It seems like in the last few years, there has been an increase in the numbers of people both in public and private life who lack what we used to call “character.” It is defined as “the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.”
Traveling across the great USA, I have noticed another kind of “character” that seems to be prevalent wherever you may go, though.
I think referring to a slightly eccentric person as a “character” probably goes back to my grandparents as I recall any time the conversation turned to someone of unusual traits that word was used. I think it’s probably a polite form of someone being called “nuts, crazy, wires crossed, screw loose, touched, batty, different or looney.”
There doesn't seem to be a published definition to cover this but we all know them when we see them. They are the odd folks who, though unbelievable to most of us, are able to survive in a complex world marching along to the beat of a different drummer.
We find them in our daily travels, at work, at church and at play. We talk about them over coffee, dinners and while golfing and quilting and they are a rich source of entertainment.
Driving along one day I saw a man on a riding lawn mower pulling an 18 foot caboose shaped camper. Of course, I had to stop to learn his story. It turns out he travels EVERY winter from Minnesota to Corpus Christie with this rig and does scissor sharpening to finance his trip. It was a traveling medicine show with signage to match. Now that’s a character.
Another character I know is James in Louisiana. He lives in a ramshackle camper in the marshes and he makes the TV show “Swamp People” look like Rhodes Scholars. He told me his “bank” is right out there in the marsh and every time he needed money he goes out and “harvests it” by selling his catch. When the rest of us are starving to death in some conspiracy theory end of the world scenario preached by the televangelists, James will be living high on the hog.
You already saw the Bigfoot character in Creede from a past column and certainly that ranks high among my experiences.
George, a man I once knew, was traveling across country with friends and got out of the car halfway there for “an appointment with the Lord.” Reluctantly they let him out in the middle of the desert and when they got to their destination, there he stood on the corner waving to them. I still think George is an Angel.
It used to be that you could spot these individuals easily as they wore camouflage clothing but with the popularity of shows like Duck Dynasty, it’s become quite the vogue for even men and women of high breeding to dress like that. Often I think I have found a true “character” only to find out it’s a bank executive or lawyer who may be lacking in character but in no way can ever be one. It takes real practice and years of experience to qualify as a character and it is not to be undertaken by the unqualified.
I have always wanted to rise to such notoriety and that is probably the reason I decided to change my name to Dutch. Now that's a name to live up to but so far the chase has eluded me. I take too many baths, shave on occasion and sing in the choir although the latter certainly does not disqualify you from that title.
Although I do aspire to such greatness as to be remembered in some eccentric way and have taken up pottery, guitar playing and skipping a few baths, dating Trixie pretty much takes me out of the running as she tends to dance to a different tune and I like her enough to sacrifice.
We tend to think only of men as being in this coveted position but I have known quite a few ladies who also would qualify. The use of the term ladies might be a stretch but they were of the female persuasion at least.
One gal I knew would definitely qualify as a character. Julie was a local when I was a kid and could often be seen with her feet sticking out of a dumpster, doing her weekly shopping. She had money but just could not pass up a good deal.
Imagine the surprise of the town when she left a nice sum of money in her will to benefit the town. We kids weren’t shock, though, she was always supplying us with dimes to get that coveted a grape Nehi at the market. Now that’s a real character who also has character.
While we wait for spring, character hunting is a good way to pass the winter. It sure beats falling asleep on the couch watching Dancing with the Stars.
At the least, you will find redeeming qualities in your spouse and be thankful for not living with a character. However, if you already do so, it’s time to get them out in public and do a service to the rest of us and give us something to gossip about.