Terry Cummins

Terry Cummins

Dear Readers,

Our archives are replete with Terry Cummins’ wry wit and insights, dating all the way back to December 2005. At that time, his columns were published in the Sunday Tribune. Leap forward 15 years and he was still writing for us, now the News and Tribune, as recently as mid-April. Terry passed away June 8.

We join his fellow columnist Lindon Dodd in extending our condolences to Terry’s family.

But we also wanted to honor Terry another way, by giving you one more opportunity to read some of his writing. Below are outtakes we pulled from his columns.

With much gratitude, Terry, we thank you. Heck with rest in peace. In your newfound freedom, climb every mountain.

— Your News and Tribune family

Dec. 18, 2005 By any other name ...

In 1980, I too skipped Christmas, or skipped observing it in the traditional way. A month or so before Christmas, my wife suggested something different, and called a travel agent. Yes, they had a greatly reduced package to Mexico City for four days over Christmas. My mother, nearing 70, had never been far from her farm home. For 50 years, her Christmas mornings had been spent primarily cooking the turkey and the trimmings. Mom, how about some enchiladas and you don’t have to cook them?

Five of the family including my mother departed for Mexico City at 6 a.m. on Christmas morning. After settling in the hotel in late afternoon, we walked a couple of blocks to the center of the city. Mexico City has over 10 million residents, and one-half of them must have gathered there to celebrate Christmas. It was a spectacle to remember masses of people expressing the spirit of Christmas in a sea of lights, music, food and pageantry. It was an orderly and subdued expression of reverence and devotion. It was unlike any Christmas celebration anywhere. My lingering memory is not necessarily the awesome spectacle, but my mother’s response. She was awed, amazed, thrilled and everlastingly appreciative. It was the best gift I ever gave, or received.

March 20, 2006 An examination of Hoosiers and HillbilliesWhen two diverse groups of people live side-by-side, there can be misunderstandings resulting in feelings of “get out of my hair.” Having lived nearly an equal number of years in two adjoining states — Kentucky and Indiana — I feel qualified to address the differences between these two cultures.

Now it’s not all-out war as we find in the Hatfield-McCoy or the Democrat-Republican feuds. But Hoosier-Hillbilly discord has endured since the invention of basketball.

Before further discourse, I will define the terminology and present a brief historical background. When I migrated to the Hoosier state years ago, I began trying to determine what a Hoosier actually is. It’s been a bit exasperating, because noted historians can’t tell me. One interpretation is that a Hoosier is a Kentuckian whose car broke down on the way to Chicago. Another explanation, and not a very good one, is that a Kentuckian knocked on a door at an Indiana sycamore log cabin when he became lost trying to find Detroit and the occupant said, “Whosehere?”

June 30, 2007 A newspaper is better than a blog

You can get instantaneous news on cable, the Web and a million blogs. Why bother with a newspaper? I’m old fashioned. I begin each morning with the comics, which start on the front page.

Nov. 2, 2009 How to keep the family in their seats

With all the fresh eggs, milk, butter, and cream we needed, the cellar packed and the smokehouse full of cured meat, we were set for winter. And we never worried about a fuel bill increase, because a double-bladed ax, crosscut saw and muscle power provided the means to fill the woodhouse, which kept us warm during the coldest spells.

Money was scarce back in those days, but we were mighty rich in many ways. Work was long and hard, but we had a good time, especially during mealtimes each day when we took the time to rest and talk about our family, friends and neighbors. “I saw our first tomato turning on the vine today,” was good news.

It’s unfortunate our youngins’ are missing out on so many things of value that money can’t buy. When having a “meal,” as it used to be known, you announce to the kids that dinner is ready. They’re off doing something electronically and holler back, “Do we have to, we don’t want to sit there until everyone is finished.”

Aug. 7, 2010 It’s a wonder we ever won any wars

From the early 1950s to the early 1990s, we were in a “red-hot” Cold War with the Soviet Union when Khrushchev promised to “bury us.” The nuclear arms race intensified, and it was indeed a time of apprehension and fear. Civil Defense conducted workshops on how to construct bomb shelters in back yards to have a better chance of surviving a nuclear attack. In the early ‘60s when the Soviets shipped nuclear missiles to Cuba, our family stocked our basement with food, water and survival equipment. During my tour of duty, the lid could blow at any time, but that didn’t stop the Navy from transferring me off the ship to play basketball.

Most military bases sponsor and support competitive athletic teams to promote physical fitness, improve morale, and entertain the troops. When the draft was in effect, the teams were composed of professional and college athletes, and the competition was tough. During my two basketball seasons, our Amphibious Force Gator team competed against other bases up and down the East Coast.

Feb. 17, 2015 The importance of fact-checking

I’m primarily a newspaper media person, and hesitate to jump headlong into the social-media frenzy. It seems to be all consuming as I observe many nice people everywhere, day and night, engrossed in personal-social cyber interaction. When do those people reflect on their lives or eat or have the time to love one another?

Another problem as we relinquish our lives to cyberspace is cyber insecurity. Back in the old days, your money was safe in a bank. Occasionally, Jesse James robbed a bank or a stage coach, but you didn’t worry about Chinese hackers taking your passwords, and Jesse James didn’t want or need your identity. You’re not safe anywhere and certainly not in space. Lose your identity and you have nothing, like being stark naked on a main street.

Jan. 12, 2019 The art of aging

There are three categories of human beings according to age. Although I don’t qualify for the young grouping, where does the middle-age category cut off? As people live longer, wouldn’t you think it should be approaching age 91? If I do fit in the elderly group, it’s better than being called that “old geezer.” Do you know what that does to an alert elderly person’s ego? Although I have a few years on him, my ego is equivalent to Donald Trump’s. And, yes, I’m considering building a wall around my property to protect me from criminals pushing pain pills.

My children keep saying, “Dad, dip into your bank account and buy a hearing aid.” I respond to their mumbling with, “What?” They move closer, but I don’t want them any closer. “Buy hearing aids,” they shout. Also, be cautious of your children trying to confiscate your sacred driver’s license. I keep mine in a sock inside a heavy boot. When you drive to a drug store to stay alive, don’t go over 42, if your reflexes are shot. You won’t hear the horns honking at you.

April 13, 2020 Without television, we’re lost (From Terry Cummins’ final column)

We’ve progressed so far since 1951. It’s unimaginable, and it’s unimaginable that we were prepared for everything, except that which is invisible. And here we are shut down, in and up. Did you ever think that a mask would be your most prized possession?

Have we learned anything? I have. One is that all lives are precious. And I did not realize there were so many good people in our communities. The ones at risk, who go out to help those most in need.

If we don’t reunite after this shut down, it will never happen. I know that it’s very hard for politicians to refocus on them, and not me. Old dogs seldom learn new tricks. Politics has always been playing tricks. Not ever again.

I must now hurry to my TV to see if the curve has flattened. If not now, it will, and then what will we do? Be better for it?

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