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.’

Need a Hug? Wear the Like-A-Hug Vest

Originally published on the Laughing Stalk humor blog.

I’m a hugger.

I like hugging people when I greet them, assuming I know them fairly well. People I know less well get a firm, but warm handshake. I appreciate physical contact among friends and family. The pat on the back. The reassuring squeeze on the shoulder. The high five.

And the hug.

I believe that nothing can replace the warmth of physical contact, and even in the growing world of social media — online networking, remote relationships, and video phone calls — physical touch is very important. It’s what makes us feel loved and special.

So I was more than a little disturbed by the story in The (London) Guardian about the new Like-A-Hug vest invented by a group of MIT students who apparently never got enough hugs when they were kids.

Like-A-Hug Vest

Like-A-Hug Vest by Melissa Kit Chow,

Whenever you get a “Like” from someone on Facebook, the Like-A-Hug vest will inflate like a life jacket and “hug” you. When a friend likes a status update you made, a comment, a photo, or a video, you’ll “feel the warmth, encouragement, support or love that we feel when we receive hugs,” team member Melissa Kit Chow told the Guardian.

The team developed the Like-A-Hug as part of an exercise in tactile shape display, technology that lets you feel a touch normally given in a virtual or online environment. In other words, if someone “touched” you online, you’d feel it in the real world.

“We came up with the concept over a casual conversation about long-distance relationships and the limitations of video chat interfaces like Skype,” said Chow. “The concept of telepresence arose, and we toyed with the idea of receiving hugs via wireless technology.”

The team is still working on what the vest will do for other Facebook interactions, like when your status updates and photos are “shared.” What happens if someone “follows” your status updates? Do you get a tingling up your spine? And what happens if you get “poked?”

If you’re like me, you just started giggling about “poking.”

And with Facebook’s proposed new “want” button, just what exactly would that entail?

Many social media haters have complained that social networking is taking the place of good old-fashioned human interaction, and secludes us from each other. While social media has actually had the opposite effect — by deepening relationships much faster and creating new ones that never would have existed — I have to admit the Like-A-Vest is a big weapon in the haters’ arsenal. A big, warm fuzzy weapon that cradles you in its warm embrace.

It’s not lost on me that the people who developed the hugging vest are probably among the same group of people — computer nerds — who are renowned for avoiding real-world human interaction, and instead flock to their computers for emotional support and human companionship, and end up secretly, desperately craving physical human contact.

So instead of spending time in a coffee shop, bar, networking group, or social event trying to meet real people they can get to know in real life, they instead spent all their time in a lab creating a vest that simulates the warm huggy feeling everyone else gets because they spent their time meeting people in coffee shops, bars, networking groups, and social events.

Irony, thy name is Like-A-Vest.

But while I think the whole idea of getting fake hugs from a puffy vest is silly, especially when I get real hugs from real people, I do like the idea of clothing where the wearers can get tactice feedback remotely.

For example, football players can receive a congratulatory pat on the butt from a coach with their Pat-A-Butt pants, without the coach ever having to actually touch a player’s sweaty butt. Dogs could wear little vests called Pet-A-Dog, which allergic people could use to still own dogs. And mama’s boys could wear it on their honeymoon so their moms can continue to maintain a stranglehold on their man-child, protecting him from that “evil harpy.”

While I would never begrudge anyone a hug — assuming they weren’t, you know, icky or anything — or even the technology to simulate hugs, I would like to encourage anyone who is considering the Like-A-Vest to go outside. Talk to some real people. Make some real life friends who will give you real life hugs.

Because the ones called @HawtPartyGurl93 don’t seem like the kind of people you want to hug in real life.

Confessions of a Frightened 12-Year-Old

This was originally posted on Erik Deckers’ Laughing Stalk humor blog.

I spent most of my pre-teen childhood afraid of almost everything. Afraid of the Cold War. Afraid of rock musicians and their drug-addled fans. Afraid of being eaten by sharks, even in swimming pools. Afraid of being hit by cars (which I was once). Afraid of the song “Hotel California,” the beast they couldn’t kill, and the ghost of the guy’s wife who hadn’t been around since 1969.

One thing that scared me were the drug scare films they showed us in 6th grade to keep us from using drugs. These had been made in the early 1970s to show kids what would happen if they took drugs.

You would die.

Drugs, said the films, would make you freak out and have horrible screaming fits about psychedelic monsters trying to steal your face. Or they would make you think you could fly, and you’d climb on top of a building to try it, only to realize halfway down that things weren’t going according to plan.

These films filled me with a sense of dread that stayed with me for weeks after watching them, and I spent a lot my 6th grade year worrying that I was going to die from accidentally injecting myself with heroin, and becoming another statistic for drug film makers to use in their next round of scare films. (Okay, this one isn’t that scary.)

Or being eaten by sharks.

You can imagine my terror when I was 12 years old, and I found out my best friend, Doug, who was 13, had started smoking pot. I was convinced he would be dead soon.

After all, that’s what the drug films said would happen. Take drugs, think you can fly, and jump off a building.

This was not really a problem in Muncie, Indiana, because the tallest building in my part of town was my elementary school. We also didn’t have sharks. There was the Muncie Mall, which is 30 feet high, but it’s nearly impossible to climb.

However, as the drug films taught us, if kids even smoked pot, they would ride their bike the five miles to the mall, find a way to climb on the roof, and jump, much to the horror of their classmates who had all gathered to watch what would happen.

And yet, there was my friend, Doug, smoking pot with his druggie friends, completely oblivious to what awaited him. We called anyone who smoked pot “druggies,” convinced they were dirty hippies who wanted to get kids to try drugs so they could be turned into Communist hippies and undermine the American way of life.

I’m proud to say I refused all marijuana that was presented to me, turning down any offers of bongs, joints, pipes, or other paraphernalia. (I didn’t try pot until much later, when I was in college. Unless my parents are reading this. Then I never tried it in college either.)

For one thing, it smelled awful, like someone had stuffed a dead skunk into a tire, and set the entire thing on fire.

Not that his parents would notice the smell. His mom drank and smoked a lot, and never even smelled when the family dog had crapped on the floor. And I was convinced his dad was crazy and out of touch with reality. I based that on the fact that the only time he smelled anything we did was when we tried to set a chemistry experiment on fire in his basement.

All I knew was that I had to be hyper-vigilant, ready to wrestle my friend to the ground if he showed any signs of wanting to fly.

His disreputable, druggie friends could go jump in front of a bus for all I cared. I just didn’t want my best friend’s last words to be, “No, really! I can do it!” before he leapt off his ranch house into the muddy back yard, yet another victim of the pot that had cut short or ruined so many young lives, like the drug films said would happen if I ever smoked it.

After a couple of years of Doug and his pot-smoking friends not trying to kill themselves, I began to wonder if the drug films had exaggerated just a little bit. I still wasn’t trying it, but I began to relax and decided to let down my guard against anyone trying to fly.

I also decided that many of my other fears were probably unfounded as well, and that the things that had frightened me before were nothing but the product of a kid’s overactive imagination.

And then Friday the 13th came out.

The Attack of the Backpack

I used to lecture my son about how hard I had it back when I had to walk miles and miles uphill both ways to school, then I tried lifting his backpack.

Soon, he’ll join the masses of students, enthusiastically packing up all their new school supplies. They won’t be this excited again until next spring when they dump their backpacks all over their bedroom floors. And who can blame them? Studies estimate that many students carry loads heavier than 15 percent of their body weight. That’s the limit recommended by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, who apparently has been boning up on the subject. Sorry.

(I carry a purse that’s heavier than 15 percent of my body weight too, but that’s another column.)

On my way to work, I regularly see kids with giant packs, looking like turtles walking upright. I worry they’re going to tip over backwards and be pinned to the ground, their little arms and legs flailing while they try to get back up. Late for school again!

Back when you and I were in school, we didn’t have as many extracurricular activities with all the accompanying clothing and equipment. We didn’t have all those electronic devices. And Crayola wasn’t making as many colors yet.

But the biggest contributor to the backpack burden is, of course, textbooks, which should not be left at school all year long, no matter what your kids tell you. There are more textbooks now, and they’re bigger. A lot has happened since we were young, so history books have had to expand. And long ago, there were just the three Rs: readin’, ‘ritin’ and ‘rithmatic. Eventually there were more courses added to the curriculum. Luckily, one of them was spelling.

What can be done to protect our kids from the attack of the backpack? First take care to choose the right model and size. A good rule of thumb is, never buy a backpack that’s larger than your child.

You might even consider a wheeled backpack. If your child doesn’t think those are cool enough, you could get them a wheelbarrow. Those are plenty cool, though they don’t maneuver well on stairs.

Occasionally you should supervise when your kids are packing their backpacks. Children sometimes get confused about what is and what is not essential at school. Pencils are essential; a Nintendo Game Boy II is not. Paper is essential; a Super Soaker Scatter Blaster squirt gun is not. There’s no sense in loading a backpack full of items that the teacher will just confiscate later.

Finally, backpacks should be carried over both shoulders to distribute the weight evenly. This will keep your child from looking like a middle-aged woman who’s been carrying a purse the size of a suitcase over the same shoulder since she was a teenager. No child I know wants to look like a middle-aged woman, even the ones who will be middle-aged women someday.
Having said all of that, I have to add, that carrying a backpack is only part of the problem. In my extensive internet research, I came across a study of backpack injuries. Only thirteen percent of the backpack injuries reported in this particular study were caused by wearing one. Another thirteen percent were caused by being HIT by one, and as much as those things weigh, you can see why that would hurt. I’m surprised there were no fatalities.
Amazingly twenty-eight percent of backpack injuries were actually caused by tripping over them! This confirms what I’ve been telling my son for years: Leaving a backpack unopened in the middle of the living room floor all weekend could be hazardous to his health.


The Great Order Restoration Project

Here’s something you should never do. You should never move your guestroom to your child’s bedroom, your child’s bedroom to your home office, and your home office to your guestroom. And if you do, you better hope you have no guests coming for a very long time.

You probably think I say that with such confidence because we did it. No, we did not. But we’re trying to. And we have been for weeks. I’m afraid that, months from now, I’ll find myself running from my current office upstairs to my former office downstairs to get a paperclip. I hope I have the good sense to bring the whole box.

My husband and son moved the furniture, which is what husbands and sons are for. I supervised, which is what I’m for.

That left the miscellaneous stuff, the nitnoid bits and pieces of this and that. Every single piece of paper, every item of clothing, every thing-a-ma-bob and thing-a-ma-jig must be moved to its new location and put in its proper place, though “proper” may be too strong a word. We’ve never been one of those families with “a place for everything and everything in its place.” It’s more like, everything was someplace and now it’s someplace else.

One of the challenges of what I’m calling the Great Order Restoration Project is that many of my son’s belongings are small. It’s almost like we’ve been leaving a trail of BBs, LEGOS, and model airplane parts for the moving company, except that there is no moving company, and it’s not a very good trail.

Technology is, of course, a great timesaver in all of our lives, which is lucky, because you need all the time you’ve saved to move and organize all your technology.

We have more power cords and chargers than we have electronic devices. This may be because we have chargers and power cords for electronic devices we no longer own. You may wonder why we keep them. We wonder why we keep them. But, I think it’s for the same reason we keep keys we don’t recognize. We fear that the minute we discard a key, we’ll stumble across the lock it’s made to open. It will be on something very important, and it will be locked.

So, just in case we need them some day, we moved chargers and power cords–and keys. And we moved CDs, DVDs, VHS and cassettes, though I’m not sure we even have a VHS or a cassette player anymore. On the bright side, we didn’t come across a single eight-track tape.

I once believed technology would create a paperless society. All it really did was allow us to generate more paper more quickly. We do have a shredder, but it only works when we use it. I was afraid when I was moving all the paper from the old office to the new office that I would misplace something important, like the title to our car or a large sweepstakes check. And I must have, because I can’t find any large sweepstakes checks.

Even worse, I worried I might find something I’ve been living in blissful ignorance of, something that should have been dealt with long ago, like a light bill or a subpoena.

On the other hand, I hoped I’d find a few things: A favorite sweatshirt; a book from my childhood that I passed on to my son and haven’t seen since; a pair of reading glasses, worn only once; and the key to our roll-top desk It’s a good thing we lost the key right after we bought the desk; we hadn’t had time to lock it yet.

Unfortunately, I haven’t found any of those things thus far during the Great Order Restoration Project. But I did misplace a flyswatter and another pair of reading glasses.

(To volunteer to help in the Great Order Restoration Project, contact or see Twitter @dorot

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!”

Occupy Nightmare

Gauging the increasing vertical wind shear with his famous Cockatoo comb over, Donald J. Trump looked me straight in the eye and asked, “If you are elected President of the United States, what measures would you take to wipe out our national debt?”

He had decided to hold presidential debates at Zuccotti Park, following the swimsuit competition in Iowa, because the rest of the country was besieged with political sex scandals, embarrassing gaffes, and unimpressed voters. Protest signs in the Park displayed pictures of the Grand Old Party (GOP) candidates and a single word that reflected the general consensus of the crowd, given the choices – “Meh!”

The political yammer was now between me and an ex-hooker from the Bronx; the wind shear developing perpendicular to The Donald.

Photo: Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Wikipedia
“Two strategies come to mind that I believe will reduce the pork fat while simultaneously wiping out our national debt:

First, while outsourcing has become a popular way for large companies to save money, poor states like Delaware have been overlooked. A man working at a factory job in New York earns twice as much as a man doing the same job in Dover, Delaware, where the pay is equivalent to salaries paid in Beijing, China. I suggest that more companies be given a stimulus to outsource work to other companies in underdeveloped cities across America. The product could then be labeled properly ‘Made in America,’ and everyone would be happy, including the poor fellow bent over in Dover, who will be appreciative and vote for me in November.”

The crowd cheered loudly. Ten fellows, who were holding dollar bills for my opponent, gave them to my campaign manager instead. He put them under his Hello Kitty belt buckle.

“Second, I would advise the slugs in Congress to consolidate. States like Rhode Island with only four electoral votes can be easily merged into States like Massachusetts, which has 13; Vermont can go to New York; New Hampshire to Maine; and so forth, until we evolve into an economic Godzilla. Then, we can go overseas and stomp on China for pirating, bootlegging, and violating US copyright and trademark laws. We should then be able to raise about $17 trillion just on the booty that we find in Shanghai.”

More cheers and shouting came from the crowd. Even my opponent was shaking her booty.

Someone started to shake me.

“Wake up, wake up!” my paramour shouted. “Were you having a nightmare?”

Utterly disappointed that the whole experience was based on an underdone potato, I asked the typical morning after question, “What did I say?”

“You were screaming something about not getting 10,000 signatures for the Dover ballot.”

“Was that before or after I invented the GOP drinking game ‘Webster Says “Newt” Means Salamander’?”

Zero Tolerance Bullying Withers Under Scrutiny

Zero Tolerance is a festering mold that’s destroyed when its putrid nature is exposed to the disinfecting power of the sun.

We saw that festering mold destroyed this past week here in Central Indiana, after an outrageous suspension of more than 50 high school students was lifted, following protests, laser-guided media scrutiny, and national mockery of the situation.

This past Tuesday, in the town of Clayton, west of Indianapolis, six Cascade High School students were suspended after a prank of decorating their school with 11,000 Post-It Notes the previous night.Post-It Notes fill Cascade high school door

District superintendent Patrick Spray, who has apparently forgotten what it was like to be in high school, was outraged — OUTRAGED! — that students would pull such a prank. So he suspended the kids, including the valedictorian, salutatorian, and senior class president, for trespassing, entering the school without permission, and for being unsupervised while on school grounds.

Actually that’s not true, said the students. They got permission and a key from a school board member, who’s also one of the students’ mother. And they were supervised by a school janitor, who’s also the mother of one of the students.

Oh really? said Spray, and then fired the janitor, Kim Rouse.

Dude, it’s Post-It Notes. It’s 11,000 Post-It Notes that the kids paid for themselves. They even made sure to pull a prank that wouldn’t damage school property. It sounds like he was just upset because he looked like an idiot when the kids pointed out that they never actually violated those rules.

The following day, after 57 more students peacefully protested the suspensions, Spray realized he overstepped his bounds and behaved irrationally, so he apologized to everyone, and promised Rouse she could have her job back.

Just kidding. He suspended every protestor. And with 460 students in the high school, Spray — an education professional who probably uses phrases like “disrupting the educational process” — disrupted the educational process of more than 10 per cent of his students, thus ensuring the rest of the school wouldn’t pay attention either.

Even on my best day as a fourth grader, I could only disrupt the educational process of 20 other kids. This guy managed to do it to an audience 23 times the size of mine with slightly less dramatic histrionics. Trés impressive.

Because if there’s one lesson we want to teach our children, it’s that the only way you can assert your power is to be a petty little tyrant who throws a big hissy fit when he’s made to look like a bigger idiot than he was the day before.

But bullies, like festering molds, cannot stand the harsh sunlight of public scrutiny and awareness. And as the outrage grew, and a lot of media people and concerned parents began to ask a lot of uncomfortable questions — like “Really?” and “Don’t you think that’s a bit much?” — Spray backtracked, and lifted the suspension of the Post-It Six. He also removed the suspension from their academic records, and they were allowed to return to class.

He was originally going to reduce the suspension of the remaining protestors from two days to one, and let them serve it during school. But by Thursday, Spray said he would vacate their suspensions as well, and the suspensions would not be placed on their academic records either.

Do you remember that scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, when Principal Rooney was facing complete and utter failure to catch Bueller skipping school, and instead had to ride the bus home with a bunch of mouth-breathing kids?

Yeah, I’ll bet it was kind of like that for Spray. I can’t imagine the bitterness he had to swallow when he met with the concerned parents who thought he was a bullying little tyrant overstepping the bounds of decency and sanity.

Spray has said he will still recommend to the board that they fire Kim Rouse, the janitor, but from all reports, the board has indicated they won’t go along with that, which will be one more feather in Spray’s Big Cap O’ Failure.

While all hindsight is 20/20, it looks like Spray should have just forced a grudging smile, lectured the kids about respect for property, and let them clean up the mess, like they originally offered. Then none of this would have ever happened.

Instead, for the next several years, Patrick Spray will be remembered as the Zero Tolerance despot who was beaten by a small group of thoughtful, committed high school kids who did the one thing that many schools still don’t teach:

To stand up to bullies on behalf of those who can’t.

Schools Cancel Bake Sales, Fun

School after school are overstepping their bounds, interfering in people’s personal lives and liberties, practicing the dark art of behalfism.

Behalfism is when a small vocal group tries to speak on behalf of another group that really doesn’t want or need it.

In this case, schools are canceling their bake sale fund raisers, because administrators are concerned about childhood obesity. According to a recent story on National Public Radio, schools are so concerned about childhood obesity, they think that if they can cancel their once-a-year bake sale, they can somehow overcome it. In fact, schools in California, Texas, and New York are limiting bake sales to only healthy food.

Collection of cakes

Aww, I can't stay mad at you.

Because if there’s one thing parents want to buy to help their child’s school, it’s a low-fat vinaigrette salad and organic gluten-free organic soy milk muffins. With raisins.

Before I go on, let me say that I recognize the seriousness of childhood obesity. I’m not “for” it, or arguing that it’s not a problem. I believe kids should go outside and play, not eat junk food, and limit their TV and video game time. So I believe it’s serious.

But I don’t think one bake sale a year, where parents will buy one cake or one plate of cookies, is going to result in obese children.

What I do object to is when the very group of of people that cancel a bake sale to keep kids from getting fat also cut PE classes and recess, which also kept kids from getting fat. While most schools still have PE classes and recess, many of them are reducing the amount of time they last, and are not allowing kids to ride their bikes or walk to and from school.

When I was a kid, we had two recesses a day, PE class two to three times a week, and I rode or walked to school nearly every day. There were no rules about riding or walking (not like the schools where I live), gym was considered an important part of our education, and we played outside without any rules against running or playing certain types of games.

It’s rather disingenuous of a school to cancel a bake sale in the name of childhood obesity, when they also eliminated and overturned the opportunities for the kids to get exercise.

“Oh, but the kids can exercise at home,” say the childhood obesity behalfists. “The parents should be encouraging their kids to play and get exercise.”

Yes, they should. They should also be the ones to tell their kids not to eat an entire cake or plateful of cookies. The schools either need to butt completely out of kids’ personal lives, or they need to be completely involved. They can’t pick and choose based on the hot button issue of the day.

When you look at the number of times parents take their kids to McDonald’s, let them play video games for three hours a day, and don’t let them play organized sports because they’re worried their precious snowflakes might get hurt, I don’t think an extra piece of cake is going to do much harm. It’s a veritable drop in the lard bucket, and they’ll be no worse off than they were beforehand.

On the other hand, the kids whose parents actually make them eat healthy food and play can afford to let their kids have a once-in-a-while dessert, even if said dessert is not made with wheat germ, low-fat yogurt, and carob.

What makes matters worse is that these bake sales are a direct benefit to the schools that sponsor them. According to the NPR story, a school in Maryland was able to generate $25,000 in sales, while a New York mom usually raised $50,000 through bake sales.

That’s enough to pay a PE teacher’s salary to get all the fat kids outside running around for 30 minutes a day to work off the piece of cake and the Big Mac they had at dinner the night before.

If a school wants to get involved in whole child growth and development, which is the argument for sticking their fingers in their students’ pies, then they need to do two things: 1) teach the kids that dessert, like anything else, should be consumed in moderation; and, 2) they should use the money raised from a proper bake sale to fund more physical activities, which will teach the kids physical wellness.

Until then, school officials need to find a new way to raise the lost funds. Maybe a casino night with a cash bar.

Photo credit: tannazie (Flickr, Creative Commons)