Woodworking again: A broken promise

By Dave Wood
Posted 10/4/22

A broken promise Pierce County Journal readers seem to get a charge out of my use of the alphabet whenever I refer to my wife as the “B.W.,” which stands for “Beautiful Wife.” Or at least …

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Woodworking again: A broken promise


Pierce County Journal readers seem to get a charge out of my use of the alphabet whenever I refer to my wife as the “B.W.,” which stands for “Beautiful Wife.” Or at least they don’t seem upset about it. Readers seem never to greet me in public as “Hey, Dave!” It’s often “How’s the B.W.?” when I go downtown for couee. Or "Why in the name of heaven does B.W. turn you loose?” at 5 p.m. when I drop into Johnnies for a nip or two. I guess anyone my age shouldn’t complain about being recognized in any manner, and I’m not, but readers deserve a little backstory about the origins of the nomenclature visited on them.

I have to admit I can’t take credit for the name. When I was a wee lad I delivered the Winona Republican-Herald to 90 customers on Whitehall’s west side. And if I didn’t manage to sell all five "extras" the newspaper compa ny graciously sent me each day, I usually took one home and actually read it. Dick Tracy and Tess Trueheart and, Steve Canyon and Mark Trail. Also strips like “Out Our Way,” and “Gasoline Alley.” My favorite was Hal Boyle, a syndicated Associated Press columnist. Boy oh boy. I thought he was really witty, especial- ly when he referred to his long-suuering wife as “B.W.”

So when I grew to adulthood and was lucky enough to be ouered a really good freelance job to write a column for Grit, the national weekly, I shamelessly purloined Hal Boyle’s moniker for his wife. I wrote that column every week for 15 years and truly enjoyed my verbal interchanges with its million-plus subscribers, a majority of them from small towns all over the country. I suspect many of them were elderly and liked sharing tips on growing asparagus, how to “shir” an egg and all man- ner of stuu I didn't know a thing about. Most of them wanted to know how “B.W.” was faring.

Not all of them, however. I well remember getting a letter postmarked Louisa, Virginia, from a reader named Zoe Gosally, who was hopping mad. “I have enjoyed reading your column for a while, but have just about quit reading it. The Beautiful Wife bit is NOT interesting reading. You can refer her to as ‘The Mrs.’ or ‘My Wife,’ but please skip the ‘Beautiful.’ Constantly repeating that “beauty” business gives the impression that you are trying to convince YOURSELF.”

So I wrote Zoe. “By golly, Zoe, that’s the last impression I want to make. I’m not so concerned about you out there in Virginia. I’m concerned about right here in our kitchen. If the Mrs. ever got that impression I’d be in some deep trouble. In my mind’s eye I can see the Mrs. right now, peering across the top of Grit across the kitchen table. She’d be thinking like you, Zoe: “Are you sure, dearest, that those initials you append to me don’t stand for ‘Bow-Wow’ the dog?”

Then I shared my letter to Zoe with all the Grit readers, assuring them that “The Mrs.” is very beautiful, with auburn hair, big almond eyes and a figure so lithe that last spring she was able to slide into the dress she wore at her sister’s wedding 25 years ago when she was 13. (The B.W. was 13, not her sister.) So it never occurred to me that she might think that I was writing in code to inform my readers that Ruth was just another bow wow.

“But after pondering your letter, I’ve concluded that your remarks are reasonable. Once in a while The Mrs. worries about her nose, which she thinks is too long, and her feet, which she thinks are too big. And her arms which she thinks are too thin. So maybe I’d better cool it. But I won’t call her S.N. for Ski Nose or B.F. for Big Foot or T.A for Toothpick Arms. I’ll just call her Ruth because that’s her real name, a beautiful name to match her beautiful self. OK? And as for you Zoe, I’m going to call you P.R., Perceptive Reader, for the way you ended your complaint letter, which you’ll recall was “My best wishes to you both. I get the impression that you love her. God Bless.’” God Bless you, P.R.

Postscript. The letters from Grit readers poured in, mostly from women who said they wished their husbands would refer to them as B.W.s and that I shouldn’t DARE to keep my promise to Zoe. So I weakened. For a year I referred to Ruth as the W.B. (by which I meant, of course: Wife who is beautiful) just to keep the letter of my promise to Zoe intact.

Not good enough, as the letters continued to come. So I flat out broke my promise and returned to B.W. for the next dozen years of my tenure at Grit, which ended when it was sold to a company in Alabama. But none of those letters came from Zoe. She might have been the kind of wife that one of my buddies designated as S.W.M. B.O. (She Who Must Be Obeyed!) And I didn't fit the bill.

Dave Wood, column, opinion