The imposing homemade sign atop a table in the dining room of the Independence Hy-Vee store at Noland Road and U.S. 40 makes a profound statement: “Worthless Mens Group Only.”
Beneath it – in much smaller letters – is the following: “Men at this table will complain about ... economy, taxes, weather, crazy drivers, government, aches and pains, nothing to watch on TV, wives and the list of honey-does.”
Then in larger letters at the bottom of the eye-catching sign is this warning: “Club members only at this table.”
According to club members John Carson and Gaylen Yeager, the sign evolved from a recent incident involving a mystery woman who crashed the all-male club’s weekly Wednesday morning breakfast and get-together.
John, who claims responsibility for naming the group, recalls the woman was gawking at the men attired in their Worthless Mens T-shirts as she walked past them.
“She is laughing; then the next thing you know, she sits down with us,” says John, who also was responsible for securing the colorful T-shirts.
“Wait a minute! We are all guys,” he thought. “She starts talking to us and arguing with us, and we are like, no, we can’t have women in our club.”
To say the woman’s intrusion upset the men is an understatement. Just ask club member Gaylen Yeager.
“The way I heard it was that when that lady sat down and started pestering them, the guys just kinda flew out of there,” he laughingly says, likening the exodus to cockroaches fleeing a dark room after the lights are switched on. “They all go and hide.”
And flee they did; all at once.
“We all left with her sitting there,” John says laughing. “The men just stood up and announced they were leaving.”
Did the sign accomplish its purpose?
“She hasn’t showed up since,” he quips.
Who are these Worthless Men who gather every Wednesday at Hy-Vee, where food, fellowship and laughter prevail from about 8:30 to 10:30 a.m.?
Sixty-five and up best describes the age spread of the retirees. All are members of Christ United Methodist Church in Independence; most are members of the Journeymen Sunday school class. All are “brothers in Christ.”
The Worthless Men were nameless when John White, Gary Morrow and John Carson began fellowshipping together over coffee and conversation some two years ago.
“We were the original three,” John notes. “We started eating breakfast and socializing together as friends on a regular basis. Then, one by one, we started to bring more guys together.”
Since it’s inception some two years ago, the group now has up to 10 men attending its weekly breakfast get-together, says John, noting some are so punctual on their arrival time that you can set your clock by them.
As the men sit and converse, almost everything is open to discussion, John says, with one exception.
“The only thing we don’t discuss in our group is politics. That is out, because we are all friends and we want to stay friends. We will joke lightly every once in awhile, but politics is totally out.”
Asked if there was any business to conduct, both John and Gaylen replied: “Only monkey business.”
Although the Worthless Men refer to their group as a club, “We are not a club of anything other than a group of men,” he says. “I came up with this crazy name, and I thought it would be appropriate for all of us.”
There are many things the Worthless Men don’t do. But one thing they do a lot of is kidding. And no one is excluded, not even Gaylen.
Says John: “We worry about Gaylen. He wears suspenders and belt, and then, you know, when he doesn’t come in with a belt on, we worry about how he’s holding up his pants.”
While listening to John and Gaylen talk about the Worthless Men, what comes across is how much the Worthless Men mean to Christ United Methodist Church and to each other.
“They are just a good bunch of Christian men that are such good friends,” says John. “I don’t know what we would do without each other,” especially in times of crises, like the death of John’s wife last year.
“I don’t know what I would have done without my church family, and especially these guys, being there for me,” John says. “Their friendship means so much to me. And since we all go to church together, that is very important to me to have friends like this.”
As brothers in Christ, there’s not anything the Worthless Men would not do for the cause of Christ or His church, if asked, John says, adding: “These men would be there in an instant, if asked.”
Retired community news reporter Frank Haight Jr. writes this column for The Examiner. You can leave a message for him at 816-350-6363.