Peanuts and good storytelling must be, at least in part, keys to a long, fruitful life. If you doubt this, take a look at Frank McGill.
“Sherman said, ‘I’m going to sprinkle this guy and let him go to hell,’” said McGill, landing the punchline for the story he told in his unpretentious manner at the 2016 Georgia Peanut Tour Hot Topics session in Tifton, Ga., Sept. 13.
McGill’s story, one of many that evening, recounted the crusade of his childhood friend Sherman who set out to baptize various animals that were willingly and unwillingly caught up in his fervent ministry one summer eight decades ago in Chula, Ga. Sherman’s mission was going OK until he ran across a billy goat in need of redemption that refused to have both its ends submerged at the same time in the creek behind McGill’s home. The story was a respectful nod to a man’s religion with a tongue-in-check quip on the denominational quirks and comical exploits that run through us all, and the story was dang entertaining from start to finish.
McGill, nearing 91, is known as Mr. Peanut because he was Georgia’s Extension peanut agronomist from 1954-1982, and spearheaded and championed the "package approach" for peanut production in Georgia, a multi-discipline way of solving peanut problems for farmers that still works today through county Extension agents and specialists. During his tenure, Georgia's peanut yield increased from 955 pounds per acre in 1955 to 3,220 pounds per acre by 1974. He traveled the world learning about and teaching the peanut.
Ramrod straight behind the lectern, McGill’s animated delivery that evening in Tifton had everyone’s undivided attention, but not because audience felt it owed a seasoned man a courtesy but because the gravity of his natural skill as a storyteller pulled them momentarily into the world he wanted to share, which is one of the hardest tricks in communications to pull off.
I’ve had the pleasure of respectfully knowing some of the Georgia Extension peanut agronomists and scientists who followed in McGill’s footsteps; some retired now like McGill. They all, then and now, did fine to fill big shoes; shoes still holding the feet of a man with plenty left to teach and say.
During his talk, McGill alluded to the real trick to being a good speaker or teacher. He said, “The mind can only absorb what the seat can endure.” I’ll take that advice, Mr. Frank, and stop writing this commentary right now.
Good luck, take care and thanks for reading.