURES
Please allow me to ask you a question. Have you ever met a guy, maybe in your early school days, who was Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Red Skelton, Hugh Hefner and John Lennon all rolled into one body? I did. Once. And that solitary meeting lasted for one school semester. Looking back, I was blessed to meet such an unorthodox character by the name of GILBERT ABBOTT.
I wish I could manufacture perfect words to describe Gilbert Abbott, which by the way, is his real name. I say "is" because I cannot grasp the idea of Gilbert being gone from our world. Although if that be true, he wouldn't have flinched. Shown any fear. Just grinned that grin he had and took the Grim Reaper's hand and vanished. I would have loved to been privy to that conversation between Gilbert and the Reaper. Like I said. If that be true.
I first had the surprising-pleasure of meeting Gibert Abbott, of Hamilton, Alabama, my hometown, on a school bus in 1964. I was young. Life was young. And things pretty much were okay. I was in the fourth grade at Hamilton Grammar School. Gilbert was in the third grade. And for his age and height, he could have passed for a sixth-grader. Thing is, he was kept back a year and I don't have the heart to say why. Oh, it wasn't for a criminal act. Or a matter of punishment for something he did to a teacher. Gilbert, let me say delicately, was "different." His thoughts were not on the level of common man. Now do you understand?
I was sitting on the school bus when Gilbert boarded from the gravel road that ran to his run-down shack-of-a-home, and I am not being scarcastic. This was a true fact. Gilbert could not help it if his grandpa, whom he was living with, was sick and unable to fix-up their house. I really don't think Gilbert minded his meager surroundings because he was always grinning. No one really knew why. I can only assume that he loved to grin. And he had "that" grin of a shyster who is about to "close the deal" on a sale of two cases of "snake oil linament" that was hawked in the early west. That type of smile.
I knew Gilbert was "different," as he walked down the aisle of the school bus then he stopped on a dime. Literally. Someone had dropped a dime in the floor of the bus. I watched as his eyes lit up. He look all around and said in a low voice, "anyone missing a dime?" then shoved it into his patched corduroy pants. That were unzipped without Gilbert's knowledge.
Gilbert then spied a pretty girl, Rosa Lee Parr, sitting by herself. With the speed and grace of a panther in the Amazon jungle, he was sitting with her with his mouth running at an estimated speed of 90 words per minute. "Hey, Rosie. Rosie, got ye' homework done? I need to copy it. I was sick last night. Couldn't get mine done. 'Sides that new math is rough," he said with the efficiency of a professional cattle auctioneer. Rosie obliged without any arguement. I always thought in years to come which one of the two, Rosa or Gilbert, knew the least for "new math" was not introduced until the next year, 1965. I can only assume that any math was new to Gilbert because he never had his math homework. Just his spelling homework. That's it. And when our teacher, the now-late Rosa Bowling Simmons, a true school marm that even Mrs. Beadle, the school teacher on "Little House on The Prairie," would be proud of, would say, "Gilbert! Why didn't you do your math homework? Answer me?" He would go into his sheep act and reply, "Uh, now, Miss Bowling, uhh, my uncle come to my house and got me to help him fix a car. It was real late when I got done." And like every time before, Miss Bowling bought it. Hook. Line. And no homework. And went back (in a mild huff) to her desk while Gilbert cautiously looked at me and grinned like a red fox.
But do not get me wrong. Gilbert was a whiz in English, Spelling and Geography. I cannot tell you why because he never studied. Not at school. Not at home. I can only assume that God in His tender mercies, helped Gilbert with a "soft push" of the mind and helped him with these subjects that gave me trouble. Not that I was a prodigy. Secretly, I always wanted to be like Gilbert.
It's seriously difficult to talk about Gilbert's qualities, traits and personality because there are just so many adjectives available to use. Gilbert was, I guess, a bit intimidating with his frame a bit taller than the rest of us in fourth grade. Okay. Let me tell it in a honest way. Gilbert, to me, looked like a grown man sitting in his desk--towering above everyone. But not giving it any thought. I think he enjoyed being taller than everyone. It gave him that "edge" if he were approached for a fist fight at recess. And Gilbert had plenty of fist fights. He was pretty good with his hands. Plus, he know how to anticipate his opponent's next jab or punch and easily avoided being hit many times. But when Gilbert grew weary of throwing jabs, he went for the jugular and used what he said he invented, "the ol' one-two punch,"--one fist to his opponent's gut, the other fist to his now-blooded face and Gilbert's foe hit the sandy playground. Hard. The funny thing was, after most fights, Gilbert and his sparring partners would be seen later shaking hands, laughing like best friends in World War I. I can only assume that Gilbert's beaten foes had learned to not pick on Gilbert.
On the school bus that evening, Gilbert would always do television character impressions to the bus driver, Mr. Felin Terrell's complaining. For a Church of God preacher, Mr. Terrell could correct an unruly kid like Gilbert so harsh, but without using any curse word. One afternoon really sticks out of all the rest even to me in 2012. It was about the time that Chuck Connors and Johnny Crawford starred as Lucas McCain and his son, Mark, on ABC Network's newest hit, "The Rifleman," and Gilbert was not about to be the last one to know about this fantastic show.
"Hey, wanna see my impression of Lucas McCain?" Gilbert yelled as he jumped up from his seat and with the school bus moving, and doing his arms and hands like he was holding that rapid-fire rifle that Lucas used on his show. Plus throwing in sound affects of a rifle shooting. We were totally blown-away with his act. Before we knew it, he had used his information about Lucas' rifle and started a spitball fight, but with rubber bands. And Gilbert, I have to say, was "the master" of all rubber band spitball fights. I recall how he stood with rubber band pulled tight, loaded with a tight spitball and when he hit me in the right jaw, it felt like a red wasp stinging me. He laughed like a horse being fed. I did too. I had no choice. I loved Gilbert. He was not only my best buddy in the fourth grade, but my first real mentor who taught me a few secrets that all young men should know about life.
I cannot share all of the secrets of life that Gilbert taught me, for some are laced with profanities and our HubPages editors despise that. So I will just share the clean secrets of life that Gilbert taught me on our school bus.
About Cursing . . ."Kenny, always use God's name in vain (the real word here) when you are mad at some joker who wants to bully you. This will scare the "wits" out of them and then you can take advantage of them when they are scared."
About Girls . . ."It's no problem to talk to girls. Just walk up with your pants unzipped and start yakking about whatever "THEY" want to hear. It's that easy. And girls can't stand a bashful guy. That's plain to see. Look at me, Kenny. I am always around pretty girls." (the item about our pants being unzipped was a clever trick of Gibert's visionary talents. He said that girls would see a guy's unzipped pants, then giggle, which made them relax and you could look foolish while zipping up. A sure-fire ice-breaker, Gilbert added.)
About Work . . ."Always "LOOK" busy whether you are or not. I got this uncle in Illinois who works for General Motors and makes tons of money and he only works a little on his shifts. He makes his foreman's believe he is always busy because he only "LOOKS" busy." (Okay. In a brief explanation, Gilbert's uncle Jasper Abbott, "did" work at a car plant in Illinois. Not as an assembly line employee, but a janitor. Still, I guess a janitor "can" look busy.)
About Doing Right . . ."Why do you need to do right? Just act like you are always doing right and nobody will ask you any questions."
About Marriage . . ."Heck (not what Gilbert said), I ain't never gettin' married. They's enough "love" (again, not the word Gilbert used) for me with the single gals in the world and besides, Kenny, gettin' married means hard work for the man. Hard work all the time because the Bible says that a man is to work and sweat on his head to get bread." (Bless his heart. Gilbert had picked up some Biblical wisdom and was glad to share it with his "student of life": ME.
After 1964, Gilbert disappeared. I looked for him during the summer of 1964 during our school vacation, but somehow he vanished. Poof! Gone. He never showed up in the fall when we all started fifth grade in 1965. I don't mind tell you, I felt lost and very sad most of the time. I, and other friends of Gilbert, had become accustomed to his wild and colorful stories, tales, and television character impressions. To say that there wasn't many like Gilbert is the equivalent of saying that Vincent van Gogh was kinda talented. Gilbert not only broke the mold when he was made, but designed the mold to begin with.
And to this day, March 2, 2012, I have never laid eyes of my best buddy, Gilbert Abbott again. It's like a slice of my soul was taken out when Gilbert left my life. I am serious. He meant that much to me.
I can only assume that Gilbert, and those like him, never die. They just watch over us from beyond the clouds.