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National Editorials & Columns

The origins of the Ramblin’ Man

A realization that emerged after my engagement was announced is the concept that the guy who writes this column is the same guy whose life is chronicled in this space. The reality is, they’re not the same guy.

Jennie has had people comment to her: So, you’re marrying the Ramblin’ Man? Her response is typically: No, I’m marrying David.

Jennie is the one person who seems to get the idea that the two are different. Maybe other people get it, too, but I can marry only one of you. Therefore, Jennie gets the designation of “the one person” who gets it and who “gets” me.

So, I thought I’d share with you who the Ramblin’ Man really is. Where he’s from, what his background is, that sort of thing.

The Ramblin’ Man was born in 1835 or thereabouts not too far from where you’re now sitting or standing. Or lying down. I can’t really tell what you’re doing right now.

Anyway, his father was a trapeze artist in a small circus known as the Travelin’ Dunderheads, and his mother was a seamstress in an ironworks factory. I don’t know why they needed a seamstress in an ironworks factory. Apparently, people split their britches a lot.

The circus troupe was in town for three days only, but on the second day, the Ramblin’ Man’s father, whose name was Leopold, was doing a dangerous maneuver called the upside-down-twist-dive from the top trapeze bar. As he was about to go into the twist part, he lost his grip and he fell 40 feet toward the ground. But he was saved by a runaway unicorn whose horn snagged Leopold’s leotard. Leopold was lowered gently to the ground, but his outfit and his pride were in sore need of repair.

Now, I don’t know if this story is 100 percent accurate, but it’s true as it was told to me. I have no reason to doubt its authenticity.

Alberta the seamstress from the ironworks factory was known far and wide as a wholly adequate mender of britches and broken hearts, so Leopold was taken on a stretcher to see her. Pretty soon, they were wed, and little Ramblin’ Boy, as he was known back in the day, was born in due time.

Those are the basic facts of his earliest beginnings. The boy grew up as people tend to do. He went to school as often as not and embarked on a career in the science of sciolism.

On a personal note, he stands about 6 feet 2 inches tall, has bronze skin, wavy blond hair and, as previously noted, is quite handy with the ladies. He stands for truth, justice and the American way, and he sits down for everything else.

That’s about all there is to say about him. He knows no enemy or stranger. He abhors any vice except those of which he partakes, and he is all about integrity, honesty, reliability and other words that end in “y.”

He is a real person, to the degree that someone his age can be. But he definitely is not marrying Jennie. I’m doing that. Not the Ramblin’ Man. He’s a little harder to pin down.

• David Porter can be reached at

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