A Few Words about Weddings

You answer, “I do.” And you remember the words forever.

A few words really count at weddings. Not only for the newly-married, but also for the Father of the Bride. To answer “who gives this woman…” with only two words “I do” doesn’t begin to express a father’s emotion at that moment.

Many times we fathers answer “Her Mother and I.” That’s four words and I don’t remember any of those four words costing me under a hundred dollars a word.

One time I thought about answering, “Who gives away this bride?” with nine words: “Her mother and I–and the First State Bank.”

I’ve got practice. I’ve given away three daughters. While two daughters still wore diapers, I gave away a bride. That couple eloped and the father who forbid the marriage wasn’t there. After I gave away those two grown daughters, I served again as a stand-in Father of the Bride. Our Aunt Pearl was marrying another senior citizen and when she asked me to give her away I proudly accepted. Then I gave away my third daughter. That’s a total of five brides given.

Fifteen words at the wedding I’ll never forget, resounded from a cousin-of-the-bride who attended my first wedding 68 years ago. I was six foot three but only weighed 156 pounds. My best man was five foot ten and outweighed me. As we walked out to meet the preacher, her shrill five-year-old voice filled the church. “Mommy, is she going to marry the tall skinny one or the short fat one?”

Teach me to trade

I was working in the same office with my Dad as I listened to his half of a telephone call. A.R. (Red) Elam, Sr. was trading for some oilfield pipe.
If the trade occurred, he would dispatch an A.R. Elam Trucking Co. driver and a swamper to load the pipe.

I listened for several minutes. I couldn’t hear the other end of the conversation but I heard Dad’s quoted numbers rise and fall. Finally Dad said, “Okay. It’s a deal.” After Dad hung up, he turned to me, grinned and said “You know, I taught that young man how to trade.”

I brightened. “Dad, I’m a young man. I would like for you to teach me how to trade.”

“Son, I can’t teach you how to trade.”

“Dad, I know I’m hard-headed, but I really would like to learn. I’ll do whatever you say….”

Red Elam stopped me. “Son, I can’t teach you how to trade. We’re related.”

Storms at Sea

Excerpt from Sunday lesson by Dick Elam, circa January 1983

I know something of storms at sea. We were sailing in the Neuse River with shores less than a mile away. Ten mile winds, threatening clouds, but no rain. So gentle that our eight-year old grandson steered our boat, following the wake of a sailboat about 50 yards ahead.

Then the thunderstorm struck. Taking the helm, we sent our grandson below. Driving rain swept across us. The boat sailing ahead of us faded into a gray silhouette. Then the rain quickened and the boat disappeared.

I steered into the storm to avoid broaching. My wife took a compass reading of 300 degrees. I fought the tiller to keep the boat moving. The boat heeled, then righted, then heeled, then righted. The wind rose to 25 knots with gusts hitting 30 miles.

I held into the wind, safer than turning broadside. But the wind veered and we saw the compass swing from 300 to 30 degrees. We couldn’t see the northern shore which lay ahead in the rain. Then the wind switched. We rounded back into the wind, heeled, righted.   And then the rains quit. The winds dropped to 20 miles and the storm passed.

There’s a song I think about when I find myself in a storm:

When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high

And don’t be afraid of the dark.

At the end of the rain, there’s a golden light,

And the sweet, singing song of a lark.

Walk on through the storm. Walk on through the rain.

And you’ll never walk alone

Carousel, Rodgers and Hammerstein

My own jailer

In 1995 we spent four months in Ekaterinburg Russia where we lived in a two-room apartment.    We were cautioned by our Russian landlord “Don’t open the door to anyone you don’t know.  Not even if you look through the peep hole and they are wearing a uniform.  Criminals have disguised themselves as a militia to break into apartments.”

So when we entered our apartment, we unlocked a steel door and then unlocked a bolt on a thick wooden door. After we entered

we engaged the lock on the outside steel door,

threw a one-inch bolt latch on the steel door,

keyed the bolt lock on the wooden door,

put on the chain latch on the wooden door,

and finally before bedtime we attached a pipe brace form to the door handle that wedged against the floor.

Soon I began to feel as if I were locking myself into a jail for which we were paying $275 per month.      I felt like my own jailer.


My sweatshirt—a Christmas present from an irreverent daughter—says “I Used to Teach, Now I Have No Class”.

Words remind that a former student telephoned me at home one Saturday night. He remembered that I recruited a half-dozen students then led a march between the aisles, clapping my hands together, and humming the march from an opera.

“Professor Elam, I’m calling from outside Chapel Hill. I’m standing here with another member of that class. You wanted us to remember the opera title and what the letters might remind us. We can’t even agree on the opera title.”

I beamed into my telephone. “I’m glad you remembered that class. You may also remember that the opera title suggested four steps for writing an advertising or promotional message. The opera was ‘Aida;’ the four steps: A—get attention, I—develop interest, D—create a desire, A—call for action. A-I-D-A.”

The ex-student replied. “Thanks for nothing, Doc. I just lost a drink at the bar.”

Begin the Blog

 In the 1930s, Will Rogers wrote a syndicated front page three-paragraph daily memoir.    Will told us where he traveled, whom he met, and how our world was going.     Will was not only a comedian and movie star.   He was America’s home-spun philosopher.    Still known for his “I never met a man I didn’t like.”

Today, Will’s column probably would be called a “blog.”   He would take his readers traveling down memory’s lane.

At age 88, this old journalist published his first novel. Writing chapters for other books about everyday. So why not write you a blog?

Let’s call Dick Elam’s blog “Been There”.   You just read the first of more to come.