Don Newbury The Idle American Remembers A Texas Giant
He wasn’t gigantic in physical size, but in his pragmatic approach to government he stood tall, that proud governor of Texas who was the first West Texan to hold the post.
His name was Preston Smith, who died 18 years ago at the age of 91. Although he maintained an always straight tie appearance, the only thing that kept him from letting go at times was his pronounced baldness.
By relying on reporter Jerry Hall to be his publicist, Smith stung him regularly. “Thanks to Jerry, the name ‘Preston Smith’ is a household name throughout Lubbock County.” Smith laughed, careful to observe a long pause after “household name.”….
Smith was in politics before car air conditioning was mainstream.
On a hot summer day, he was campaigning with his entourage in Midland, where most motorists seemed to drive cars at big prices.
“When we walk into Midland make sure you roll up the windows so we can look like we have air conditioning,” he joked….
Owner of a Lubbock cinema, he has been a “commoner” all his life, never giving in to the shortcuts that sometimes spoil the public service.
He returned to Lubbock after leaving office in 1973.
Friends in town always called him “Old Preston”, and he liked it like that….
Although I don’t know him personally, I have noticed that he uses a few humorous stories before making serious remarks in public appearances.
I have heard him talented storytelling many times, and it has always worked.
Even though many in most audiences had heard them, laughter abounded. He read audiences well and knew when to take a break. On top of that, he was a masterful storyteller….
Here is a thread he has used several times.
A construction worker was puzzled when his workers’ compensation claim was denied. The claims office said more information was needed.
Blaming “poor planning,” the poor bricklayer said he was working alone on the roof of a new six-story building. Turns out he had some 240 pounds of bricks left. He was dreading carrying them up six flights of stairs, so he installed a pulley, barrel and rope to lower them.….
He secured the rope at ground level before loading the bricks and tying the rope to the barrel. When he untied the rope from the stake, he quickly learned that his 135-pound body was no match for the falling brick-laden barrel. Yet he stubbornly clung to the rope.
“I should have let go of the blame rope, but I held on,” he moaned. “When Barrel and I collided on the third floor, I suffered a fractured skull, minor abrasions and a broken collarbone, as I explained earlier on the claim form.”
Unfortunately, it continued its rapid rise. Two of his fingers were mutilated by the pulley….
When the barrel hit the ground, its bottom fell, knocking over the bricks.
Immediately the man weighed more than the barrel. It started as it started to come down.
Again, there was a collision on the third floor. This time he suffered two ankle fractures, a broken tooth and leg lacerations….
But his luck turned slightly. The second collision slowed its descent, thus softening the landing. This time, his injuries were less serious: three cracked vertebrae and additional abrasions.
Stunned, he slumped into it in pain, unable to move. He looked at the empty barrel, six stories to the sky.
“I guess I passed out, because that’s when I let go of the rope. The barrel fell quickly, hitting me on the noggin again, he moaned. “Are these details sufficient to justify obtaining compensation for the workers?” “…
Another favorite story referred to him answering his personal phone in the middle of the night.
He listened to the chatter of a woman from Arlington who was upset with her water bill. He urged her to contact then mayor Tom Vandergriff.
“I tried, but her home number is not in the phone book,” she complained….
Dr Newbury is a longtime university president and weekly writing speaker. Website: www.speakerdoc.com. Email: [email protected] Call: 817-447-3872. Facebook: Don Newbury. Twitter: @donnewbury