The Idle American: For Better, For Worse…


The former Shelley Cockes--who turned down a “Coke date” offer as a college freshman from the same guy she married a few days after graduation--could not have imagined the “roller coaster” experiences to come during the next three decades.

Now, she’s counting the days before leaving a camper trailer where she and her husband, Robert White, have abided for more than 200 days.

Their plight has nothing to do with Krum ISD, where he is high school principal and she’s an elementary school music teacher. A camper trailer 20 feet long and seven feet wide is a bit too cozy, however, for a couple and their dog….

Soon, they’ll add 2,560 more square feet when they move into their new home. The Whites will have four bedrooms, and kin can make overnight visits again!

Forgive their giddiness about this move. Their three children--daughters Courtney and Addison and son Jaret--who recently married--all living in other states. Now they can visit their parents again, as can Shelley’s mom and Robert’s parents. And their beloved dog, a Vizsla named Jersey, won’t feel, uh, so confined.

The couple will have a king-size bed again. Currently, neither Robert nor Shelley can “get up on the wrong side of the bed.” It takes considerable maneuvering to exit the bed in any manner….

They mustered even more than “old college tries” to find a home, unsuccessfully bidding a dozen times on homes selling for $10,000-$50,000 above asking prices. That’s why they purchased the trailer last July. They expected to “make do” for 4-6 weeks until an acceptable home could be found in a community where 12,000 new homes are expected to be built in the next decade.

The “make do” arrangement has spanned eight months. They have persevered. Always on the look-out, they walked through a half-finished home in December.

This was the ONE, they believed. They prayed, with their “amen” followed by the slamming of a bedroom door on a day when no breezes blew. Sure enough, their bid was successful and their prayers answered….

Soon, their “extreme closeness” will be loosened.

They will no longer trek to the washateria weekly, despite their gratefulness for seeing the world pass them by there.

The camper will be used recreationally in the future. Robert is big on kayak fishing, particularly when their 44-pound dog comes along….

Robert is a favorite of Krum High School students, who have learned that he can “take teases,” and dish‘em out as well. They’ve heard him solemnly answer “homeless” when asked where he and Shelley live.

Years ago in Lampasas, he drove a VW into a school building as a prop for an in-service program.

When his 55th birthday comes around in September, students will likely sing “Unhappy Birthday to You” again, and a member of the school’s FFA team may ask him to show an animal during a trial run before the actual livestock show….

This spring, a freshman girl asked him to show her 200-pound hog named Ginger.

Robert tried to cast an appearance of “know how” about farm animals, but he failed.

When the judge asked him the location of the ham, Robert answered, “Usually next to the turkey and dressing.”…

Like his dad, Arlen White of San Angelo, Robert started out teaching and coaching.

He and Shelley love what they do, and they believe deeply in students.

Krum is their 13th stop, hopefully their final one….

Robert’s mom, Dolores, understands the “for better, for worse” vow, too. She’s been alongside Arlen during his careers in education and public service. He was even elected Crane County Judge!

When they retired to San Angelo, Arlen heard about a basketball coaching job at Cornerstone Christian School. At age 78, he was hired, serving four years before health issues set in.

I can’t think of a better example of an acorn falling close to the tree. The Whites are as good as it gets….

Dr. Newbury, longtime university president, continues to speak throughout Texas and writes weekly. Contact: 817-447-3872. Facebook: Don Newbury. Twitter: @donnewbury.


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