We were not great communicators.
We often responded to others inquiries with volumes of silence. Few words would come from our lips spontaneously. We Okies were slow to think and slow to reply. Mostly because we seldom spoke out loud to say anything. All of which is characteristic of southern Oklahoma red dirt Okies. Our vocabulary came from the backs of Bisquik boxes and Texaco oil cans. The New York Times certainly was not delivered in southern rural Oklahoma. Not even the church bulletin. None the less my folks were third-world Dirt plowing farmers that wouldn’t say more than ten words a day. Just dust bowl survivors who seldom spoke to anyone out on the Plaines. Never mind no person to converse with except a boney gray mule.
Had anyone driven by in their Ford automobile asking for direction, we would say nothing and just point in the direction they should go. Silence spoke louder than words.
However, shoulder shrugs and raised eyebrows were not enough body language for the local Angelenos after my parents migrated to southern California. Californians were more use to speaking words rather than observing hand and facial gestures. So, this is the way it went through my formative years and well into adulthood. Few thoughts. Few words spoken.
Then it all caught up with me in a moment of frustration and panic. Silence caught me by the throat. So here is what had happened. It had been a blissful spring day in southern California. I was about fourteen-years-old and visiting Disneyland. A place I had visited several times since it’s opening in 1955. I loved this place and it only cost 50-cents to gain admission back in 1958. However, if I wished to ride on the many amusement rides, I had to buy a $2.50 coupon book. A coupon book with coupons from A to E. And A being the cheaper rides and E being the more expensive rides. And all the rest in-between. B through E
I had used all my more expensive coupons and was down to just one or two A-rides. One ride was a horse drawn trolly going down Main Street USA. Or the Merry-go-round near Sleeping Beauty’s castle. I chose the Main Street Trolly. As I approached the trolly the horseman was adjusting the horse’s bridal. Then I climbed onboard and sat in one of the trolly’s bench seats. The horseman was still trying to adjust the bridal. In the meantime, two gentlemen climb onboard and sat next to me. Both in very expensive business suits. Not something one would normally wear to a family theme park. But as the one gentleman was about to sit next to me, I recognized him as Walt Disney. No mistake about it. Having watched him on the Disneyland TV program it was him. The main guy. Everybody’s dream uncle. Uncle Walt! The progenitor of Mickey Mouse. And what did I do? In typical Okie fashion, I said absolutely nothing. Frozen cold silent. Nothing. No words came from my mouth. Stun. Shocked might be more like it. Not only that frozen in place but I looked away as if to not recognize the great imagineer and creator of all things fun for kids and adults. It would be like thinking ho-hum when winning the Powerball lottery.
But Mr. Disney and his companion noticing the horseman still working the horse’s bridal decided to step off and go visit another site.
But once again and after the fact, I thought of something to say. Only hours after the encounter.
Oh Mr. Disney I really love your place.
I am so pleased to be here at Disneyland enjoying your wonderful place.
Thank you very much for building this place for we kid.
All too little too late. Missed my chance to speak to greatness. Opportunity gone. Lost. Evaporated in a brief moment of wrapped Okie silence.
However later I discovered the library and many more words to use. To this date I probably have read about three-hundred books and counting. And as a result, I use big words. Words like existential and mesmerize. How cool is that?