Volume 42, Issue 1 - January 2007

by Lyle R. Hill

“Say Hill,” the late morning caller began, “I know you don’t watch a lot of television, but by any chance were you tuning in last night to the special programming on the History Channel?”

I had answered the phone on the second ring and instantly recognized the caller’s voice as that of the infamous Jungle Jim Bruney … a tough guy from the old west side neighborhood.

“You’re right, Bruney, I don’t watch much television, but why do you ask?”

“Ah-ha, you did see it then, didn’t you? Otherwise, you would have given me a direct answer. So what did you think?” 

Unfortunately, I knew exactly what he was talking about. In fact, two other people had called me while the program was on to tell me to tune in. And earlier in the morning, another had called to ask me if I had seen it and if I had, what I thought about it.

“OK, I watched it … and I found it interesting. Why is this so important to you?”

“Well, Hill, I’ll tell ya. As soon as the guy playing the part of old Ben Franklin appeared on the screen, I said to my wife … ‘It’s Hill. They musta fired him from his day job at the glass place and he’s taken up acting.’ Cause that was you, wasn’t it?”

“No, Bruney, that was not me. Although apparently you were not the only one who thought it was.”

“Hill, the guy was a dead ringer for you. The hair, or lack of it actually, the pudginess, the mannerisms and even his voice sometimes. It was you, Hill.”

“Well, it wasn’t me. And besides, that guy had me by at least 20 pounds.”

“Maybe five pounds Hill, but in every other way, it was you … or you were him … or something! And let me ask you, Hill, don’t you and Franklin share the same birthday?”

“Well, yes. Yes we do.”

“And didn’t you study French when you were in college, Hill?”

“Yeah, Bruney, but only because it was required, not because I planned on actually spending a large amount of time in France.”

“And, as I recall, when you were a kid living on 13th Street, didn’t your family heat the house with a couple of coal- and wood-burning pot-belly stoves … commonly known as Franklin Stoves?”

“Sure, but we only used those because we were too poor to afford a central heating system.”

“Oh, poor little Lyle … wait a minute, Hill … your middle name is Richard, and when you were a kid your mother used to call you Richard so as not to confuse you with your dad whose name was also Lyle. So you actually were Poor Richard … like Franklin’s Almanac.” 

“Bruney, you’ve gone too far. Give it up already.”

“And who was the only kid on the entire west side of the city who made his own kites outta used grocery bags and cardboard and was constantly getting them snagged in the electric lines along the railroad tracks?”

“That’s cause I couldn’t afford to buy a real kite—and you gotta admit that they did actually fly. But Bruney, you’re letting your imagination run away with you on this thing.” 

“I don’t think so, Hill. There’s way too many similarities and we haven’t yet talked about the biggest one.”

“You’re completely out of your mind, but go ahead, let’s hear it.”

“OK, Hill, here it is. It’s the stuff you write. You’re just like him.”

“How do you figure that, Bruney?”

“Come on, Hill. Don’t you see it? You’re always coming up with those silly little aphorisms and stories that are supposed to have some meaning to them and, just like Franklin, most of the stuff you come up with isn’t exactly new, you just put a little twist to it. And you love giving advice whether you intend to follow it for yourself or not—a lot of hot air for the most part. And who is your audience, Hill? Who actually reads this stuff you come up with?”

“I don’t know … the French?”

“No, not the French, you knucklehead. It’s those mindless simpletons in the glass industry, that’s who. And that was Franklin’s audience too … the weak and whining louts who are always complaining that they are working so hard and yet are constantly being taken advantage of. So you see, Hill, whether you want to admit it or not, you and old Ben have a lot in common.”

“So I take it, Mr. Jungle Jim Bruney, that you are not a fan of Ben Franklin and by inference, not a fan of mine or my industry either.”

“I’ve said my piece, Hill. Read into it what you may.”

“Well, I find this all quite interesting and I want to thank you for this call because it has given me an idea for an article wherein I think I will take some of Franklin’s witticisms and update them for us whining louts in the glass industry. But I’d like to also give you one of Franklin’s sayings to take with you if that’s OK.”

“Sure, Hill. Why not?”

“Silence is not always a sign of wisdom, but babbling is ever a folly!” 

Lyle R. Hill is president of MTH Industries of Chicago.lhill@mthindustries.com


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No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.