As written here before, I’m the eldest of four sons in the Webb family. Our parents grew up during the Great Depression and, want to or not, they didn’t have easy opportunities to further their education.
Both were humble people, shy to a fault, in their demeanor around people. Neither had it in them to be mean to anyone, although a few spankings as a youngster made me feel they were. At least until the sting wore off.
Mother understood numbers and money although she professed to be average or below in intelligence. Bah!
Dad had less education than Mom because he had even less opportunity and that tough existence tossed him onto the street and fighting to get a toehold on life at a pre-teen age.
After watching him for years, I decided he could have earned an advanced degree in math. Lawrence Ray (L. Ray to friends all his life) Webb was a mathematical genius and had a mind like a 6-gigabyte calculator. I know that from watching him for a big chunk of his all-too-short 57 years.
He had the capacity to calculate gross livestock weights by looking at a truckload of cattle, then computing their worth via a per pound price, all “in his head” without the benefit of a calculator.
While Mother didn’t have that genius way with numbers, you couldn’t fool her, especially not when it came to calculating costs of feeding her family and managing a household budget. Don’t even try.
She had a way with words about figures, though, and anything else for that matter. Once, I repeated an oft-repeated platitude: “Figures don’t lie.” Mom bounced right back and bounced me off the wall with her own bromide: “Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.” Huh?
Now, I have to admit that my math skills aren’t too bad because some of that knowledge did manage to sift from their genes and DNA through my thick skull. Give me a minute and my skills aren’t too shabby.
WHAT I GOT, that perhaps my three younger siblings didn’t get, was a gift for creativity and putting words together. That pales, however, in the shadow of the math minds of these three.
We were all encouraged at home to be the best we could be at math because that and critical thinking skills were necessary to have something approaching a good life, according to the conventional wisdom proffered by L. Ray and Ruth Webb.
Upon arriving at my freshman year in high school, I felt compelled to take every math class at Teague High School. My parents’ emphasis, plus the fact that the wife of Dad’s first cousin taught math there, shoved me right into Algebra I, Algebra II, Plane Geometry, Solid Geometry and Trigonometry. No, I don’t mean Chevy Chase’s alias in Fletch: Trigonometry Jones.
Solid geometry probably kept me out of the upper echelon of students. I had trouble thinking in 3D. Even though I have never liked math and took five courses in high school, I managed to get a bachelor of science in college without taking a solitary math course. Don’t ask.
WHILE I did not shame my parents when it came to grades in math, I couldn’t hold an isosceles triangle to any of brothers in math and science. I did help Mom ride herd on them (the siblings maintain it was “riding” them and “spurring” with spike rowels. Harumph!)
Kerry got a degree in accounting, parlayed that into a stint with the FBI, then into the corporate world.
Clydell also collected a shingle in accounting and successfully started and operated his own businesses for many years.
The “baby,” Danny, got a running jump into the computer world with a degree in computer science. He started his own company, then sold it and became a consultant in semi-retirement.
And, here I am still putting words on paper and peddling it to community newspapers. Wouldn’t trade, though.
Willis Webb is a retired community newspaper editor-publisher of more than 50 years experience. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.