Celebrating math, snakes and grandkids

Gene Deason-former editor of the Brownwood Bulletin

A former colleague in the newspaper business had a trait I admired. Perhaps “envied” is more accurate. He was never at a loss for a column idea.

Most columnists I’ve known experience “writer’s block,” if not perpetually, then occasionally. But this colleague always had plenty of ideas. He, too, was editor of a daily community newspaper in a city much like Brownwood, and he, too, was one of several writers with a weekly column. Whenever one of his fellow columnists was unable to produce an article by deadline, my colleague didn’t blink an eye. He could generate a substitute column at will, often in less than half an hour.

This week, I find myself in a similar, although unusual, situation. My mind is filled with possible topics, so at the risk of racing hither and yon, I today offer a “three-in-one.” Normally, I might hold two of those ideas for future Fridays, but these are perishable. They will spoil if they aren’t consumed now.

Pi Day

Math is one of the less enjoyable classes for many school students, but for those who are willing to dig deeper into it, this subject is incredibly fascinating. Today, March 14, is a day some have set aside to explore all matters mathematical, and they have named it “Pi Day.”

Pi, of course, is 3.141592653589 (rounded off), and it is known by the appropriate Greek letter. Perhaps you remember the equation A = p r squared, which is used to calculate the area of a circle. The area equals pi times the radius, squared. People even had this figured out — roughly — in Old Testament times. I reference First Kings 7:23.

Scripture rounds it off, perhaps too much for purists, but pi is always going to be rounded off — even if you calculate it out to one trillion digits past its decimal. And those digits are infinite and without pattern.

Since March 14 can be expressed as 3-14, today is declared Pi Day. There’s even a website: If you’ve nothing better to do on a Friday night, you might check it out. There’s even an app to help you memorize pi’s digits.

Fair, Expo and Snake Roundup

If ever there was a sure sign of spring, it’s the Brownwood Jaycees Lone Star Fair and Expo and Rattlesnake Roundup this weekend. It’s been held in the middle of March for 50 years.

I’m not a fan of snakes. I certainly have a rational fear of the poisonous varieties. Having said that, I also find snakes fascinating. It started in childhood when some older boys in our North Carolina neighborhood caught, killed and showed off a copperhead they spotted in a creek near our homes. Copperheads are as common there as diamondback rattlesnakes are here.

Two years ago, in what was as the last rattlesnake roundup I helped cover for the Bulletin, I ventured farther into the snake pit than I ever imagined I would. The experienced snakehandlers, seeing that I was wearing jeans and boots, beckoned my camera and me into their midst — after a quick lesson on “what-not-to-do.”

I’m proud I can say that I did that. I don’t care to do it again. I’m content to remain at a safe distance and let those who know what they’re doing, do what it is that they do.

Meanwhile, the Jaycees offer a lot more to see than just snakes at the Brownwood Coliseum. My parents often made visits here from the East Coast over spring break, and the “wildcat show” featuring coins, antiques, crafts and collectibles fascinated my father. He died several years ago, and I can’t think of this event now without remembering how much he enjoyed it.

Grandfathered in

In closing, I must report that I feel like I was welcomed into a fraternity one year ago next Wednesday. After our first grandchild was born, all the sayings suddenly made sense.

“If I’d known grandchildren were this much fun, I would have had them first.” “The only thing wrong with our grandson is he won’t take his afternoon nap, and he won’t let me take mine.” And so on.

All of things I’ve heard from others about this glorious stage in life now ring true. The great thing is, there is much more of this sort of thing to come.

Gene Deason is a former editor of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Fridays.