I know OF him
Posted: Friday, February 4, 2011 11:38 am
By: Lisa Smartt
Last week, I was standing in line waiting to board an airplane in Midland, Texas. Midland is a charming West Texas town filled with cowboy boots, cowboy hats, and a lot of “howdy” and “yes ma’am.” A young woman in her 20’s was standing in front of me and an older couple was standing in front of her. A conversation then ensued which reminded me of conversations I’ve heard all my life.
The young woman spoke kindly to the older man, “Sir, you look so familiar. Do you know my dad?”
“Who’s your daddy, Missy?”
The man looked puzzled, “J.C. Walker? Yeah, I know OF him.”
Let me translate here for a moment. “I know OF him” means, “Honey, I have no idea who your daddy is. I don’t know where he works or what he looks like, but I don’t want to say that out loud so I’ll just say that classic line, ‘I know OF him.’ This relays a vague sense of respect for your daddy without making you think I can answer any real questions about him or provide any identifying information. After all, I may have seen him in an old school yearbook or at the barber shop or the feed store. It could be that his name is familiar because his business is advertised on the bench outside Jim’s Barbecue.”
Because the old man knows “OF” him, he’ll not be embarrassed if she decides to take it to the next level.
The old man decides to move forward with the obvious question. “Where does your daddy work?”
“He worked at the refinery for years.”
“Hmmm. The refinery.” Clearly, the old man doesn’t have any connections to the refinery. So the man hunt continues. “Honey, is your daddy retired now?”
“No, sir. He works with Bud Smith doin’ some paintin’ for Bud’s contracting business.”
BINGO! We now have a winner in small-town America.
The old man’s face lit up and he replied cheerfully, “Well, shore! Now I know who yer Daddy is. Ol’ Bud re-did some apartments for us last year and J.C. did all the paintin’. Did a good job too. And ain’t yer mama’s maiden name Clara Simpson?” Oh, we’re on a roll now. We’re on a roll.
“Clara did hair for Mildred here for years…’till our niece graduated from that beauty school in Odessa last year. She’s a real fine lady too.”
“Thank you. Mama doesn’t do hair anymore since her hip surgery.”
“Is that the truth? Well, you can tell yer mama and daddy that you stood in line with Jim and Mildred Miller while you was waitin’ on an airplane. And that we say a big howdy to both of ‘em. Yes, ma’am.”
“Oh, I will, Mr. Miller. I will.”
This story reminds me of a question my granny frequently asked guests, “Where are your people?”
If someone said, “My people live in Butler County,” Granny would inevitably weave a thread of familiarity by sharing the names of a few people she knew in Butler County. The exchange would continue until the house guest finally said, “Oh, if you know the superintendent, Mr. Davenport, you probably know my daddy. He was the principal of the high school there.”
Granny would just smile and say, “I know OF him.”
Maybe all of us want to be known—even if you just know OF us.
Contact Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org