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By Bill Mead
Columnist Emeritus 

Keep swap meets in the family

The Overall Picture


Today, We Honor The Overall Man Classic Bill Mead

Reprinted with permission from Tehachapi Lifestyle Magazine, July 2013 issue.

My wife and I feel blessed that all three of our daughters have kept close ties to the old homestead even as they have started their own families.

Unfortunately, every silver lining has a cloud. In this case, it's the girls' presumption that all possessions of Mom and Dad are up for grabs notwithstanding the fact the old codgers are still alive and kicking. "Can I have the walnut dresser when you kick the bucket?" used to be a typical conversation opener. Such polite overtures are now passe. These days the girls simply look over the parental merchandise, make their selections and start hauling.

Occasionally they pretend it's not grand theft by mumbling something about bringing the stuff back someday. Do we ever see it again? Has the Metropolitan Opera signed Roseanne Barr?

It would be unfair to suppress the truth that my wife and I have encouraged this behavior by our loose stewardship of family chattel. Nobody even asks before they "borrow" stuff anymore because we almost never say no. I suppose that's because we grew up with the same kind of parents. Especially my wife's. In fact, her tribe was so casual in this respect my late brother-in-law Clifford once urged that no one should be allowed to marry into the family who could not afford a fairly good-size truck.

Cliff offered this recommendation during a typical get-together of the Fleischmann clan at which a stunning array of household goods was passed around for the umpteenth time. He ruled out a small truck because one of the swapped items at that event was a grand piano.

While my wife's mother was alive, I can't remember a time when we went to or from her house without having to load something heavy and awkward into our vehicle for delivery to some other family member. After being married a few years I began to experience deja vu when I visited any of my wife's relatives and took a close look at their furnishings. I had seen it all somewhere else.

Lately, our offsprings' yearnings have focused on our motor vehicles, especially the pickup truck and the motorhome. The latter is now missing from our driveway because our eldest daughter has taken it to the coast for a few days. This child is hard to resist when she's in a borrowing mode because she has the disconcerting habit of returning things, usually in better condition she received them. When she borrowed the motorhome last summer it came back showroom clean.

This time her request to use the motorhome was even harder to reject because she brought back my wife's Ford Taurus which she had taken two weeks ago. Unfortunately, it was spotless.

What makes a kid so underhanded?

If you don't know Bill: Bill Mead was the longtime publisher of the Tehachapi News, along with Betty Mead, his wife and partner of more than 50 years. Known for his keen wit, which could be gentle or scathing or somewhere in between but was often self-deprecatory, Bill's writing won him a wide following among News readers. His column "The Overall Picture" ran in the News for more than 25 years, and in 1999 he published a collection of his columns in a volume entitled The Napa Valley Outhouse War. His book is currently available for sale at the Tehachapi Museum for $10.

Bill had a remarkable mind and because of his intelligence, humor and appearance he was regarded by many as Tehachapi's Mark Twain. As Betty used to remind him, he was "older than the oldest Model A Ford" and his wealth of life experiences and rural upbringing allowed him to bring a thoroughly American, 20th century perspective to his reflections and musings on the everyday. Bill passed away in 2008 but his writing lives on.

[Publisher's note: I read Bill's articles during the 80s and 90s and 20s and I am grateful to share them now with our current readers. I hope you enjoy this touch of nostalgia as much as I do.]


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