The Scolai

“Just a Good Guy…With a Few Bad Habits”

Mr. Mansfield

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I was blessed to be raised around a group of my parent’s friends who became my “Irish Uncles”. Tonight, my Dad and I spent some time with one of the men who meant most to me growing up. When I got to the point in my life where I began to think of my future, I had four goals in mind:

1.)  Be able to sell Real Estate as well as my cousin Jerry.

2.)  Be able to fight as well as my cousin Gino. (These two are 10 or more years older than me, and I always looked at them as adults)

3.)  Be able to pull women like my Uncle Larry.

 4.)  Be able to sing and play guitar like Mr. Mansfield. 

As I got older, a few things happened

 1. I didn’t like selling real estate.  

2. I’ve had plenty of fights in my life, but I’m not on Gino’s level when it comes to kicking ass.  

3. He’s not going to like this, but I did give Uncle Larry a run for his money in the women department. Of course most of my success was related to number 4.

 4. I practiced hard and Learned to play the guitar like Mr.Mansfield. Although, when it came to singing, I sound more like Bob Dylan(on a bad night) than Ray Price.

My mother is a wonderful cook. Down south they would say “She can forevermore whup up on some vittles!” I have many great memories of parties at our house, or of just people dropping in. Mom always cooked. It wasn’t “Run down the street and get some pizza.” I mean we had MEALS! The people that would come to these gatherings always left an impression on me. Few left a larger one than Mr. Mansfield. 

The first memory I have of Mr. Mansfield is when I was about ten. I was watching my younger brothers and sister (remember, this is over thirty years ago, you could still let a ten year old baby sit). I answered the phone and the man on the other end was obviously drunk, and homeless, and wanted to come and stay with us. I found out later that he was neither drunk, nor homeless, that was just Mr. Mansfield being Mr. Mansfield. He saw a chance to have some fun with someone and couldn’t resist! 

 My Dad has never been known to do things in a small way. When he decided he wanted to learn to play the guitar, he went all out. Even though he couldn’t hit a lick, and he didn’t know a fret board from an ironing board, he bought a Martin D-35 and signed up for lessons. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because it meant that when Mr. Mansfield came by, there would be a guitar in the house. 

 Mr. Mansfield would come by from time to time. I can see him sitting at the table that now sits in my dining room, eating my Mom’s lasagna and drinking beer. When He finished, I knew it wouldn’t be long before he would play some songs on that Martin Guitar and tell some of the best stories I have heard to this day. The songs that stick with me the most are Ray Price’s “For the Good Times”, and Kris Kristofferson’s “Help me make it through the Night”. The stories I remember most involved his days as a secret agent being shot out of a torpedo tube in a seer sucker suit to infiltrate Communist Russia, Promoting his friend “Skin” in a human fly act, and negotiating with an Indian Chief who wanted to trade a buffalo for Mr. Mansfield’s girlfriend.He was an entertainer and could have gone a long way had he chosen to do so. 

  Mr. Mansfield is nearing eighty now. Parkinson’s disease has taken his ability to play and sometimes he is hard to understand when he speaks. However, tonight as I sat beside him in a friend’s restaurant listening to a singer do his set, I heard him sing, note for note, some of the songs he used to do for us. 

 I love to sing and play guitar. As hard as I tried, I don’t believe I’ve come close to Mr. Mansfield’s talent for either. I love to tell stories. But I don’t believe I’ll ever be his match.  

Tonight, before I left, I said to him: “Mr. Mansfield, this is the Christmas season and I want to thank you for the gifts you have given me. Whenever my girls ask me ‘Dad, who made you want to play guitar?’ or ‘Dad, where did you learn to tell stories like that?’

I always tell them ‘Mr. Mansfield taught me how.’”   

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Written by thescolai

December 20, 2006 at 10:55 am

Posted in Blogroll

One Response

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  1. You are absolutely right…Mr. Mansfield was and still is the best story teller ever…He is a loyal friend and we (anyone that has ever met him) all love hime, and, consider it a blessing that he has touched our lives….

    Dad

    William Hampton

    December 25, 2006 at 9:21 pm


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