published Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

Dalton Roberts: The joy of doing simply nothing

by Dalton Roberts

Former Chattanooga Times reporter and columnist Barney Morgan was on my staff the last years of my government work, and after work he would bring a reporter's pad up to my office and get me to tell some of my most exciting political tales.

Barney said he wanted to write a novel to be called "County USA" and give people a feel for what really goes on behind the scenes in local government. I looked forward to reading it because I wanted to see my tall tales in a format I could enjoy without using real names and places. Some of my true stories would get me in a lot of hot water with a lot of good people.

After Barney retired, I assumed he would start on the book. On my birthdays, he came down here to Kopper Kettle and took me to lunch, and on his birthdays I went to Dayton and took him to the Dayton Cafe. Each time I would ask him about the book, and he would make some excuse for his slow start on it.

Finally, one day I asked him how the book was coming, and he said, "Don't bring that up again. I have discovered the pleasure of doing absolutely nothing, and I will not be writing a book."

Frankly, I wanted to smack him. But I long ago discovered that Rhea County boys smack you back, so I just quietly fussed at him. All the hours of stories I had told him went swishing right down the drain.

I seldom have a day with "absolutely nothing to do" like Barney described. I am too much the son of Roy Roscoe Roberts, who was a Type A man until the day he tumbled over for good while working a crossword puzzle. He couldn't even eat breakfast without a puzzle to work on.

When he retired the first time, he was like a man waiting on a train. He walked the floor and the apple orchard when he was not doing "honey-dos" for Mother, and I told her, "For everyone's sake, let him go back to work." And she did.

He only retired from his mechanic's job when he could not get down on the roller to get under a car. So he went to his woodwork shop and became a whiz at lathe work. He made Swedish gavels for most of the judges in the courthouse. He made breathtakingly beautiful things for all his "girlfriends."

He had to be doing things. So do I. When I am not writing columns, I am doing one-man shows for any group where "two or more gather together." Or I am writing songs. Or planning a new and exciting project (new album, new book, new kind of gig, ad infinitum).

But believe it or not, now and then I have a Barney Morgan day -- a day when I do not plan to do a thing. And I do love those days!

As soon as I open my eyes, I ask my free and easy inner spirit (I just call him "Free and Easy") to tell me how he wants me to completely relax all day long. Maybe he will tell me to do something, but it will be something so much fun it cannot possibly be considered work.

Barney had a little lazy streak, but he sure was an advanced man.

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