Opinion » Bill Cope

Ask Bill About It

From one imaginary friend to another

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Hi de hi Bill,

It's me. Anonymous, from the Cope's-Latest-Column Discussion Group. I hope your holidays were as good as mine, except for that little utility room fire I had because the heat lamp I set up for Sniggles was too close to my sewing stuff. I think it's probably a miracle that I had forgotten to dump the bucket of filthy drain water that I had scooped out of the big sink in that room when the plumbing all backed up because the pipes froze, so I was able to put out the fire just a minute or two after Sniggles came running by me while I was watching It's A Wonderful Life, smelling like she had been rolling in a burned-up faux cashmere sweater like the one I'd put in there thinking I was going to cut it up and turn the pieces into cuddly covers for my scrap-book collection, which thankfully I don't keep in the utility room or I would have to start all over.

But anyway, The Cope's-Latest-Column Discussion Group took a week off between Christmas and New Year's, mostly because I flew back East to spend Christmas with my daughter in Akron and ended up sleeping a whole night under a bench in the Minneapolis airport because of all that bad weather they had back there, which wasn't so bad as it sounds because for all the trouble they put us through, the airport people gave us all gift certificates to that Cinnabuns shop, which I think was another miracle when you think about it.

So anyway, last night we had our first meeting since before Christmas and I have to tell you, we took a vote concerning how you fired Red from your column (BW, Opinion/Bill Cope, "Red B-Gone," Dec. 18, 2013), and everyone there voted that it was mean of you to fire him. Even if the things he says are always jiggled up like there is a mouse in his mouth while he is trying to talk, that First Amendment thingy says he has a right to say them. I looked it up just to be sure and there is nothing in that whole Constitution that says a man has to enunciate his words properly. Even people who talk like they learned how to do it while they were being raised in the wilderness by coyotes have a right to free speech, and we all are surprised you do not see it that way, too, Bill.

And anyway, we of us in the Cope's-Latest-Column Discussion Group all agreed that even if Red has more than his share of hillbillyish tendencies, we like him anyway. He is colorful, and I mean not in the Denzel Washington way. I picture him to look like Gabby Hayes from the old Roy Rogers movies. And maybe you should consider what would Roy Rogers be without Gabby Hayes, have you ever thought of that? Which is what you will be without Red. Think about it, Bill, and that is what I sincerely think.

--Sincerely, Anonymous

Dear Anon,

I am sorry to hear about your troubles over the holidays, especially the fire. By the way, you didn't mention whether Sniggles is a dog, a cat or one of your children. Either way, I do hope she came out of it un-singed.

I must thank you for bringing Gabby Hayes once more to mind. There was a time when he was my favorite actor. Later, Davy Crockett came along and I almost forgot Gabby. Yet I can still hear him delivering that immortal line, "Dag nabbit, Roy! Them rustlers are gettin' off with the whole herd!" It's an American tragedy that he never received the recognition he deserved.

However, Red does not look anything like Gabby Hayes. Imagine instead that Harry Dean Stanton--you remember him, I'm sure, from Alien--had spent his entire life in the sun as a roofer perhaps, or the guy holding the Stop/Slow sign on a road construction crew. That is Red, as wiry as a Weimaraner with the complexion of a Slim Jim. He probably doesn't weigh more than 120 pounds, and he's the only guy I know who owns a camouflage three-piece suit.

You are right about one thing, though. Red's a character, no denying that. And you're affection for him comes as no surprise to me. America has had a long love affair with hillbillies--the Hatfields and McCoys, Li'l Abner, those Green Acres zanies and the Hee Haw bunch, not to mention Honey Boo Boo and her family, or the mutant cannibal strain so common to West Virginia.

And who can forget the long-running adventures of Jeb, Granny, Ellie May and Jethro? In fact, it was probably our nostalgia for the millionaire Clampett clan that set the stage for this current batch of rich hillbillies who have been in the news lately--the Duck somethings. You know who I mean... the hairy ones. And if there had been such a thing as homosexuals back when the Clampetts first moved to Beverly Hills, I'm certain this latest controversy would have been settled long ago.

But as to Red, I'm afraid my mind is made up. Yes, he has his endearing qualities, and he certainly has the freedom to butcher the English language in whatever ways he sees fit. But does that right require me to continue giving him a platform from which to do it? I think not. Red's undisputed freedom to mispronounce everything that comes out of his whiskery mouth ends at my computer keyboard.

Anon, I do hope my decision does not have too negative an effect on your appreciation of my columns. And tell the discussion group not to worry about Red. I'm sure he will find new venues in which he might explore his inner hillbilly.