Stephenson Tales

How "Dude" Got the Name
A long story with a Biblical denouement

When Mom and Dad married they agreed to take turns naming any children. Of course being the man of the house, Dad's choice came first, so he quite naturally named the first born after himself: Orlando Worth. Mom had a very hard time with the birth and was very weak afterward. They decided to put off having any more, but after five years, and when "Lanny" began to be more independent and in school, the time was right. So I was begun.

Mom became more and more apprehensive as August approached, particularly since her mother-in-law was coming to help out and Dad was going to be just getting back from teaching an extension course of three weeks in the Upper Peninsula. So she decided that in order to make a good impression on her rather scary mother-in-law she would give the house a thorough cleaning in anticipation of her visit. In my confined state this seemed to me to be extremely uncomfortable, so by the time she was dusting the underside of the dining room table, although I was not due to make my worldly debut for two weeks, I had had enough of this jostling around. I wanted OUT.

Realizing what was happening, she called a taxi to take "us" to the hospital and went outside to meet it on its arrival. When it came, here was an unescorted female in obvious distress, so he took her to the Homeopathic Maternity Annex of the hospital. It was for unmarried mothers, but Mom was in no condition to argue or even understand. The young doctor, in his zeal, used "high forceps" on me, and the deep dent in my skull which runs from the hairline over my right eye all the way to the back of my head is present-day testimony to his muscular prowess.

The recovery doctor wrote my name (already agreed upon as "Jim Bob" after Mom's father Robert and favorite uncle Jim) down as "James Robert." I did not know of this error until I had to have my birth certificate when I went into the army and found the mistake and had it legally corrected by Luella Smith, Clerk of Washtenaw County. She told me it would cost me $40.00 to change my name. I assured her that I was not changing my name; I was correcting an error. No charge. At any rate, my time of birth was 11:15 a.m., Monday, July 18, 1921. "Jim Bob" it was, fortunately, for if my father had named me it would have been after his two brothers: Franklin Eugene. Ugh!

Mom almost died, so they wisely waited another five years before she became pregnant again. All was not well. A month before the baby was due, she had a miscarriage - a stillborn boy. They were devastated. "I feel movement, Oie."

"Elm, you have lost the baby. We just have to fact it."

"I feel movement!"

Examination revealed the truth - there was still a baby there all right! The birth was exactly on time a month later: another beautiful baby boy. This time Mom's flirting with death was nearer than before. She again spent a lot of time in Arkansas with her family. The baby's name: (which all this is supposed to be about, Jim Bob!) Dad's turn. My father's millionaire uncle (who designed and made the die for the Indian head buffalo nickel) was named Clarence Hathaway (descendent of Anne Hathaway - Shakespeare's wife) and Earl Osgerby, a cousin. Clarence Earl was the fifth in the family, so Dad called him Deut - short for Deuteronomy, the fifth book of the Old Testament.

Across the street from us on the corner of 3rd and Madison, lived the Denay family and they had two sons. The eldest, who was the same age as Dude, was named Bobby. He was not the swiftest kid on the block. For Halloween he wanted to "go as a goat." He meant "ghost," we believe. Bobby mispronounced my younger brother's name - never having heard of the Old Testament or anything in it, as "Dude" and it stuck.

In light of the present connotation of the nickname, Dude always feels an obligation to explain that his name has nothing to do with his sartorial splendor (especially when wearing the uniform of the Interlochen Arts Camp) but is really a corruption of something "quite else."

Composed 16 November 2008; Transcribed by Lucky

© Jim Bob Stephenson 2008

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