Guy Robertson was born in 1930. He learned to be a man in rural Carroll County in the hills that rise above the flatness of the Delta outside of Greenwood. I imagine Big Mamma and them would sit around the radio and tell stories during the evenings of his youth. Although he had probably seen one in his teenage years, he was a man with responsibilities before his home would have a television. After the divorce and Keith was born to his new wife, Joyce, I came along over five years later in 1974. He turned 44 the same month.
Mom and Dad raised us on Dianne Drive. We had an enormous television located in a converted garage we called the den. It was furniture. The large box had two knobs. One that would change between the four or five channels, and I guess the other turned it on and off. We had an antenna on the roof of our home too. Way before remote controls, I would lay on my back under its glow with my knees raised toward the ceilings, negotiating the knobs with my toes like a monkey.
Dad called it “The Tube.”
Over the years, we watched Andy Griffith and Leave it to Beaver reruns in the afternoons. At night, it would be Dukes of Hazard, Dallas and Wheel of Fortune. It was ALWAYS on. During the spring and summer, it was baseball live from Chicago or Atlanta. In the fall, football. When the garden was producing, if you were watching the tube, butter beans or peas had better be in a pan or a bowl in your lap. No time to relax. There was always work to do.
As the years went on, televisions got cheaper and thinner and the number of channels increased exponentially. When I moved out and was living on my own, I was probably called back over to “fix” my parent’s cable TV a thousand times. Although my electronics skills were average at best, I was usually able to get it working again.
When I had a family of my own, Daddy would call me almost every night. “What are you doing son?”
“Just got home from work Dad. What’s going on with you?”
“Just watching the tube…”
And then we would catch up about everything and nothing. How I would love to get just one more of those calls. He had been gone for over ten years this past summer.
In my office at home, I have surrounded myself with objects that remind me of him. There is no television, but there is a computer screen and my phone, which are basically the same thing these days. I can flip channels on TikTok way faster than my toes would turn that old knob. To the immediate left of my desk is a framed arrangement of coins over a black backdrop which appears to be falling from top to bottom in the shape of an abstract waterfall. It has a white frame with a shiny, silver outline with a glossier finish than the coins which are of various shapes and sizes.
Daddy loved to give presents, and they were often unusual – like a sleeve of Ben Franklin half dollars from the 40’s and 50’s in a rectangular coin wallet. He also gave me Buffalo nickels and both Susan B. Anthony and Eisenhower Dollars from the 70’s. He probably picked them up at some flea market, garage sale or a gas station in the country. He thought of them as small investments that would increase in value over the years, and he was right. I used to keep them in a drawer, but Rachel suggested I take them to Brown’s Fine Art and Framing in Fondren, where a creative person had the idea for the cascade of coins I now get to enjoy every day.
Beyond the coins is a painting I commissioned Steve Adair of North Arkansas to create. The work features an off centered silkscreen image of my dad and his work crew on canvas with painted shapes of blues, lavenders, greens and orange. I wrote about it in One Dawg:
Dad liked State. He was from the hills outside Greenwood, maybe an hour from Starkville. He helped put the original set of lights on Dudy Noble before Coach [Polk] arrived in 1976. I had an artist paint the scene from a picture of him with his crew in front of the stadium. Daddy must have been the foreman, because he was wearing white shoes, standing with his men around a Fountain Electric pickup truck. I guess his experience is one of the reasons our family became Mississippi State fans, although neither of my parents went to school in Starkville. In fact, they did not go to college at all. Daddy was an IBEW electrician and Momma worked retail at the mall…. Daddy went into the Navy and served in Korea before becoming an electrician’s apprentice. He was a leader of men, although he was not a military officer, and he did not own a business.
Behind me on the top of a bakers-rack-type-shelf where I have different things like a printer and a wooden shotgun shell box, sits my dad’s baseball glove. It is a Rawlings made for players who catch the wrong way. On the thumb toward the end of the webbing is my childhood phone number inscribed with the large left hand of my dad in ballpoint pen. In those days “601” was unnecessary. As I held the glove and thought of what I wanted to say about it, I noticed in the crease between the thumb and index finger where Daddy had started to write his name, but after composing “G u y” rather largely, he did not leave enough room below for “R o b e r t s o n”, and our surname fades with increasingly smaller letters into the seam. The phone number is repeated below, although the ink on these marks appears to be from a cheap magic marker. Like my memory, the words are well faded.
On the middle shelf in a shadow box which used to contain the obituary I wrote the day after he died in 2013, I encased his leather work pouch, a Klein tools 5166. They still sell a strikingly similar version in black at Home Depot. I would venture to guess Daddy had his for decades. In fact, I cannot remember him buying a new one, although he did pick one up for me at the Mississippi Valley supply house located near Battlefield Park, where I played a little ball a lifetime ago.
An electrician’s pouch is worn on their belt, usually of the thick, western variety. For one well-seasoned, the tools fit perfectly in their allotted slots. Indeed, everything had a place, twelve of them total – tools with a variety of uses for doing electrical work, all the way down to the crooked flat tool used for switch plates he called a “Yankee screwdriver” for obvious reasons. There is wire stitching between the place for the pliers and the wire strippers, and another stitch-job on the corner near the stainless rivets. The electrical tape holder, which is a chain with a tiny piece of rebar at the end, is clearly not original to the manufacturer, and the strap for the tape measure is gone. On the bottom is a third stitching from my dad’s hand, a talented wire maneuverer indeed. I have noticed through the years how lawyers pride themselves on their tattered briefcases, with the blood, tears and money of litigants staining the worn edges. As I ponder the similarities, I presume Daddy felt the same way about his tool pouch, with his sweat soaking the leather on a hot construction site in August, which made it his own.
Standing in the corner of my office is another prized possession —Dad’s 12-gauge shotgun. He gave it to me while he was still alive. In 1973, Ducks Unlimited’s first Gun of the Year was a lavishly adorned Remington 1100, which set the pattern for a popular program of custom guns only available through DU events. Dad won it in a raffle at a banquet. I am not sure how many they produced the year he won his, but the serial number is DU4747. Daddy never shot it, but he did let my brother-in-law, Jim, take it on a dove hunt. Jim fired it once, and it was not shot again until Keith and I ran several boxes of shells through it this past season. It was a blast. Way better than anything on TV.
When he was dying in the nursing home, I would visit several times a week. His room was quiet. Although he had a television, he did not have the strength to watch it. I would find him a game anyway. Guy Robertson did the work of five men during his lifetime, not even being completely at rest while watching the Tube. His last years on earth were difficult, but he has put down his work pouch and his pan of butter beans in exchange for his holy lefthanded fielding mitt, with a Franklin half dollar in his pocket. He has a dove hunt with Jesus this weekend.
There is no time for the Tube in heaven.
Craig Robertson is the founder of Robertson + Easterling. For over 24 years, he has practiced exclusively high net worth divorce and complicated family law in Mississippi. You will want him in your corner because he knows the things you care about deeply are at stake, and he will counsel you about wholistic modalities to foster health and wellbeing.