About Clay Mercer

My daughters have reviewed my bio material and declared it lame....Therefore, be it known that I grew up (a work in progress) in South Georgia. For most of my life, I confined my writing to letters, discussion questions in school, email, and case documentation for the government agency where I worked. For the past four years I've published a humor column in the local fish wrapper, The Cordele Dispatch, based on Americans' inalienable rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. So help me.

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Here are my most recent posts

Give me a doctor or give me death!

In addition to moles and skin spots and along with growing intolerance for younger generations, I’ve begun to accumulate doctors as I mature.

Aside from the various ER doctors who sewed me up, cast my broken limbs, and x-rayed me for possible foreign objects, I have a couple of surgeons, a neurosurgeon, an internal medicine guy, a neurologist, an orthopedist, an ophthalmologist, a cornea specialist, a psychiatrist and a gastroenterologist. The psychiatrist is the only one who predicts I’ll never be well again.

Translated to ‘redneck’ that means I have a doctor to do operations, a brain doctor, my family doctor, a nerve doctor, a bone doctor, two different eye doctors, a shrink and a medically certified roto-rooter man.

Obviously, since I have so many, I must love doctors, when in fact, I can barely stand them. Even the ones I think of as ‘friends.’ Doctors have the bad habit of making their living by sticking their noses in other people’s business. I say that with a complete understanding that if I were a woman, I’d have a gynecologist on my string of doctors too. I actually was thinking of my gastroenterologist when I said that.

I recently changed from my last doctor to my newest doctor because I got tired of  Dr. Dementia, as I called him, trying to convince me I should be taking lithium. Well, there was that, plus the fact that he couldn’t seem to remember that I’m a survivor of a traumatic brain injury. I don’t think he had ever heard the term before he met me. Did I mention that he’s from Argentina?

Yeah, Argentina. Not that there’s anything wrong with being from Argentina, if you want to stir up communism in other South American countries or seduce an American politician. Come to think of it, there really isn’t a whole lot of difference between the two, but that’s another rabbit trail entirely.

Which explains why I found myself in another waiting room filling out the ‘new patient’ forms that ask all sorts of invasive questions. I tried to be as thorough as possible.

“Why have you come to the doctor today?” I’m changing doctors.

“How long have you had this problem?” Three years.

“Whom do we have to thank for this referral?” God.

There was more, too. Aside from my medial history, they wanted to know about my personal habits.

“Do you drink alcohol?” Yes

“If ‘yes,’ how much?” Too much. I figured I might as well get that in up front, rather than have to argue about it later. When the doctor finally saw me, he asked, “Do you drink too much?” According to my daughters, I do. “Well, do you drink every day?” No, if I’m in a coma, I abstain. If I’m not in a coma, I drink beer every day. “Do you drink at 10 o’clock in the morning?” Only at the beach. “You’re fine.” I liked this guy.

They also wanted a family medical history. “Is your father living or deceased?” Deceased. “If deceased, age at death?” Sixty-nine. “Cause of death?” He was give out. Seriously, they want me to list his cause of death in a space 3/8 of an inch long? Well, he smoke for forty-years, drank like a fish, ate all the wrong kinds of food and farted as frequently as possible. A life like that takes a toll on a man.

They also wanted the same info on my mother, who died at the age of seventy-six after surviving everything from raising me to oat-cell carcinoma. I put her cause of death as ‘old age.’

Then they started in on my brother, so I lied and said he died of being a jerk, despite the fact that he’s alive and well and practicing law in Atlanta, Georgia. When the questions started focusing on my wife, who was seated next to me filling out her own set of forms, I suggested that the keep practicing medicine and quit meddling.

Then the forms wanted to know if I ever had to get up at night to go to the bathroom? Duh? Weren’t you paying attention when I said I drink beer every night? Of course, there wasn’t room for that, so I just checked the ‘yes’ box. “If ‘yes,’ how many times?” Every DAMN time. When I quit getting up to got to the bathroom, one of my daughters will be filling out these forms for me.

Eventually I saw the doctor’s nurse who took my blood pressure and tested my pulse and then left. Then the doctor came in, we became friends, he ordered bloodwork and an appointment with the roto-rooter man, and refilled all my prescriptions, which is why I was there in the first place.

The good news is that he didn’t try to convince me to start taking lithium. But then, he doesn’t really know me that well. Yet.

Living the Lifestyle

I grew up on a farm in South Georgia during the middle part of the 20th Century. Unless you grew up on a farm in South Georgia, during the 1960s, you probably don’t have a clue what that means.

For one thing, farms were a lot different back then. They were smaller, more family oriented, and farmers lived off the things they raised. Oh, I don’t mean we survived on peanuts and cotton seed, or that we weaved the cloth to make our own clothes, but we had sheep and pigs and cattle and chickens and we all hunted and fished, so when supper hit the table, we all had fairly good idea where the entrée came from and usually what its name used to be.

Daddy only had one steer slaughtered every year, and one yearling barrow (that’s a male hog who’s been castrated), but the chicken was a different matter.

In 1961, my parents built a ‘hen house’ that would house ten thousand laying hens. A thousand feet long, forty-eight feet wide, and complete with automatic feeder, watering troughs, nesting boxes, roosting racks, cooling room and feed storage. The first five thousand hens arrived before I was three years old, and the next five thousand arrived eighteen months later.

Since the statute of limitations has expired and both of my parents have gone to their reward, as we say in the South, I feel safe in saying that not all the pullets destined for the nesting boxes survived long enough to start laying full sized eggs. No, usually about a hundred to a hundred and twenty-five pullets got wrung, plucked, dressed, and frozen before the trucks that delivered them had left the farm.

The good news was that we didn’t have time to name them or get attached to them before they hit the frying pan.

Back in those days, children worked on the farm. My Daddy didn’t believe in making children work too hard, so he let me have a free ride until I was six and started first grade. From then on, until we lost the farm in 1972, I got up and graded eggs for an hour before eating breakfast and going to school. When I got home in the afternoon, after I did my homework, I cleaned out the hog pens and then graded eggs until supper time.

Yes, I said ‘cleaned out the hog pens.’ My Daddy had some of the first concrete floored hog pens I ever saw and, as soon as I was big enough, which is to say, taller than the hogs, it was my job to scrape the manure out through the bottom end of the pen and hose the whole thing down. Strangely enough, nobody ever seemed to worry about how that affected me psychologically or if I even gave a crap about having, literally, the dirtiest job on the farm.

Back in those days, the lowest man on the totem pole got the worst jobs. I’m not sure kids today would even understand that sentence, except for the vaguely non-politically correct reference to a ‘totem pole’.
The thing that saved me from a lifetime of scraping hog manure was a sport called ‘basketball’. I wasn’t worth a crap at basketball and didn’t really care about the game, but my brother, who had few redeeming values, was fairly proficient at the sport and, as soon as the team was formed, was practicing every day.

Which meant that I got his job after school, too. The good news is that my brother had been in charge of looking after the cows. This included making sure they were all in the pasture, that none were sick, that the fence wasn’t broken, and fixing the fence if it needed repairing.

About this time, my Daddy hired a woman to grade and pack eggs in the afternoon, so that freed up a little time for me and all I had to do was clean up the hog pens and then check the cattle, which I did in an old army surplus jeep. Until, that is, Sugarfoot came on the farm.

Sugarfoot was, possibly, the sweetest pony I ever met. She was a little taller than a Shetland, but not tall enough to be considered a Welsh pony, but she was mine, all mine. After Sugarfoot came, my life changed drastically.

First of all, basketball season was over, and I convinced Daddy that, since the hogs and my brother were of similar temperament and since I really wanted to be a cowboy and since I already had the horse (more or less) and the saddle, he should let me look after the cattle full time and let my brother take care of the hogs. He agreed.

From that point on, I rushed through my homework. I even started trying to get it done at school. I wasn’t exactly making straight A’s, but that’s another story. As soon as I could, every day, I’d saddle Sugarfoot up and we’d hit the range, checking up and riding fence.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a real job, but with only seventy three head (that year) it wasn’t like I was driving a herd to Kansas City. That did not stop me from giving names to different sections of the pasture. The corner down by the creek was Abilene, the part next to the corral and loading chute was Texas, the eight acre north pasture was Montana, and so forth.

Which led to conversations along these lines:

Daddy: Son, how’re the cattle.

Clay: Pretty good. Most of them were in Abilene when I got home, but there was one that was limping, so I brought it back to Texas and locked it in the corral.

Daddy: Was that a steer or a heifer?

Clay: Big ol’ mama cow with a calf.

Daddy: You didn’t rope the calf did you?

Clay: No sir. Not after last time.

Needless to say riding herd, on 72 cows and a bull named Harold, on a pony involved a little more enthusiasm and imagination than it does on a full sized horse.

Ponies take shorter steps, so it takes longer to ride around a pasture, even one with twenty-two acres in it, on a pony than it does on a horse. It also turns out that cattle aren’t as intimidated by ponies as they are by horses. Therefore, riding a pony into a bunch of cattle could be more than a little nerve wracking, until my parents gave my brother a single action revolver for Christmas.

I don’t think they ever got the fact that my brother wasn’t interested in becoming a cowboy or that I would have strangled Santa Claus for a pistol like that. I had to wait until the new wore off and then traded the .22 rifle they gave me for that pistol.

Of course, loaded with rat-shot and in the hands of an 11 year old, it wasn’t much of a threat, but the first time that big Hereford cow charged me I stood my ground, drew and fired in one swift movement (just like they did in the movies) and shot that cow right in the nose, whereupon she turned inside out trying to get away from me and never bothered me or Sugarfoot again.

That was the summer that, while in Daytona Beach, I saved my ski-ball tickets until I had enough to cash them in for a shot glass that said, “Daytona Beach” on it in big yellow letters. After we got home, I nearly rubbed the skin off my knuckles getting the paint off that shot glass, but I did it. Then I rinsed out the syrup bottle and peeled off the label.

A quick raid to my Daddy’s tackle box and, sure enough, there was a cork just the right size and shape. I filled that syrup bottle up with tea (my parents didn’t drink, and frowned on those who did) and hid the bottle at the back of the refrigerator.

The next afternoon, after checking the cattle and riding fence, I rode Sugarfoot up into the back yard, tied her to the fence, and then clumped inside the house. I’d have given my left arm for a pair of spurs. I walked into the kitchen, opened the refrigerator, set the syrup bottle and the shot glass on the counter, and then closed the refrigerator.

My mother was watching me with a look of frank amazement. Make that ‘wide eyed’ frank amazement. I grabbed bottle and glass (just like they do in the movies), and clumped into the dining room, where I hauled back Daddy’s chair and, putting the glass down right side up, poured myself a shot. I corked the bottle, set it on the table and then sat down.

I looked at my mother, then picked up the glass in a mock toast, and shot it down in the best cowboy fashion. Then I said, “How about some music in here?”

Friends and neighbors, I made quite an impression, but I daresay I overdid it just a trifle. You see, there was something else about the 1960s that’s not happening today. It’s a little thing called an ‘ass-whipping.’

Life, Liberty, and .…. Horse trading?

Almost everybody who knows me knows how much I love horses. Back when I was rodeoing and throwing my money into jackpot steer ropings, I had some pretty good horses.

I had some idiots, too. Don’t get me wrong, I only bought one horse when I knew ahead of time that I was buying an idiot. On the other hand, that was only one of two horses I ever bought and sold for a profit.

Yes, folks, I paid $150 for that horse and sold him at auction for $425. I used the proceeds from that sale to buy a Gibson Epiphone guitar, which I still have. The other profitable horse trade I made was on a pony I bought from Hank Vonier for $50 and sold for $475.

Every other horse I’ve had I either kept it until it died or lost money in the sale.

One spectacular idiot I bought, I paid $550 for and got from Mr. Wayne Whiddon. I called that horse ‘Charlie’ and he had less sense than most horses I’ve seen. Mr. Wayne was actually good enough to sell him to me on time, and I had whittled my debt down $150 when I came to the conclusion that Charlie belonged at the sale barn, too.

So, when I lit out for the auction, I knew the horse was going to have to bring at least $200 in order for me to be able to pay off Mr. Wayne the money I still owed.

Like so many events of my life during that time, my companion was my friend and team roping partner, Glenn Miller. I say that merely to set the scene, because all the way to Hazlehurst, Georgia, I kept telling Glenn over and over how I had to have at least $400 for the horse.

Obviously, I had to pay off Mr. Wayne Whiddon, and just as obviously I had to have a little seed money for my next horse. What with the seller’s premium at the auction, I was really hoping for more than $400.

As I unloaded Charlie and was leading him to the check-in station, a pen hooker approached me. “What ya go there, big man?”

“Well,” I went into horse trading mode. “He’s an all around using horse. Good in the pasture, pretty good in the arena, but just a fun horse to ride.” This was all true. If you like to ride a runaway horse, he was a fun horse to ride.

“What are you thinking?” Asked the pen hooker.

“I was thinking $400,” I allowed.

“How about $375?” Countered the pen hooker.

I thought that over. The pen hooker went on, “If he has half a brain, I’ll give him a good home.”

Obviously, this was a match made in Heaven. Sold!

We went to the office and they wrote up the sale and, less the sellers premium, I made out with $337.50, which, after I deducted the $150 I owed Mr. Wayne, left me with $187.50 and we bought almost $20 worth of beer on the way home.

When I pulled into Glenn’s yard to let him out, he looked at me and said, “Let me ask you something. All the way down there you said you had to have $400 for that horse and you sold him for $375.”

I thought about it for a second and then said, “Glenn, damn a man who won’t come off $25 on the price of a horse!”

Life, Liberty, and…. Yard work?

Yard work is a sacrifice I make on the altar of a happy marriage.  I get absolutely no thrill from riding endlessly around the yard just to cut grass that will start growing again the minute I pass over it.  For some unexplainable reason, though, it seems to make Connie happy.  Which is why I do yard work.
My objection to yard work is pretty basic.  I don’t like doing a job that, no matter how well you do it, needs to be redone in a week.  The only good thing about it is that I have a riding lawnmower, because otherwise I’d fence in the yard and run sheep.
Another fortunate circumstance that goes along with Connie liking yard work is that she’s pretty easy to please at gift giving time.  One year, in a moment of inspired genius, I gave her a pear tree as a Valentine’s present.  She was ecstatic!  As a project, that tree was less than a total success, because Hazel, our goat, eventually located it and gnawed it down to a nub, but the seed of success, literally and figuratively, had been planted.
Once I found out that Connie was a willing collaborator on the endless procession of yard chores, life got a lot easier.  I keep the grass short and she does everything else that doesn’t require heavy lifting.  She picks out the plants, and I dig the holes.
There’s only one hitch.  Just like duct tape, this little alliance has a bright side and a dark side.
Most people keep certain parts of their personality hidden when they’re dating.  What Connie was hiding from me turned out to be that she is a plant serial killer.  Seriously.
She stalks them.  She buys magazines and cuts out their pictures.  She lays the pictures out on the dinner table and sits and stares, thoughtfully sipping her coffee while she picks out her next potential victim.  She researches them on the internet, downloading information about them which she contemplates at her leisure.  She visits nurseries and other plant outlets so she can confront them face to face and make her decision.
Then she brings it home and kills it.
I do what I can.  The hot summer months find me dragging hoses and setting sprinklers and toting buckets trying to keep them alive.  The ones that thrive are in the most danger, because then Connie wants to get the weed eater and clear the ground around that plant.  It would be easier and more humane if we just sicced the goat on it.
Over the years, though, we have had a moderating effect on one another.  Thankfully.  I still don’t like yard work, but I look at it now as a collaborative effort with one of my best friends.  Connie still sees visions of unlimited opportunity, but that glazed look is gone from her eyes and she has learned that restraint and nurture are the keys to survival in the plant kingdom.
It’s a good thing, too.  Especially since, with our anniversary coming up, I’m going to take five bucks worth of fence wire and some rusted cattle panels and built her a grape arbor.  She’ll love it!

Life, Liberty, and…. Tourism?

When I start talking about South Georgia, I begin to sound like a travel brochure.  We have everything you want, and if we don’t have it, you can be there in just a few hours.  Bam!  What else do you need?
We have the barrier islands and Starbucks and rivers and Starbucks and lakes and Starbucks and golf courses and Starbucks and big cities and Starbucks and small towns and Starbucks.  Which reminds me, I saw in the news a few weeks ago that Starbucks is shaking up their senior executive staff because their franchise growth rate has declined for the first quarter in twelve years.
The Starbucks execs were blaming it on a lack of product innovation.  I laughed so hard that Mountain Dew came out of my nose.
Back to tourism.  A lot of money comes into South Georgia off of I-75, from people above the gnat line trying to get to Florida.  As most chambers of commerce will tell you, “They gotta get gas somewhere, so it might as well be here.”
Some folks, like the Ellis Brothers, have figured out how to get those tourists to spend money on things besides gas and supply all kinds of pecans, ice cream, souvenirs, and peaches to people who managed to travel eight or nine hundred miles without knowing when peaches are in season.
How’d they do that, you might ask?  Simple, by maintaining a cotton patch year round so these same tourists can look at it, pick it, smell it, and take pictures of each other in it without having to park on I-75 and climb a barbed wire fence.  Marketing genius at work, folks.
Believe it or not, I understand how those damn Yankees feel.  Connie and I were in West Virginia some time back.  We were there to go snow skiing in the Canaan Valley.  The temperature never got below 70 degrees the whole time so we wound up seeing the sights for three days instead.
As we were driving around, I started noticing, in the road cuts through the hill tops, that there were little veins of black rock in the granite.  I occurred to me that this was coal and that I could probably dig some of it out with my pocket knife, literally mine coal with my hands.  I was on the point of stopping when a vision of entire families wading through the cotton patch at Ellis Brothers came to mind.  Thankfully.
The only event of note happened the last morning.  The Canaan Valley is not pronounced like ‘Canaan’ in the Bible.  Don’t ask me why.  It’s pronounced “kah-NANE” so that the emphasis is on the second syllable.  I screwed it up every time I said it.

I like to pronounce names properly, and it’s a pet peeve of mine when someone who can do so does not.  After breakfast on the third day, I went up to one of the restaurant staff and said, “Look, I’m from out of town and I’m confused about how to pronounce the name of this place.  Can you, very slowly and distinctly, tell me where we are?”
She got kind of a surprised look on her face, and glanced around.  Apparently she decided I was serious, because she fixed her eyes on mine and slowly said the words, “BUR….GER….KING.”

Life, Liberty, and…. Federal Funds?

I saw on the news recently that medical studies have linked the extra accumulation of belly fat to stress.  And all this time I’ve been thinking it was the beer.
You really don’t have to be Yoda the Jedi Master to make that connection.  “Stress leads to beer.  Beer leads to belly fat.”  Hang on to your light-saber, Luke, we’re about to make the jump to light speed.  Now scientists have discovered a link between belly fat and heart disease.
Oh golly!  Overstressed people that drink and eat too much are at higher risk of heart disease.  Homeland security should raise the heightened state of awareness another notch.  I’m just surprised the far left hasn’t found a way to blame it on the Republicans.
In a way, though, sadly, it is the government’s fault.  Rather, it’s not the government’s fault that we are overstressed and eating and drinking too much, it’s the government’s fault that we found out about it so soon.
What happened was that the government took our money and paid some doctoral candidate to come up with an hypothesis to explain the extra abundance of belly fat.  Then the government paid, again using our money, another bunch of ‘scientists’ to figure out how to test to see if the hypothesis was true.  Next the government used more of our money to put this plan into effect, and finally got the Surgeon General to make sure everything was done just right and that there were no errors in the kickback program.
Russell Yow loves to quote the study, funded by us through our Government, which spent $250K over three years to find out why kids fall off of bicycles.  They did everything just right, from collecting the emergency room data to the analytical work and even printed it all up in a pretty book.
It turns out that there are two reasons why kids fall off of bicycles.  They either lose their balance or run into something.
My personal favorite is the guy that wrote the grant to fund the study to determine ‘the effects of wind and water erosion on granite over a five-year period.’  Hold on a second.  Sure, eventually wind and water will erode granite, but it won’t do it in any measurable quantity in five years.
Maybe, maybe not.  This guy got $500K (that’s a half a million dollars, y’all) to go rock climbing for five years.  The first year he scaled all the major granite faces in the United States, drilled holes at regular intervals to a specified depth, and then every year he went back and measured the holes to see how much the rock had worn away.  The government bought him a van, all the rock climbing gear he needed, and even provided funds for travel expenses.  Not to mention the computers and satellite internet hookup to record his findings.
Basically this guy went on a five-year rock climbing road trip and you and I paid the tab.
I could talk about this all day, but I’m busy writing a grant to study the success ratios in hunting upland game birds, all across the United States of course, using stainless steel shot versus new, eco-friendly, plastic shot make from recycled water bottles.
Do you think two million dollars would be enough?

Life, Liberty, and…. Shooting Sports?

May I have the attention of all those people out there that do not own firearms? I want all of y’all to relax. If the road signs in America ever rise up and try to take over the country, they don’t have a chance.

I probably have the attention of a few gun toters, too, so while I’m at it, let me make another point. Whoever’s shooting the signs needs to quit. It makes the rest of us look stupid and irresponsible.

Furthermore, whoever’s shooting road signs using buckshot is qualified for the Idiot Of The Year award.

Let’s take a moment for y’all to consider my qualifications for presenting the Idiot Of The Year award. Any rebuttal? I thought not.

Where was I? Oh, yeah, shooting road signs.

First of all, if you have a new gun and you haven’t been able to go somewhere safe (and smart) to shoot it, don’t waste good bullets shooting up road signs.

Granted, they make good targets. They don’t move. They’re reflective. They don’t shoot back. Neither do beer cans when you’re using somebody’s pond dam as a back stop.

Road signs, by their very definition, are next to roads. Many of them are extremely close to houses. They also belong to the government. So, when you idiots out there pull your shooting iron out and shoot a road sign, you’ve automatically committed four crimes.

The first is discharging a firearm from a highway. The second is possession of a gun during the commission of a crime. The third is destruction of government property. The fourth is conspiracy to commit a crime. More than likely you’ve also been drinking, but that pretty much goes without saying, doesn’t it?

When you get caught, this is what you have coming.

First of all, they’re going to take your play pretty away. Then you’re going to go to the jailhouse and get processed.

In Dooly County that will include delousing and a strip search. Then the Sheriff’s deputies are going to start getting creative with the charges. You’ll be lucky if the four I mentioned, plus DUI, of course, is all they use.

Then you get to sit in a holding cell at the jail until you sober up and can come up with the bond money.

That would be a cash bond, by the way. Let’s face it, very few of us property owners are riding around drinking and shooting at road signs, are we?

Then, when you get out, you have to go home and face the wife. With some women I know, I believe I personally would rather stay in jail, but that’s the way life goes sometimes.

When the District Attorney gets your case, you can count on a little bit of leniency. They’ll probably offer to drop most of the charges if you’ll plead guilty to DUI and possession of a gun during the commission of a crime.

If you don’t take the deal and go for a trial instead, then they’re going to find you guilty anyway and you’ll wind up serving time. So, please, stop shooting road signs.

Chunk a beer bottle at them instead.

Life, Liberty, and….. Musicals?

When I was fourteen years old, West Side Story was on the required reading list for ninth grade English class.  That same year the motion picture production of the Broadway musical was broadcast on network television.
Since I had enjoyed the paperback version of West Side Story, I looked forward to the televised version, and since both the paperback and the movie were based on the same play, they were remarkably similar.  The exception, of course, was that the paperback didn’t have a soundtrack or a choreographer.
I loved the movie.  Here were tough, street-wise, rough and rumble gangs ready to fight at the drop of a switchblade, with the prettiest girls in the neighborhood hanging on their every move.  The whole experience, specifically Rita Moreno, made quite an impression on me.
Not long ago I noticed that West Side Story was going to be on television again one Friday night.  I could not wait.  In fact, I planned the entire evening around that movie.  I can’t remember being so disappointed.
Because I had put so much planning into the event, I forced myself to watch the entire movie.  It nearly made me sick to my stomach.  It’s amazing how time changes the way we look at the world.  Allow me to summarize.
West Side Story:  The saga of the only two gay gangs in New York City who clash in a neighborhood turf war to decide which gang gets to hang out, get this, at the local candy shop.  I kid you not.
The Puerto Rican gang is known as “The Sharks” and features an ample display of tight fitting clothes, carefully coiffured hairstyles, and lots of gold jewelry.  And those are just the guys.  The Shark girls wear simple cotton dresses with plunging necklines.  Remember what I said about Rita Moreno?
The Anglo (or American) gang is known as “The Jets” and features tight jeans, torn t-shirts, crew-cuts, ducktails and an extremely butch tom-boy named “Anybodys”.  Ellen Degeneres was supposed to be the first openly gay female on television, but Anybodys had Ellen beat by a good 35 years.  The Jet girls are all gum-chewing tramps.
These “street-wise, rough and rumble gangs” exercise their street cred by picking on each other anytime they have the other side outnumbered.  In one scene, the Sharks actually TAKE a basketball from one of the Jets.  (Oooooh.)
Meanwhile, the Sharks and Jets snap their fingers a lot and sing and dance their way all over the neighborhood, threatening and intimidating each other with their incredible footwork.
Tony, a former Jet (duh?), falls in love with Maria, the sister of Bernardo, the head Shark.  Predictably, this happens at a neighborhood dance and choreographed mayhem ensues.
Eventually the gangs have a rumble, where they sing and dance around until Bernardo accidentally kills one of the Jets.  Whereupon Tony, who’s there to stop the rumble, kills Bernardo (oops), which scares everyone so much they all run away to hide out from each other.
Except Tony, who goes to tell Maria that he has killed Bernardo, but winds up sleeping with her anyway.  Considering that Tony gets gunned down before daylight, I don’t think he made such a bad choice.
Fortunately for me, even the most jaded view of the movie couldn’t detract from Rita Moreno.  Ah-Chihuahua!

Life, Liberty, and….. Higher Education?

On May 4, 1980, the Board of Trustees of Presbyterian College, on the advice of the President of the College and the Academic Dean, bestowed upon me a Bachelor’s of Science degree in the area of Business Administration.

To my credit I had successfully completed the necessary curriculum for said degree, but I have no doubt that the Board et al heaved a collective sigh of relief when I departed the hallowed halls of academia for life in the real world.

Sadly, my Daddy, holder of a Masters Degree in Education, felt that my participation in the commencement exercises should signal an end (on my part) to stupid ideas, dumb questions, mindless screwups, common errors, and public displays of ignorance.  He was wrong.

I could usually tell when I did something that fell beneath Daddy’s standards because he would invariably ask one of two questions.  It would be either, “Son, why in the world did we ever bother sending you to college?” or “Son, what in the name of blasphemy-after-blasphemy did you do for four years while you were in college?”

Even though I had been toting a pistol since the age of 16, I knew that a jocular response to one of these questions was ill advised unless I already had my pistol in my hand, preferably with a round in the chamber.

I may not have been above making simple mistakes, but I had learned when to keep my mouth shut, and I didn’t learn that at Presbyterian College.  I learned it where most other people learn it, at the dinner table.  Eventually, though, I was able to turn the tables on Daddy so that, no matter his opinion on my intelligence quotient, he at least learned to keep his opinions to himself.

This was back when we were still in the irrigation business together, and we spent the better part of two years working in Reidsville, Georgia, either on the Durrance farm on for one of their neighbors.

I spent a lot of nights camping in a field on the Durrance farm but I also spent a lot of time driving back and forth.  In the mornings, I usually drove so Daddy could read the paper. At night, I usually drove so Daddy could devote his entire attention to critiquing the days accomplishments.

One night Daddy was more vitriolic than usual in his attitude towards our partnership.  He quickly went to questioning my performance at college.

I had enough.  “All right, you’re so bleeping smart.  I’ll bet you anything you want to bet that before we get home, you can’t answer correctly one question on one final exam I had to take to graduate.”

Immediately $100 was on the table, so I gave him an example of Dr. Clinkscales’ statistics exam:

“At a local county fair, you play a gambling game where you draw from a standard deck of 52 playing cards.  If you draw an Ace, you win $5.  If you draw a face card, you win $2.  How much does it cost to play the game?”

Of course, he couldn’t answer the question and I won the money, but only after I gave him the answer and showed him how to work it out on paper.

If you ask me sometime, I might even tell you.

Life, Liberty, and….. Criminals?

Like it or not, we have that element in society that prefers to live outside the law. Our Founding Fathers, while arguing the finer points of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution understood that fact very well.

To the point, dressing up as Native Americans, boarding one of His Majesty’s tea clippers, and dumping the cargo overboard was more than a symbolic gesture. It was against the law.

However, our Founding Fathers understood the difference between justly breaking a law to protest a greater injustice and living a life of idleness six days a week just to rob some citizen on Saturday night so you can enjoy another week of idleness.

For instance, I think the Founding Fathers would understand the “Occupy” protesters and argue their rights to assemble in spite of the fact that many of their motivations are at cross purposes with one another and, in many cases are down right obfuscatory when compared to the overall stated tone of the protests.

Which is why the Founding Fathers relied upon a well understood, unwritten document known as the Social Contract. The Social Contract basically says that if you live peaceably in a community then you’re afforded the protections of the Constitution as well as those local laws and ordinances designed for the same purpose.

Why this lesson in American History and Civics? I’m glad you asked.

I saw on an internet news website that a robber in South Florida was shot by one of his own accomplices in the commission of a robbery. Nathaniel James Clay and two other villians broke into a home on Christmas Eve, around 9:40 PM.

Let me pause here to point out that Mr. Clay (no relation to your modest and beloved author) already had the deck stacked against him. Never trust a man with three first names: James Earl Ray, Lee Harvey Oswald, Barack Hussein Obama. You get the idea.

The invaders on Christmas Eve were met by the home owner who attacked Mr. Clay several times with a baseball bat. One of Mr. Clay’s accomplices then came to his assistance by shooting Mr. Clay in an unnamed portion of his anatomy.

If Braniac’s intentions were to stop the fight, he succeeded gloriously. So well, in fact, that Brainiac and villian #3 fled the scene, leaving the home owner and Mr. Clay calmly (albeit bruised, bloody, and wounded) awaiting the arrival of the police.

Mr. Clay was transported to the Holmes Regional Medical Center while police detectives searched for his accomplices. My guess is that this manhunt will be over some fifteen minutes after Mr. Clay regains consciousness.

Just a hunch, you understand, but I’m betting that Mr. Clay will be more eager to converse with his buddies about such urbane subjects as State’s evidence and marksmanship than he will be to say, plan their next caper.

All in all, though, I’d say the three stooges got off pretty easy in this case. Florida is fairly gun happy when it comes to firearms. In fact, Governor Rick Scott (that’s Richard Lynn Scott…ooops) just signed into law two bills that are very friendly to gun owners.

The homeowner in this case could just as easily met them at the door with an AK-47 as with a Louisville Slugger.

As far as I’m concerned, all’s well that ends well, even for Mr. Clay, who, quite frankly, will be much safer in the county lockup than he will on city streets.

Next week, how to get your GED online using a Ouija Board and a pay telephone