Surely you don't remember, but a couple of years ago I was writing about weather or something and I mentioned a former Latin teacher of mine named Dr. Huber.
Dr. Huber had long hair and looked a lot like Robert Plant, the lead singer in Led Zeppelin. He wore a dark suit and took classical languages very seriously, but would occasionally digress about something interesting.
Like the fine spring day when he closed his battered copy of "Latina Lingua" and started complaining about how couples at Vanderbilt didn't display public affection like, say, couples at nearby Christian colleges such as Belmont and David Lipscomb.
It was second semester of my sophomore year, and I remember it being incredibly difficult to attend any class before noon, which was when I'd scheduled every one of mine.
Later that spring, I missed an entire week of Latin class and sent word to Dr. Huber that I was ill. The next day, I passed him on the campus lawn. I happened to be carrying a clear gallon jug filled with beer.
"Mr. Kendrick-Holmes!" he cried. "You've made a remarkable recovery!"
Latin is one of those subjects, like math, that requires daily work. In other words, I was in trouble. Dr. Huber found me a tutor and I was able to cram enough Latin into my brain in the last few weeks to squeak out a passing grade and keep my Army ROTC scholarship.
I'll never forget finishing my final exam and leaving the building. Dr. Huber stopped me on the stairs and said he wanted to tell me a story.
It was about a friend of his who didn't take his studies seriously and became a pulpwooder. The friend suffered several mishaps involving falling trees and may have even broken his back. That was it.
"Have a good summer, Mr. Kendrick-Holmes," he said. And he went back up the stairs.
Obviously, that story has stuck with me over the years, and I sometimes tell it to my children. I bring it up now because my wife and I spent last weekend in Sewanee, Tenn. One night, we went for a walk at the University of the South. Bess is a fast walker, and we were passing this long-haired guy on the sidewalk who was talking on a cellphone.
We walked about 50 more feet and then I turned to Bess and said, "That was my Latin teacher at Vanderbilt. You know, the pulpwood guy."
"You're kidding," she said.
He had turned down a side street, and we tracked him down.
Sure enough, it was Dr. Huber, after 26 years. I introduced myself and told him about the pulpwood story.
"Well?" he said.
"Well, what?" I said.
"Well, what did you become?" he said.
It occurred to me that what I said next might be important to him, and would maybe define the power of his influence and his effectiveness as a teacher.
For a second, I considered lying and saying I was an astronaut.
But I told him the truth, and he acted impressed. His father had wanted to become a journalist, he said, but had a successful advertising career instead.
Dr. Huber still teaches Latin, but he's also a professional songwriter. He co-wrote Alan Jackson's "Just Put a Ribbon in Your Hair" and Dionne Warwick's "Where My Lips Have Been."
He married my Latin tutor and they have a daughter who's just starting college.
He still thinks college kids don't show enough public displays of affection. And he complained that his songwriting partners told him that "love" and "heart" don't work in country songs anymore.
What's the world coming to?
But as long as we've got teachers like Dr. Huber, we should be OK.
Dimon Kendrick-Holmes, executive editor, firstname.lastname@example.org.