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Young man academic Richard Sale Man on the courthouse steps: Talked coon hounds with him for an hour Last primary. Talked soft, knew dogs. And I says to myself: That kind of man We need more of at the State Normal. I seen his git-tar. He played us a tune On the lawn. He said his daddy was a farmer. Then we talked about the govment, And you know: He was a comminist. Now, did you ever see a fiddle-pickin, Coon-huntin, farm-bred Earl Warren lover? A comminist! It beat anything I ever. Wife: An idea-man. They pop out over coffee, They run out through the beer bubbles. A bastard when they get welled up And can’t break through. Had he Slanted toward business instead of books He’d have billionized A T and T, the only Where? He goes out there somewhere A long desert and comes back with it captured. Love? After he puts his fresh catch On the counter and turns to me: candy. First Colleague: An idea man. In both directions, too. You mention your thesis, he finds the key. Not silly or slick or supercilious. On it. He rants quietly with us, but different: He names answers. And the answers? On it. They ought to pay him to do nothing But ride the University’s back and bite. \(You giggle, but I don’t. An ordinary Fool, I know virtue and perception Second Colleague: You’ve got to plant your own ground first. Pull out the nut-grass in your lawn, I say. The world’s too big to grub at with hand tools. You’ve got to keep your mind on the ground to rise In this profession. Do your work, cubby, and smile. Women are organized, labor too. And, old sport, you? Two kinds of bad choosers. One worse. Bad enought to jar things, out of ignorance. But on principle! Oh! Better cool than overruled. You’ve got the makings of a martyr or a saint, Both dangerous. First Colleague’s Wife: Jesus! That’s what You are! You’re crazy and I love you, Do, did, and knew you savior before now. Think the crucifixion, then return To carpentering green souls with Steinbeck and Thoreau. You’ve got a wife and kids who like The author teaches English at North Texas State University in Denton. He modeled the hero of “Young Man Academic” after a colleague at another East Texas school. 6 The Texas Observer To eat at times. Now, IN YOUR MIND, Go down there, spit, and then back home. Hurrah! But get the idea out that’s in your mind. Dean: General trends and movements. Student complaint: Bearer of Bad News: Your participation in public demonstrations, Your marches, instigation of confrontation Embarrass me, the institution, AND, I fear too soon, too soon, yourself as well. I expect, at least, you’ll tell me why. The Man: Yes. A man should force himself to move On principle, at least a few times in his life. The Bearer: Why only now? The Man: I’m getting older and less brave. A principle-fling from fearing middle age. Another year and moral menopause May grip my will for good. The Bearer: Political scruple? The Man: Since we are talking here, a man and man, And not as mannie to McCarthy’s ghost, I love my country well, my mother well enough. Both well and well as ever. It’s accumulated Dung that’s made me cry “Too much!” The Bearer: Have You thought that this may be a, well, emotional . The Man: Persecution proper and paranoia Feel the same to the feeler; I should guess. But the honest answer is I like my choice. I feel like now it’s me that’s after them. Wife: Why? We thought of what grandkids would ask: “What’d you do in the Great American Renaissance, Grandpap? Grandma?” “Uncle Tom’s Cabin we read aloud.” That wouldn’t do. A simple answer is we like to fight And better this that has a finish to it. Ex-Colleague: As usual, he made nothing of the business. I asked him what the profit seemed to be. He answered that to suffer was to hurt, And covered up his feelings with bad puns And went back to the land to start the siege.