Pretend the title is a Jeopardy clue and the category is “Famous Writers.” What would you say?

Maybe you’re too young – I am. However, I’m pretty sure I was asked or assigned to read “The Great Gatsby” in high school. More than likely, I read the Cliff’s Notes, rather than reading the whole book. That type of shortcut is something that I am ashamed of. I wish I would have read more in my younger days. I guess I thought I had more important or fun things to do.

So, if you answered, “Who is F. Scott Fitzgerald?” you are the winner. If you are scratching your head, that’s fine too.

You see, I was in the gas station right outside of the campus where I work the other day with dirty blue jeans, work boots, a farmers “Co-Op” hat and a white t-shirt. A few folks who knew me saw me and kind of gave me interesting looks.

If I were out in the country, folks would have thought I had just been working in the yard or in the garden. However, I was in a place that folks are used to seeing me in a different set of clothes. You know, the type of clothes a scientist or a mathematician would wear to work. Definitely not a coat and tie, but definitely not dirt-caked blue jeans and a hat from the Randolph County, Alabama Farmers Cooperative.

The simple answer is that I work my little garden plot inside the campus where I work and I just didn’t change clothes before I headed home. Most folks don’t know even know we have a garden club where I work with 30 or 40 avid gardeners who do their farming before or after work and on the weekend.

I love white t-shirts. I just do. I love good cotton ones with crewnecks. And yes, I looked like a redneck or a farmer or an older version of one of those. I kind of like that role – maybe those types of folks are my heroes. You know, fellows who know how to get rid of potato beetles and know how to plow a field with a tractor rather than a little rototiller.

Well, it seems that the famous author, F. Scott Fitzgerald is credited with first using the term “t-shirt” in print, in his novel, “This Side of Paradise,” in 1920. The main character took a t-shirt with him to college. Military folks and college football also played important roles in the popularity of t-shirts.

The Navy and Army bought bunches of t-shirts for their young men to go under their uniforms or as part of their uniforms. In 1932, the University of Southern California wanted a lightweight garment to go underneath their football players shoulder pads to keep them from rubbing and chaffing. Jockey International Inc. was more than happy to make them. I would suppose this is the same company that still hires athletes to model their underwear.

Then all the students had to have one… and then came colors and pockets and smiley faces and cute sayings and sometimes words that make your stomach turn.

My t-shirt was just white.

Now the muse part. What is a muse? A muse is a source of inspiration or a guiding genius – you know someone who cranks your tractor so much you think of great things to say, write and do.

F. Scott Fitzgerald married a girl from Alabama named Zelda. She was his wife and muse, so they say. They had many ups and downs, with F. Scott Fitzgerald battling with alcoholism and depression for much of his life. He died in 1940 of a heart attack at the age of 44, thinking he never really made it.

His works such as “The Great Gatsby” weren’t fully appreciated until well after his death. Perhaps he would have taken better care of himself if he knew how famous he would become.

Fitzgerald once said, “There are no second acts in American lives.” I’m not sure what he meant by that, but I am taking it as his advice to me to keep wearing a white t-shirt to the gas station along with my mud covered boots. Little boys can pretend to be cowboys, I can pretend to be a farmer.

 

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