As many of you know, I have a “godmother” named Phyllis who lives in Gary, Indiana.

As many of you know, I have a “godmother” named Phyllis who lives in Gary, Indiana.  I have never seen her, but I talk to her on the phone three or four times a week.

That’s the way it started; she called me by mistake a couple of years ago.  At the time, I was visiting relatives in the South driving around my hometown in Alabama.  We talked about her dialing the wrong number and I pulled off the road into a parking lot and continued the conversation for about 30 minutes that first time.

Since then, we have continued to talk.  If I go for a few days without calling her, she will call and pretend to be mad.  I enjoy talking to her; I even enjoy it when she pretends to be mad at me.  When my mother passed away, Phyllis decided to be my godmother.  Phyllis turned 92 at the beginning of February.

In the past couple of years, I have learned that Phyllis has grandsons who played in the NFL, a brother in New York who she needs me “to preach at” every once in a while and a new great granddaughter living pretty close to where I live.

Recently, she called me while I was in the classroom, teaching one of the college mathematics courses I enjoy teaching.  One of my rules in the classroom has to do with no cell phones, texting, etc.  My students understand that Phyllis is the exception.

If she calls, I will answer the phone.  I never know if it will be the last time I hear her voice.  On this day, I put my cell phone on the speaker and let her talk to my students.  She was very kind and called them all, “Sweetie Pies.”

All of them told her, “Hello.”

She often gets mixed up and thinks that I am teaching young children.  The students I am teaching are understanding and enjoy hearing her talk.

The first time my students hear her, I can see the look in their faces and what they are asking – “Your godmother is an African-American living in Gary, Indiana?”

Why not?

Like a lot of older folks, Phyllis sometimes repeats herself and her stories.  I don’t mind.  I consider it a blessing.  I don’t even mind when she starts in on her preaching, because in all honesty it is impressive what she knows.  Phyllis always tells me that a lot of her relatives don’t like her calling because she is preaching and talking about the Bible all the time.

After telling everyone hello and calling them sweetie pies, Phyllis told me she would call back later in the afternoon.  She knows what time I drive home and how long my commute is.  Phyllis probably has it either written down or marked on the clock.

Again, that is just fine by me.

Later in the afternoon on my commute home, my phone rang and the big fancy “P” showed up on the screen of my cell phone.  It was Phyllis.  I put it on the hands-free speaker thing and let her roll.  In other words, sometimes I just listen.  The value of “just listening” is something that should never be underestimated.

On this afternoon, I got a lesson in Entomology and Zoology, or more specifically, “bugs and animals.”

For the past two years, it seems they have been trying to rid Phyllis’ complex/home of bugs.  Phyllis calls them “chinches” or bed bugs.  They bite her and worry her continuously.  It is concerning.

However, it sounds like they have pretty much taken her apartment apart trying to kill them all.  On this afternoon, she told me that they even pulled up the floor.

I can’t imagine, but I get a pretty vivid picture.

What does Phyllis say about this?

She says, “Our God is wonderful isn’t he?” 

Can you believe that?  She really does.  She goes on to defend the chinches saying that the construction people built the apartment complex on top of their home and they have nowhere else to go.

Whatever it is, bad, terrible or worse (the Chicago Bulls losing), Phyllis finds good in it.  She loves the Bulls and will call me late at night and tell me what channel they are playing on.  I’m not much on the NBA, but I always thank her.

After the bugs, she started talking about deer and how many she used to see in Virginia when she would come to visit.  Again, she said the reason was that we took their home and “they have no place else to go.”

I try to explain to her that we need to make difficult decisions on the bugs and the deer, but she’s 92 and I’m not going to argue with her.

Phyllis then went into about a 20 minute dissertation on deer having hooks on their heads (antlers).  She wanted me to understand that deer weren’t born with those “hooks” on their heads.  Of course, I made the mistake of asking her, “Why not?”

She explained to me that the hooks/horns would tear the deer mommas’ stomachs up and they couldn’t get out.  It was fascinating, her logic was sound.  I knew that deer weren’t born with antlers, but Phyllis just has a way with words.

Later that evening, I decided to do a little “Hook Research” on deer antlers.

There were a few things that I found very interesting.  Most deer hunters probably know these things, but they are fascinating.

Deer antlers are not “horns” like sheep, goats and cows have.  Horns are typically not shed, antlers are.

The annual antler cycle is controlled by the length of a day.  The deer’s brain tells it how many periods of light and dark it has seen and the bucks produce testosterone and you have the “antler cycle.”  Tests have shown with the light/day periods are altered, bucks are unable to shed their antlers.

One of the most interesting things I found about was the impact that an injury to the back leg of a buck has to subsequent antler development on the opposite site. In other words, the next time you see a deer with a normal antler/rack on the right and a twisted or stunted antler/rack on the left, check its back right leg for injury.

For some reason, after a buck has a serious injury to a hind limb, it will cause the opposite antler to be abnormal and stunted. The cause for this is unknown, perhaps I will ask Phyllis.  It was noted that this “stunting effect” will persist even after the hind leg heals.

I will continue to study Phyllis or “Phyllisology” while I can; I learn a lot of interesting things.

You can find more stories on Phyllis and other things that crank my tractor at