Another Birthday to Forget to Remember

(Editor’s Note: The 100th anniversary of Dick Snider’s birth is March 20, 2021)

Topeka Capital-Journal
March 27, 1992

I had a birthday a week ago, on the first day of spring, as usual, but it went largely unnoticed. A few days before the date, I mentioned my birthday on the phone to two of my children, but to no avail. One of them said, “When is it?” and the other said, “When was it?” Neither sent a present.

Five heartless children have caused me to grow old and weary before my time. They make me remember what my mother used to say: “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth is the sting of an ungrateful child.” Of course, she wasn’t talking about me when she said it.

My wife, who knows me best and obviously thinks of me as a pillar of strength, gave me a card, along with a nice gift. But other than that, the only card I received from anywhere in the family came from my brother, and it wasn’t what you’d call a joyous greeting.

It had a drawing of two birds on the cover, and inside he wrote, “From 1 old bird to another, happy birthday.”

A couple of readers also sent cards. I have no idea how they learned my birthdate, but it was nice of them to remember. My insurance agent also sent a card. I know how he got my birthdate. It’s on the application, and I’m sure he sends birthday greetings to all his clients whose premiums are paid.

Neither my doctor nor my dentist bothered to send a card. They figure, correctly, that I need them a lot more than they need me, and they don’t have to waste a dollar on me, even though they could hide it 10 times over on their next bill.

There were no greetings from my friends at the Statehouse. However, at the annual variety show staged by lobbyists and legislators, they dedicated a song to me. A lobbyist, a legislator and a lawyer sang that I have treated their efforts unkindly, and they wound up the song with a gesture and epithet I’m glad my mother wasn’t there to see and hear. (Ed. – Lyrics below)

The people at that Taj Mahal of misspelling called the Expocentre did not send me a “Hang in there” card. They obviously do not appreciate my efforts to correct a spelling mistake that is a blight on the community.

Charities that I support heavily, like automobiles service departments, the County Treasurers Office, the distilleries of Scotland, Bank IV (fighting to become Bank V) and the Highland Park Women’s Municipal Golf Club all managed to overlook my birthday. Not a word of thanks.

This newspaper, for which I have labored off and on since I was a child, did not even waste a line of type to include me in the daily feature, “Today’s birthdays.” I tried for a mention from Willard Scott, but he said I was 30 years too old to be taken seriously and 30 years too young to be one of his honorees. He said I am at an awkward age.

There was no party. I haven’t had a birthday party since my 50th, which seems like 50 years ago. We were living in Maryland, in a big house, since all our children still were there freeloading. I asked for a party, and my wife responded with a gala they’re still talking about back in Rock Creek Hills.

After the champagne was gone and the band had packed up and departed, a bunch of us went down to Georgetown to continue the celebration. I woke up next morning and thought, if this is what being 50 is like, I don’t want to be 51. I later changed my mind.

I should have learned something from that party in its aftermath, but I didn’t. Now, as I look back, it occurs to me the list of what I haven’t learned in this life would go on forever, and the list of what I have learned would be painfully short. I guess that’s true of all of us, or at least most of us.

Over the years I have heard and read a lot of good advice. My mother told us, “The mills of the gods grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine.” and, “Experience is a dear school, but a fool will learn from no other.”

She told us that to whom much is given, much as expected, and when we thought we didn’t have much, she convinced us that we did. She told us that bigots are to be pitied rather than hated, because they are ignorant, and she gave us the line I have used here over and over again: “Tell me what a man laughs at and I’ll tell you what he is. ”

My dad kicked in with this one: “Never loan money to a man carrying a suitcase.” And my Uncle Bill once told me, “You have to eat a lot of hash before you can afford a porterhouse steak.”

Nelson Algren advised: “Never eat at a place called Moms, never play cards with a man named Doc and never lie down with a woman who’s got more troubles than you.”

That’s right on the mark, and so was Satchel Paige when he warned: “Go very light on the vices, such as carrying on in society. The social ramble ain’t restful.”

Probably the best advice I ever heard is, “Keep breathing.” Jimmy Vickers put it another way when somebody was talking about another person’s birthday and said, “God, I I’d hate to be 69 years old.” Jimmy responded, “Not if you were 68.”

I suppose I should give up the idea of there ever being a memorial in my honor. There will be no sign outside Oakwood, Okla., saying it is my birthplace. There’s really no point in it, because nobody would ever see it.

Likewise, there will be no sign outside Britton, Okla., saying it is my boyhood home. For one thing, Britton is no more, having been swallowed up by the expanding city limits of Oklahoma City, and for another, there is nobody around to answer what would be the constant question, “Who is he?”

So I plod on in relative obscurity, comforted by the knowledge I am a lot younger than George Burns an S. K. Stephens, who are about the same age, have fewer air miles on me than Wilson Jones, and more hair than all three of them combined.

(Sung to the tune of “Gee Officer Krupke!” from West Side Story)

Dear friendly Mr. Snider, you gotta understand, You’re awful, ugly columns are getting out of hand,
The citizens don’t like us, you’ve made them think we’re drunks. Back off, Dickey, where is pure as monks!
Gee, Journalist Snider, we are very upset, We never get the praise that folks like us oughta get,
We’re not just some dummies, We are misunderstood,

Deep down inside us there is good!
There is good! There is good! There is good! There’s a world of good,
Yes, inside of all of us is good!
We lobbyists really are good! So tell it to the man!
Dear kindly Mr. Snider, you sure do treat us rough, With all your spiteful columns, you make our life so tough,
We really help the process, but in your eyes were bad, Holy muckrake! That’s why we’re so mad!
Gee, Journalist Snider, you’re so far off base, We’re debonair intelligent, and filled with good grace,
We work in the statehouse to make things go right, Please understand that we are no blight!
We are no blight!
They’re no blight! They’re no blight! They’re no evil blight! All they tried to do is make things right!
You think he treats you rough! What about us legislators! Yeah tell him about it!
Dear Dickie do, you meanie, we’ve really lost our cool, Were sick of being played for the governmental fool,
So what if our retirement has got too many frills, Creepy KPERS! Pick on other bills!
Journalist Snider, you’ve been so unfair, Us legislator types are real good people, we swear!
Your columns have dealt us a terrible blow, So psychologically, we’re low!
We are so low!
They’re so low! They’re so low! They are so gall-darned low, Your demeaning comments are a blow!
You think you’ve got it bad! Look what he says about lawyers! So … let him have it!
Dear anti-lawyer Snider, you hit us twice as hard, As lobbyists and lawyers, our reputation’s marred ,
Our legal minds are needed to create laws that work, Golly, Gee whiz! That makes me a jerk?!
Geez, journalist Snider, you’ve done it again, Us legal folks have been besmirched by your poison pen,
We really are people that solons can trust, Thus our involvements is a must!
It’s a must! It’s a must! It’s a must! It’s a surefire must! ’cause in God and lawyers, they must trust!
You seem to think we’re crazy! You seem to think we drink!
You seem to think we’re lazy! You seem to think we stink !
You seem to think we’re stalling, and don’t want to go home!
Snider, wake up! Come down to the Dome!
Then journalist Snider, you clearly will see,
The statehouse ain’t the awful place you think it to be,
If after your visit you still think we’re bores,
Then, journalist Snider, !*:*!
            (Ed. Likely, with raised middle fingers, “Up Yours!”)

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