I once knew a man back in my hometown who had the most wonderful gift of using exactly the wrong word at exactly the right time. Sometimes, it wasn’t even the wrong word; more like a close approximation of the right word. Naturally, he loved to talk, thus giving himself ample opportunity to share his gift; and because he loved to talk, he just as naturally pursued a career in radio. Indeed, Charlie Hydes was the morning man on radio station WLGV when I was a boy in the mid 1960s.
The “LGV” in WLGV stood for “Long Green Valley” and that radio station could be heard its entire length; in the barbershops, the milking barns, the kitchens, and the car radios. It was as small as small-town radio gets. Folks would send in notices selling a sofa or looking to buy a corn planter, and so every morning at 9:15, Charlie would read out the Morning Swap Meet. Long Green Valley ladies called in with their recipes on Tuesday’s “Recipe Exchange.” On Fridays, the Long Green Valley News-Post and Observer was usually delivered by 9:00 a. m.; and so Charlie always read the obituaries at 10:00 and the coming Sunday’s sermon topics at 10:30.
Charlie loved the Valley and in turn was beloved because of his devotion to his community. He was respected as a kind and giving person. I’d be lying, however, if I said that those were the only reasons that we all listened to Charlie Hydes’ “Hydes and Go Seek Morning Show.” No, we listened for those times when Charlie would mangle up his words with such sincerity and without any sense whatsoever that he had said anything amiss, that barbers would nick necks, farmers would miss their milk pails, housewives would spill their coffee, and drivers would about run off the road, so hard would everyone in the Valley be laughing.
One Friday, for example, Charlie dutifully read that Reverend Tutweiller over at the Lutheran Church would be preaching on the book of Daniel. Charlie strayed from the newspaper copy, however, and this is when his gift would often emerge, as it did that morning.
“Hmmm, the book of Daniel, that’s one of my favorites,” Charlie intoned seriously. “There’s not a one of us who couldn’t learn something from those three fellers, Myshack, Yourshack, and Abungalow.”
Without missing a beat, he added, “Today’s sermon topics are brought to you by Rudy’s Heating and Air Conditioning. If there’s something wrong with your fiery furnace, give Rudy a call and he’ll run right over and see what in blazes is the matter with it.”
Charlie always knew exactly what he was talking about, but he never had any idea how he had talked about it.
No one who lived in the Valley during those years, however, would ever forget the morning that Charlie related his experience about becoming a father. It was mid-January on a Friday morning, of course, and the Long Green Valley News-Post and Observer was late being printed because it had snowed so hard the day before that Abe Prentiss, who ran the press, was late getting to work. Friday morning dawned sunny and with a foot and a half of snow on the ground, and it found Charlie without a paper and, therefore, without any programming for the day. He filled an hour taking calls from folks who had measured various amounts of snow that had fallen in their yards or drifted around their mailboxes, but it was still only 10:15 and he had almost two hours left to fill and with no paper in sight yet. That’s when he began to talk about the day Charles, Jr. was born.
“Well, sir, I remember like it was yesterday when my wife Mary informed me that her men’s station cycle hadn’t repeated itself in three months and that she was quite sure she was pregnant. We went to Doc Street’s, and he examined Mary and confirmed that she was with child. Said everything looked good and that the baby should pass through the birth canal with no difficulty. I told him that I didn’t care if he had to take ‘em through the Long Green railroad tunnel as long as they both came through it healthy.”
“Well, sir, it was a cold, clear day just like last Thursday, when Charles Hydes, Jr. came into this world. I’ll never forget Mary yelled from the upstairs bedroom that her water broke.
“’I don’t know how to fix it!’ I hollered up the steps, but she explained that it wasn’t an issue with the plumbing, but rather it was time to get to the hospital.
“We met Doc Street there, and then the waiting commenced. After several hours, Doc came out and told me that Mary couldn’t dial late. I said, ‘No sir, I’m not surprised! My Mary is never late with anything.’
“Doc said that be that as it may, they would have to induce labor and asked if I wanted to be present when they did it. I told him that I was never afraid of hard work of any kind, and if he needed an extra laborer, then I was his man.
“Well, sir, Doc did what he was supposed to do, and Mary pushed and did what she was supposed to do, and I labored over them both until finally little Charles was born.”
“ʻCongratulations!’ Doc shouted as he slapped me on the back, ‘You have a son,’ he said, as he handed me little Charles all wrapped up in a blanket, ‘and he looks just like you!’ he added.
“Yes, sir, ladies and gentlemen; I’ve always been so proud of Mary, who never complained the whole time that she was expectoratin’, and here she gave me a son who was my spittin’ image.”
Michelangelo had his Sistine Chapel and those who gaze upon it are said to never forget the experience. It is on a far lower end of the scale, perhaps, but I can assure you that anyone listening to WLGV radio the morning that Charlie Hydes told the world about the birth of his first son, will never forget that experience, either.
Dedicated to Mr. Don Harron, better known to fans of Hee Haw as Charlie Farquharson. Thank you for all the silly joy you brought to us as Charlie. The world could use more silly joy. You may be interested to know that I’ve been in touch with Mr. Harron and he has been most gracious in his responses.
For a printable, PDF version of this story, simply send me an e-mail at agisriel at yahoo.com and simply put the title in the subject line!