1928 - Alderson High School - 1968


The Pebble in the Brain
Alex McLaughlin 09

Some people write about the annoying pebble in their shoe. I on the other hand have had to deal with what appears to be a pebble in my brain for most of my life. I don't feel any different because of this but sometimes people look at me kind of funny. I know; I know some of you think that is because not only am I from West Virginia but I am from Alderson, West Virginia. I have come to the conclusion that all those people looking at me strange would be real surprised when intelligent life from outer space would make a beeline to my house. I would be the first person on earth that they would want to meet. There would be a cynic among you who would say that they would choose me because their finger or whatever the part of there body that would use to leaf through the phone book would pick me out because of sheer chance.

That's where the pebble comes in. It is possible; perhaps not likely, that the aliens would have a device that would measure the density of one's brain. Because of the correlation between brain density and intelligence; they would clearly want their first meeting with a human to be with someone with high brain density. My thinking is the device couldn't distinguish between the density of grey matter and the density of the pebble I am certain is in my brain. A former astronaut recently stated that he is convinced that intelligent life has come to earth, maybe Roswell, New Mexico or other places, and the American government through the US Air Force has kept this under wraps. If we could get a charlatan expert somewhere to certify that my brain density was abnormally high without mentioning the pebble, there is some chance that we could promote Alderson as the Roswell of the east coast.

My wife is convinced that there is very little if anything between my ears. I believe if she would shine a light in one ear, she would not see a light coming out the other end. So that would refute her thesis somewhat. However the pebble in my brain might explain some of the thought processes that befuddle and irritate the woman I have been married to for 34 years. At our anniversary dinner last year I told her that I could not imagine anyone easier to live with for all of these years than her. After a pause of what seemed like two hours she finally was able to respond with something positive about me. I would ask that if you run into Mary Jo that you don't tell her about my theory of the pebble in the brain. If she would find that out, she would automatically call a brain surgeon. As some of you might recall Uncle Jed asked Jethro of the Beverly Hillbillies what he wanted to be when he grew up and Jethro replied "that he either wanted to be a brain surgeon or one of those fellers on the bus that had the little coin collector tied to his belt." I guess our prayers and hopes are that the professors in the medical schools can distinguish between those cut out to be brain surgeons and those that are better fitted to be coin collectors on the buses. I don't want a coin collector cutting the pebble out of my brain.

The pebble in the brain seems to have a most severe and unusual impact on my behavior when driving vehicles. One Friday in spring when I was a junior in high school Jay Strealy and I borrowed my folks’ Ford station wagon. We then drove to the skating rink in Union and pranced around with our Alderson maroon and grey jackets. The pebble in the brain told me that driving without a license was a normal rite of passage in life. We were so emboldened with the forbidden trip that we decided to go to Lewisburg on Sunday night where we ran into my uncle Andy McLaughlin at the drug store that is now a curiosity shop on the corner of Court Street and US Route 219. Uncle Andy either didn't think it strange that Jay and I were running around in Lewisburg by ourselves or he kept it to himself.

The pebble was probably working when according to Bob Pettigrew we drove the entire return trip from Ronceverte to Alderson in reverse because that was the only gear that was working on the car that we were driving. I don't remember the incident. I am not sure how Bob remembered either. Also on one summer evening I was driving from Ronceverte to Alderson and had a black out period when I didn't remember the trip from Fort Springs to Alderson. I now imagine that the car hit a bump and the pebble migrated to the side of the brain that is responsible for the memory and lodged there for a period. I broke out in a cold sweat when I couldn't remember any details from Fort Springs on.

I once worked with a guy who exhibited wild swings in mood and behavior. I know you are thinking this guy had a pebble in his head. Actually he had a medal plate in his head. We also had a mail runner that also had a medal plate in his head. I did not know him very well. The medal supports in the moveable walls at our office complex had some magnetic qualities as you could stick the magnetic strips that advertise trial lawyer on the front of phone books to these metal supports. My acquaintance, he was a little too far out to be called a friend, would never stand very close to the metal strips because his head would immediately lock up against the wall. All of this was very reassuring as I started to contemplate that the pebble in the brain by comparison was not so bad. I never had to worry about getting too close to the medal supports in the moveable walls.

I think that Rick Hughes and I have remained friends over the years because of the imagined pebble in my brain and because of the imagined pebble in Rick’s shoe. The pebble in my brain has led to me thinking that Rick is almost normal. On the other hand who wants friends that are normal? If Rick didn’t have the imagined pebble in his shoe, then maybe he could run faster and wouldn’t think of me as an Olympic Runner. He would beat me and move on to the next challenge. He would quit coming to Charleston for the distance run every year and the only time I would hear from him would be when one of his stories came out on The Aldersonian. But just maybe Rick is sandbagging every year just so that he can come and visit with me. Either way I sure look forward to seeing him.