Pontificate (pon-tif-i-cate): To deliver oracular utterances or dogmatic opinions
The fact that I’m not a learned person has long been a handicap for me. In fact, I’ve been known to pontificate for hours…on any subject, at any time, whether I knew anything about that particular subject or not.
Having said that, I must also tell you that my lovely wife Janey will warn anyone I’m talking to that I love to hear the sound of my own voice. Furthermore, she also cautions people to closely scrutinize the veracity of any subject I speak on.
Years ago we piled ourselves, along with our four children, into our old car. We’d decided to take a trip to California and Disneyland. Along with all of our luggage, and with an extra spare tire and a tent bungee-corded atop our old jalopy, it turned into a modern-day version of The Grapes of Wrath, we were ready for California. (The question remained: Was California ready for us?) Our grown children now laughingly refer to that time as The Vacation from Hell.
At any rate, as a parent of grammar school-aged children, I felt duty bound to have an answer for any questions my children might have. The correct answer was not that important. A quick answer was.
Consequently, as we proceeded southward from northern California, one of the kids asked me the name of the mountain range just to the east of us.
“Those are the San Joaquin Mountains, little one.” I responded.
At that time Jane nudged me (quite hard, I might add) in the ribs, and whispered, “The San Joaquin is a valley, not a mountain range. And for your information, the range you just referred to is the Sierra Nevada.”
“Well, they don’t know the difference.” I whispered back, once again explaining that a quick response was preferable to accuracy when speaking with children.
Later on, as we passed through the Sierra Nevada Valley, where I told my children 97 percent of the food for the entire world was produced, we finally reached Anaheim. The next day, we rode all the rides. The Pirates of the Caribbean was my favorite. That night, as we relaxed in our tent, one of the children asked me if I knew much about pirates.
I answered, “I’m glad you asked that. When your mother and I met, I actually was a pirate of the Caribbean.”
Once again I received a sharp nudge to the ribs from my lovely wife.
It is difficult for me to tell the truth. As I’ve mentioned before, one of my favorite quotes comes from Leicester Hemingway, who said, “A good story is at its best when the line between truth and fiction remains ambiguous.”
Jane, on the other hand, prefers a quotation from an old proverb that she heard recently from my sister: Even a broken clock is correct twice a day.
We recently looked up the exact meaning of that particular proverb at Wikepedia,com. They explained it as follows: “A normally unreliable person…can occasionally provide information, even if only by accident.”
Needless to say, my lovely wife thought that explanation described my stories to a tee.
Therefore, if you read most of what I write, you will know that I am somewhat analogous to a ‘busted clock’…I’m right at least twice a day. So it’s true. There is no San Joaquin mountain range. There is no fertile Sierra Nevada valley in central California. And no, I never was a pirate of the Caribbean.
So I will end this story, since I must begin preparation for hunting the white killer shark. They inhabit the Great Barrier Reef. I think is located just south of the Marquesas Islands in Australia. Wish me luck!
Mike McMahon is two-time winner of the Montana Newspaper Association’s Columnist of the Year award. He lives in Deer Lodge with his wife Jane where he’s working on his third book of anecdotes collected while sitting on his front porch swing.