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Ol’ Pappy, the talking skink
Jeff Whitten NEW
Jeff Whitten is managing editor of the Bryan County News and Coastal Courier, his favorite papers. - photo by File photo

From the rear lines of the pandemic, part three and a half.

One of the positives of this stay at home stuff (at least for those of us who tried to stay at home, like me) is getting reacquainted with my yard.  

Here some background is necessary, or if not necessary at least somewhat advisable. You see, I am one of a declining number of short, knobbley legged little dudes who has resisted the urge to own a riding lawnmower and ride around like laird of the manor.  

Instead, I have pushed a pushmower around my 1.19 acres of weeds interrupted by occasional patches of centipede for more than a quarter century, and will continue to do so until the cows come back. (I’d say until the cows come home, but there used to be cows next door, and some crops, then they got replaced by houses full of people with things that make noise. I still hope the cows come back). 

Disclaimer: These days I own a walk-behind mower, a concession to my advancing years and my wife, who thinks because I wobble around bowlegged as if I have something large and uncomfortable planted where the sun doesn’t shine there is something wrong with me. 

She blames it on my overdoing things, which is kind of funny given that usually whatever it is I’m doing is something she puts on the infernal list that never ends. When I don’t do things, I am reminded by her that there are things in need of doing. It’s a Catch-22. 

What she doesn’t know is I have always walked with a hitch in my giddyup. Back when I was in Charlie Battery, 3rd Battalion, 12th Field Artillery (Lance) my nickname amongst some was “Pops” because after PT I’d stagger around like Redd Foxx playing Fred Sanford going to join Elizabeth (and I was young then, and mostly good looking, but that’s another story).  

Anyway, one of the drawbacks of operating a pushmower is that you can’t just go straight ahead forever. You run out of room sand have to either back up or turn, and that’s when the skinks happen. 

One minute, you’re mowing grass, the next there’s a skink – right next to your foot. It is unsettling, to say the least. 

Skinks, for people who have never seen one, are not-so-tiny snake-lizards with fat bodies and big lizard heads known to prompt grown men to jump three or four feet in the air. They are the Komodo dragons of southeast Georgia. It is a good thing skinks are small and cannot fly, or I’d never go outside. 

Skinks also are like ninjas in that you never know they’re there until they’re there, and then it’s too late. As far as I know, no skink or pack of skinks has ever taken down a full grown man, but I’m not taking any chances. 

Skink was the name of a recurring character in some of Carl Hiassen’s fine satires about developers’ ruination of Florida, but that is another story.  That skink used to be Florida’s governor, if I remember right, and I point it out only so those familiar with Hiassen’s work don’t confuse the literary skink with those hanging out in my yard.  

Anyhow.  I had some years back a dream about Pappy, the talking skink, that may have had something to do with a certain party I attended. As I remember it, I was outside changing a lawnmower blade or something when a skink sidled up to me and said hello.

“Hello,” I said, because in the dream I was not afraid.  

“I’m Pappy,” the skink said. “Pappy the Skink. I live under your pump house.”

He sounded like Morgan Freeman. 

“Nice to meet you,” I said. 

“Likewise, I’m sure,” said Pappy the Skink. “Say, is that your pickup?”

He pointed at my old Toyota, the one with the wheel that came off on I-95. I still had it in the dream. So I gave Pappy a ride to the store so he could get a coke-flavored Icee and some scratch off tickets. Then we rode around Effiingham County a while so he could stick his head out the window and see what was going on. 

“Skinks are voters, too, you know,” Pappy the Skink said. “We like to see how the ditches look.”

By then, Pappy the Skink was about six-foot-tall, wearing a Tennessee ballcap and polarized sunglasses and waving a fishing pole around at the sky. 

“Looky here,” Pappy the Skink said. “I’m an angler. Har har. I’m Bill Dance. My lure’s snagged in the lily pads. Watch me fall out my boat. Har har.”

And then he tickled my feet and I giggled so hard it woke me up. 

Ever since, when cutting the grass or piddling the yard, I have kept an eye out for Pappy and his friends so I can run the other way.  

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