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Time after time

Most of us Nelson siblings have a birthmark. Mine is a pea-sized, perfectly circular, scarlet dot on the inside arch of my right foot.

I was pulling on my socks the other day when I said to my wife, “When I was a little kid, I thought that everyone had a mark like this to help them remember which foot was their right one and which was their left.”

“Good Lord!” she exclaimed, “Don’t ever tell that to anyone! They will think that you’re a bit off.”

I hated to break it to her, but that horse had galloped out of the barn a long time ago.

Speaking of staying informed, I broke my watch band a few weeks ago. I decided not to replace the omnipresent appliance and have gone watchless ever since.

There are plenty of other doodads to constantly help me remember what time it is. A clock is built into every electronic screen, and modern life is a picket fence of electronic screens. Plus, there is that little tyrant in my pocket that rules my life. I mean my cell phone, of course.

I have a long and troubled history with personal timekeeping devices.

When I was a youngster, I wanted to have a pocket watch like the one Dad carried in the chest pocket of his bib overalls. I thought that there was something cool and manly about hauling a watch out of your pocket, glancing at its face and winding it thoughtfully as if you were a general who was carefully considering his next move on the battlefield and not merely a farmer who needed to take a break from shoveling grain.

An inexpensive pocket watch was purchased for me after I had nagged my parents so much that they would have paid anything just to get me to shut up.

It’s a good thing that the watch was cheap because its life was short and brutal. My pocket watch was forgotten atop a fence post where it was subjected to the vagaries of the weather for several days. It was left in the pocket of my dirty blue jeans and probably had some crazy experiences as it went through the washing machine. A few days later, I pried the watch apart in an attempt to clear up the condensation that obscured its crystal.

The watch’s death knell came when I decided that it needed a fob, which I constructed from used baling twine. There isn’t anything better than spinning your watch jauntily as you stroll across a sunny, grassy pasture.

Had I spent more money — let’s face it, any money — on a proper fob, I still might have that watch. I was walking along, whirling my timepiece at supersonic speeds when the twine broke and my watch disappeared into the ether. I never saw where the thing went; it’s entirely possible that my watch achieved low earth orbit.

I began to wear wristwatches, but they didn’t fare much better. The mechanical type of watches always stopped after I’d worn them for a few weeks. I would like to blame this on the powerful magnetic fields that are generated by my body. But the truth is that I tended to wear non-waterproof watches in moist situations such as going swimming or at baptisms.

My first digital watch had scarlet numbers that lit up when you pushed a button on the side of its case. This meant that it took two hands to tell the time. It was embarrassing when someone asked me the time and I would reach over to press the button and spill some of my beverage. Usually on myself, but sometimes I would accidentally baptize the other person.

Since I am so tough on timepieces, the only kind of watch I’ll buy is the brand that is known as El-cheapo. No point in owning a Rolex if you’re a klutz and will just thwack it with a hammer when you’re in the midst of building a decorative sundial for your wife.

Our neighbor Martin didn’t believe in Daylight Saving Time. He would pull his watch from the chest pocket of his bib overalls, point at the sun and declare, “I go by God’s time!” He would then proudly display a timepiece that was exactly one hour off.

I’m beginning to think that Martin had the right idea. Maybe we should boycott the tyrant of time instead of letting it rule our lives. Let’s “just say no” to Chronos!

I think I will remain watchless, at least temporarily. And should someone ask me the time, I will glance at my wrist and reply, “It’s a hair past a freckle.”

Jerry’s book, Dear County Agent Guy, is available at Workman.com and in bookstores nationwide.

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