Guranteed Belly Laugh

You wouldn’t know it from this blog most days, but my first love is comedy. I did stand-up a few times in college. But long before that I did impersonations and made up my own slap-stick routines to try and entertain myself or a few family members. One of the routines I tried to duplicate most often is in the clip below. I saw this on channel 17 in Atlanta when TBS was WTBS-17 and the owner, Ted Turner, was also the news anchor.

I was home sick from school one day and this clip made me laugh till my sides hurt. I spent the afternoon trying to remember it (there were no VCR’s so I only had one take to go by) and duplicate it with a broom handle for a pool cue and the coffee table for a pool table. Don’t know what I used for the balls.

Something made me think of that old memory the other night at a Christmas dinner and I decided to try and find the routine on YouTube. It was there! I have now watched it three times and I laughed till I cried each time. Slapstick this well choreographed is true artistry. Everything in the scene becomes a prop for the master of slapstick W. C. Fields. The story he tells is secondary. It’s all about when is he going to hit that darned cue ball. Enjoy!!


The Gym At 50!

The Gym at 50

Written on Tuesday, July 2, 2013 by

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The President delivered a speech about how he is going to flee from mythical  environmental problems and lead us over an economic cliff. Both he and the  nation are being made fools of by the Russians and Chinese over this Snowden  thing (or maybe they’re working in lockstep with the administration on this  one…not sure…see my last column.) So with that in mind, what say we have a good  laugh at my expense?

My pursuit of fitness has always run in cycles. I will  turn fifty soon, and I just completed the longest gym layoff of my life. I am  not proud of the fact. I assumed this time would be like all of the other times.  There would be four or five workouts that would be particularly difficult, I  would be extra sore for a day or two, and then I would be back in the swing of  things. Wrong. Not only am I still not fully in the swing of things that I was  doing in my thirties, I am being forced to overcome obstacles to fitness that  have never been obstacles before. One obstacle was merely getting onto or  into the apparatus upon which one is to perform the exercise.

During the past  Saturday’s workout, I turned getting onto a leg extension machine into a full  five minute, “Dances With The Stars” palooza. Only there was no Chelsie  Hightower, just me and the leg machine. For some reason, as I sought in vain to  avoid continued embarrassment, I muttered incoherently things like, “Excuse  me…Sorry, let me just get one foot right…Maybe if I rest a knee on this side I  can just swing over this…” I still don’t know who I was asking to excuse me or  apologizing to. These types of incidents generally tend to flare up when I  am in the vicinity of an attractive woman. That way the gym Fates can ensure  they maximize my embarrassment.

A week or so ago was a particularly bad example.  I was going to get on the treadmill, something I dreaded but was willing to do  anyway. There was a beautiful young thirty-something on two treadmills  down from where I was headed. I didn’t want her to feel crowded by me getting on  the one right next to her and I didn’t want to walk around behind her treadmill.  I was TRYING to be considerate so I walked in between two treadmills so as to  keep one empty between us. I got stuck. Yes, I got stuck in between two  treadmills. The space was one I could have easily passed through in my prior gym  memberships but as it turns out my waistband muscle is more developed now. I  must have had pretty good forward momentum because I was really wedged in there.  At some point in my struggles, my feet actually were off the ground. This  resulted in me flailing my arms and legs like some demented, flipped over,  horseshoe crab in red gym shorts. Finally, gravity took over and I was able to  skitter free at which time I made great haste for the locker room and my car  keys.

I still haven’t told you the worst and most embarrassing incident  however. Again, an attractive female gym member was involved.  I was on the  treadmill again. This time I actually made it onto the belt. I had my headphones  in. You can plug them into a box on the treadmill and hear the television that  they have there. I was anticipating perspiration so I had a gym issue white  towel draped over the handrail. I was doing a light jog and actually feeling  pretty good. That’s when she showed up. This beautiful lady stepped onto the  treadmill next to me and after a brief warm up at a reasonable speed, cranked it  up to approximately 200 miles per hour.

Naturally, I couldn’t allow this to  continue. I am a big strong man and she was making me look like I was on turtle  speed. (That is assuming the turtle in question was overweight and had on  ill-fitting shoes.) Suddenly I was running significantly faster than God  intended my body to go. My feet were now slapping down on the treadmill belt  like boat paddles slapping the glassy surface of a pond. The vibration must have  started the chain reaction that followed. Suddenly, and with amazing speed, my  towel slipped down, hit the conveyor, was propelled toward my feet, and wrapped  around my headphone cord. The cord then yanked my head down crashing my forehead  into the control panel. I have heard that the body can react in strange ways  to head trauma. In this case, I temporarily went rigid and listed sharply to  starboard. Like a leaning statue I was then propelled off the treadmill and into  the Stairmaster behind me. The collision with the Stairmaster restored  consciousness to the point where I was at least concerned with saving face so I  pumped my arms and did some windmills as though stretching and said, “Good….good  workout.” Then I hit the red E-stop button and slithered for the door. Does  anyone know of a good gym in the area I could join? “I’m kind of “in between”  memberships right now.

Chris Skates is the author of the novel, Going Green:  For Some It Has Nothing To Do With The Environment, which is available in the  Patriot Bookstore and the soon to be released historical novel The Tower. You  can find all his novels on his author page at He has been published  in dozens of national magazines and has authored multiple technical articles in  his field of Chemistry. You can follow his blog at

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We Are Paducah. It’s What We Do!!

It’s Thursday evening in Paducah, or maybe it’s Friday, or Saturday, any of those three evenings will do. Cars are lined up on the exit ramp from I-24, they are 25 cars deep in the turn lane at the first traffic light towards the mall, forty cars at a minimum are lined up between Wal Mart and the mall. If you could look in the cars, at the faces of the people, there would be few smiles. Instead jaws would be set eyes would be steely. For once again it is time to go to work. We are Paducah. We eat out at restaurants. It is what we do.

I have lived a whole bunch of places, moved to a whole bunch of towns. And to coin a phrase from my Georgia upbringing, I aint nevah seen folk flock to the restaurants like Paducah folk. When we get anywhere CLOSE to the weekend it as if some secret signal goes out to each of us wherever we may be. And the signal sends us the following message, “I am starving, and mama aint bout to dirty no dishes.”

It’s a thing of beauty really; the way that we school one restaurant chain after another. “What, you thought you were going to come up here in OUR town and just non-chalantly build an Outback or a Texas Road House and think you are going to run it like you do in other towns in the US?? You better think again. You better install the extra large beef cooler in that bad boy cause we’re comin and we’re bringin the WHOLE family including great-grandma.”

I can only think of one exception. They foolishly tried to open an Atlanta Bread company here. They built it too far from the interstate for the foreigners (people from outside Western Kentucky) to be able to see. They tried to serve us things like soup and….well…lettuce. We bankrupted them. Meanwhile the Mexican place next door, AND a Logans Roadhouse, AND a Texas Roadhouse who all opened at the same time were packed every night. But then, they had the good business sense to serve meat in large quantities.

Speaking of meat, Paducah downtown is not to be overlooked either. Along with Max’s, Tribeca, Whaler’s and others, they opened a place down there whose menu consists solely of meat skewered on a Sword. After they opened the GDP of Argentina increased 5%.

Of course you can’t discuss eating out in Paducah and fail to mention Bar B Cue on the river. I observed something down there that made me proud of my fellow Paduchians. There was smoked everything, pulled pork, ribs, chicken and it was smoked with hickory, mesquite, you name it. But even in the midst of all the smell of smoked meat goodness, one little vendor thought he could pull a fast one.

It was only minutes after he fired up his equipment that people from all around the downtown area sensed it. In the midst of all the smoke our finely tuned olfactory organs detected it instantly. It was the smell of flour and sugar….and it was being fried. Funnel Cakes. There was a mad rush. Sure, we may have just eaten three pounds of pork but we were not to be denied. Too greasy you say? Who do you think you are talking to? We are Paducah. We were raised on Red’s donuts. “Listen here Mr. Vendor, don’t think you are going to bring that little rig in here and not be inundated with customer demand the likes of which you have never imagined.”

You cant HAUL enough flour and sugar in that little trailer to satisfy us pal. We’ll make a run on you and…shut…yo….butt….DOWN!

Personally, I am not a fan of funnel cakes but I had to smile slightly as I saw the look of abject terror on the looks of the people inside the funnel cake trailer, barely visible behind a cloud of confectionary sugar as they frantically shook it on yet another order whilst looking out on a line that snaked to somewhere past Ledbetter.

Lastly, and most recently, we humbled the Chick Fil’ A corporation. It was one thing to put a chunk of fried chicken on a buttered bun and offer free mayonnaise when you were safely protected inside the mall. But to put another one out there in our face where we can just drive our SUV’s up to it…Mr. Cathey, you ain’t got enough chickens in chicken houses all over this great U S of A to keep up with what we’re brining.

Apparently, there are some people from around the country that camp out waiting for the opening of Chick Fil A resturaunts so they can make a run on some kind of coupon the chain offers. They tried to pull that off here. Are you kidding me? First we ordered up some 99.9 degree weather. Then while the campers were getting dehydrated we sat in the air conditioning. No danger of us missing out. We can hear scissors cut through a grand opening ribbon from five miles away. Corporate records have since been broken at Chick Fil A. They tried to get cute and put in a double drive through so that they could keep up with us. Please….that’s the equivalent of an amusement park ride for us. We’ll just go through twice. Might was well take home a meal for tomorrow as well.


Even now, there are whole families that have never left Chick Fil A playland. Rumor has it that they have no intention of leaving till they bring back the peach milkshake.


We are Paducah and we eat out. It’s what we do.

My Visit With Santa (Humor)

I was five years old when my mom rushed me through Rich’s department store in Atlanta so that I would get a chance to see Santa. If I remember correctly it was on Christmas Eve. So I am certain Santa had seen lots and lots of children.

There was one problem. We couldn’t find Santa. The throne- like chair he had occupied was empty, in fact, workmen were taking it down even as we stood there. The store itself would be closing soon for the holiday.

So my mother found an attendant who, though she must have been pretty ready to go home herself, was very understanding. She looked at me sympathetically, and assured me that Santa was going to stay till the store closed, he had only been relocated to a spot closer to the exit so that he could readily get into his sleigh when it was time to go.

The attendant lead us to what seemed like at the time, a long hallway. She pointed me toward a door on the far left where Santa could be found.  I don’t remember why now, perhaps she had some more last minute shopping to do, but my mom didn’t go with me. I remember feeling a tiny bit spooked as I rounded the threshold.

When I looked into the narrow rectangular room, I was a bit taken aback. There at the far end of the room, sat Santa. The first thing I noticed was that he didn’t have on his traditi0nal red suit. This one looked identical to the red one except that it was sort of a turquoise color. Kind of cool looking but not what I was expecting.

The second thing I noticed was that Santa looked REALLY tired. He was sitting there with his face in his hands. He was rubbing his face. I just stood there, unsure of what to say. Something finally made him look up. He did a big eye roll as if to say, “Oh great, another kid, I thought I was done.”

So after a big sigh, Santa said, “Ho…ho….another big sigh…ho…Merry Christmas there kid….okay…lets a big breath out puffing out his cheeks….come on over here and tell me what you want for Christmas.”

I took some tentative steps toward him. He picked me up with a big groan and sat me on his knee. I remember when I got up there that I could see some toys he had. There was a cardboard box beside him that would have easily been big enough for me to stand up in without being able to see over the top. It was apparent that at one time the box had been full of plastic spindle tops. Now there were only about two or three in one corner. Yes, Santa had seen a WHOLE LOTTA KIDS.

Finally, after Santa had put me in the box for a moment and let me get a spindle top, I got back on his knee with a new found courage. Finally I asked the question that was at the forefront of my mind.

“Santa, why do you have on a green outfit when you usually….”

“I’m his brother okay kid.” Santa interrupted. “I’m his brother (another big sigh) and…uh (puffed out his cheeks again and fluttered his lips)…you tell me what you want, and I’ll make sure and tell him…okay…lets just do it that way.”

Not wanting to make waves or cause a Santa family conflict, I dutifully rattled off a few items. As I hopped down and headed toward the door I took one last look back. Poor Santabrother had pushed his Santa hat back on his head and was vigorously rubbing his forehead.

I guess he was able to hook up with the real Santa later, because as far as I can remember, I got what I asked for.

Football Funny

Below is a post I did on a web site several years ago called

I am proud to say that this is still displayed as a classic post at that site. At the time the Atlanta Falcons were bad….very bad. Since then I am proud to say they have gotten much better.

But in honor of football season and all those dark Falcons seasons of yesteryear, here is my version of the 7 Stages. (P.S. I hope that I will not be feeling this way this year)

After yet another Falcons loss. (and we are not talking about your run of the mill loss here. We are talking about having been STOMPED IN THE TEETH. For example giving up nearly 400 passing yards and loosing to a 1 and 6 Lion’s team)

Anyway….After yet another Falcons loss following your getting your hopes up after they won a couple against teams that you thought were good but which turned out to in fact STINK…these are the stages the average patient…umm I mean fan…goes through.

Stage 1- Denial

If one considers the 7 stages of grief one might assume that this is a failure to accept that the loss occurred. In Falcons land however this is a denial to one’s self that you really care about the Falcons in the first place. The patient…pardon me…fan might be heard to say something to his wife who is trying desperately to read a book and ignore the fan like…

“You know what the funny part is? I mean this is really funny. You are going to find this funny. Are you ready for this? I DONT CARE!! No really I dont. Dont roll your eyes I mean it this time. (then louder as if you want the neigborhood to hear) I DONT GIVE A CRAP IF THE FALCONS WIN OR LOOSE!! I SIMPLY DONT CARE. NOT ONE BIT! I mean it doesnt affect me does it. I am still the same person whether they win or loose. What happens with the Falcons has never had any bearing on my life whatsoever! It doesnt bother me…it just doesnt bother me.”

At this the fan drops his arms dramatically to his sides slapping his  jersey and wearing a self satisfied smile, juts out his chin and walks with heavy thudding steps from the TV room.

Stage 2

Uncontrolled rage

During the very early indications of this stage the experienced spouse sighs deeply, closes her book with a snap and tosses the cat from her lap as she heads for the other end of the house. The cat stupidly lingers until the first drink coaster goes flying into the wall at which point he/she spins his wheels on the floor till he gains the necessary traction to flee the area.

Throughout this stage furniture may be turned over, the souvenir Falcons helmet on the entertainment center is usually kicked about like a soccer ball resulting in a toe injury and fueling the rage. At it’s most passionate this stage may result in one or more ripped up posters or sports magazines. This stage is also accompanied by incoherent babbling such as…

“DARN those miserable, no good low life …I wish they would all just…cause I am gonna drive down there and kick somebo…DANG A FALCON.

Stage 3

Undressing oneself in the yard

Known to be one of the more uncomfortable stages to recover from the following day if neighbors are encountered.

This occurs IMMEDIATELY following stage 2. The patient (I think we may as well call ourselves patients) walks around in the yard, now slightly hoarse from the rantings of stage 2 but continuing to rant only now without actually forming words. Tears of spent rage may fill the eyes. While walking about the backyard in hapless circles the patient will pull and tear at the jersey as if he has forgotten how to disrobe. Finally the jersey will be pulled off but only partway as it ALWAYS gets stuck on the head momentarily. The fan then babbles louder as he plays tug of war with his own head. Ultimately the jersey is on the ground and the fan is jumping up and down on it and beginning to laugh hysterically. Hopefully no flammable liquids are near-by

Stage 4

Hugging and Rocking

Too painful and embarrassing to even be documented here. But it involves sitting in a lonely corner of the garage, holding a well worn football between your knees and repeating over and over…why…why….why…

Stage 5

Binge Eating/ Team Switching.

The patient has now returned to the still empty TV room of the house. While throwing cold left over brats onto a plate and slathering them in too much mustard he can be heard to utter…

“I’ll bet the Colts would LOVE to have a fan like me. Yessiree that is what I am gonna do…I am gonna enjoy the rest of these brats and have some brownies and watch MY COLTS…I love me some Colts.

Stage 6

Nausea and abandoning of pseudo team

After watching a perfectly executed drive the fan cannot enjoy it for asking the cat (who has now returned) Why cant KNAPP do THAT huh…I mean is that so hard.

Stage 7


You dont need a description.

“Well that’s it I guess. No more football for me. I can’t switch teams and I HATE the Falcons guts. So I just won’t watch anymore that’s all.”

This stage is reached at around 7:00 PM.

9:00 PM

“Well, what I will do is TIVO it and THEN and ONLY then if I hear they won I will go back and watch it. But I am fast forwarding every time we play a zone.

1:00 AM

Lying awake analyzing the loss. “I guess I could watch the first quarter and then if they are playing like crap I can turn it off.”

Monday AM.

I think they are gonna turn it around…That loss was just the wake up they needed prior to the playoffs.

Comic Relief

I was going to post about the Riots in England. But I need a break from the heavy posts on this blog, so instead I will share a funny.

So my daughter and her friends were driving the other day, headed off to the mall or some such adventure, when my daughter spots this poor schmuck riding along the shoulder of the road on his bicycle. The guy has on a blaze orange Tee shirt, Jean Shorts (Jorts as my daughter calls them while reminding me how out of style they were), Tall white sox (or tallsocks…another fashion faux pas) and just generally looks disheveled.

My daughter, being the comedienne that she is, begins to make jokes about the poor guy. All the girls gradually join in until every one his having quite the laugh at his expense. Suddenly, as the car draws closer one of the other girls says, “Oh my gosh Ashton….THATS your Dad!!”

Yes dear readers. It was me. I had donned an orange Tee shirt that I got for safety at the plant because I felt it would increase my visibility to cars, I did not get the memo that “jorts” were out of style and “tallsocks” were what I had on beneath my work boots that day, so when I put on my riding shoes I saw no need in soiling another pair of socks what with the “tallsocks” with less than 24 hours of wear.

The sad part is I was peddaling merrily along completely satisfied in my own mind that I looked quite fetching. Little did I know….

Showdown at the Beanstalk (funny for you)

I was looking through some files on an old computer and found this. This was one of the first short stories I ever wrote from back when I was submitting to magazines. This one never got picked up but shortly after writing this one I had my first published work with a nostalgia piece about my grandfather. May post it later. I have not even proofed this and I wrote it a good ten years ago so don’t judge too harshly.

I was watching my 9 year old pretend with his friends the other day. They were using some type of trading cards to do what they called “battling”. The card I looked at had a picture of something that looked like a cross between a  platypus and an aardvark on it. The battle as it were consisted of throwing your card on top of the other guys card and making up some arbitrary reason why your platyvark, or whatever they called them, was tougher. Sheesh! Whatever happened to good old fashioned pretending. Whatever happened to cowboys and indians. If my son could only have grown up when I did. I could have shown him what real fun was. Return with me now to those thrilling days of yesteryear…

The year was 1967 and I was four years old.

We lived on a small farm at the time. It was approximately 60 acres and included a large barn with attached horse stables.  My father, a banker by profession, is a frustrated cowboy. So we rented the farm and, for a fee, allowed people that owned horses, but no land, to board their animals there.

Actually, it was a delightful place to spend one’s childhood days. There were no other children nearby but that suited me fine, as I was a bit of a loner anyway. My primary companion was the lady that came every day to baby sit while Mama was at work in Atlanta. The faithful family German shepherd Rowdy also guarded me almost constantly. And there was my trusty horse, Commanchee.

Commanchee stood about 14 hands high. He was solid black with a long flowing mane and tail. A simple whistle was all it took for him to be standing by my side, ready to take me anywhere I wanted to go at blazing speed. His saddle, which I never saw him without, was gleaming black tooled leather except for the seat, which was red. He was loyal to a fault and as fast as lightning. He was a spirited beast however, and tended to prance around or side step whenever I was climbing into the saddle. Lesser cowboys likely could never have gotten aboard. He would also rear on his hind legs whenever I put the spurs to him. Because of that he was not safe to be ridden by younger children or yucky ol’ girls with cooties. In reality Commanchee was a tomato stake with a hay string tied about 4 inches from the end to serve as a bridle. He was sort of a workingmans stick horse. But I describe him here as only I could see him.

Most of my days on the farm revolved around keeping the pesky tribe of Indian warriors that lived in the woods behind the house at bay. My family to this day has no idea of the number of times I saved their scalps. For Christmas Santa had brought me the finest looking six shooter and Winchester set you ever saw. I’ll never forget the big picture of Hoss Cartwright and his brothers that was on the box as it sat under the tree. Both guns had real wood butts and stocks. The holster was genuine imitation leather and the gun belt had a steer head on the buckle. Draped over one side of my gun belt, when I didn’t have them on, were my leather-like cowboy gloves. They came way up my forearm like the calvary gloves on John Wayne movies. Only mine had leather-like fringe down the outside edge and an Indian sitting on his pony stamped onto the cuffs.

I was astride Commanchee one day, when it came upon me to strike out farther west. I would journey all the way to the far western end of the spread. I had never been that far from the house before but I felt the need to see new country. I had strong suspicions that an outlaw hide out could be found somewhere on that end.  So off we went one sunny morning, just Rowdy, Commanchee and me. After a long tiring 20 minute ride, I dismounted to rest and eat a cookie I had brought along for sustenance. We were in the woods and as I sat on a stump pushing Rowdy away with one hand, I was beginning to understand how Hansel must have felt when he and Gretel looked back and didn’t see any bread crumbs. I couldn’t see the house or barn anymore, or even hear the horses. In fact these woods were a little spooky. Lots of other kids would probably have been a little uneasy right about now. Not me of course. I had a six shooter with real wood grips and it wasn’t nothin for me to take on a whole Indian war party or a bunch of rustlers. So naturally, I wasn’t a bit scared. About the time I had myself convinced of this, I saw the cabin.

Through the woods I could just make out the outline of a dilapidated old cabin. A part of me wanted to get back on Commanchee and ride out of there. But I had come to run off those rustlers and for all I knew this could be their hideout right in front of me. I left Commanchee tied to a tree and eased closer to the door of the cabin

After what seemed an eternity I was standing in the door. My six-shooter was drawn. The light in the old shack was dim. As my eyes adjusted I could see the place was filthy. There was not much inside save a small table, an old rusty lantern, and some shelves. The rock fireplace was blackened from many fires but there were spider webs in it now. There was one thing in the shack that stood out. And when I saw it I knew this was no rustlers hide out.

The whole place was full of milk jugs. Plain old plastic one-gallon milk jugs. There were jugs on the table, jugs on the shelves, even jugs on the dirt floor.I stepped outside to take a look around. Right next to the shack there was something that looked like a giant weed growing up between the chimney and the outer wall. In my four year old mind I pieced the clues toghether.  The culprit was obvious to me, a giant had invaded our property!  He had climbed down the beanstalk by the chimney, probably cut the top off the stalk on the way down, and moved into this shack..

It was as plain as the nose on your face. I had read a book recently on a giant at the top of a beanstalk so I knew a thing or two about these ruthless characters. First of all, they were notorious gluttons. This one apparently had a thing for milk and the brute had been swilling it by the gallon jug. As if further evidence was needed, EVERYONE knows that in addition to their gluttony, giants as a rule are dreadful slobs. That’s why the jugs were lying around everywhere. Something had to be done. There was not room around here for my family and a milk guzzling giant, that was for sure.

Even with my abilities with a six-shooter and my superior fighting skills I realized I could not handle this on my own. To battle a giant you would have to know his weaknesses. And even I didn’t know that much about giants. No, this would take someone with even more knowledge of the cold cruel world than me. For this kind of counsel I would have to go straight to the top. I needed to talk to my sister, Missy.

My sister was a yucky ol’ girl with cooties but I had to give her credit. She did have wisdom. I would venture to say that there was virtually nothing Missy didn’t know. After all she was 6 years old and a highly decorated member of the Cedar Grove first grade class. But aside from book knowledge, Missy just had an innate sense about how things worked. Proof of that fact was that she never failed to answer any question I had on any subject. In fact, there were questions she answered that I didn’t even know to ask.

For example it was Missy that told me why I had a pointed head. The conversation went something like this:

Missy: “I suppose you know why you have a pointed head and everyone else in the world has a round head.”

Me: “No! Why DO I have a pointed head?” (Understand that until this very moment I didn’t realize I had a pointed head. Therefore I certainly hadn’t taken time to contemplate the why. But I began to feel around the top of my head upon hearing this and it was obviously true. Thank goodness Missy had brought this up when she did lest I stumble through life for several more years not knowing what a horribly disfigured freak I was. Now at least I could make an attempt to hide it with a different haircut or something)

Missy: “Well when a baby is born, it’s head is still soft, so when it climbs out of it’s mothers belly button it’s head gets all pointy. Then the nurse is supposed to rub the baby’s head with vaseline real fast till its head is perfectly round… like mine. When you were born the nurse forgot to do that so that’s why your head is not round like most normal people.”

I have no recollection of being the least bit sad over this news. On the contrary, I simply prepared myself to press on through life the way I was. At least now I knew.

Given this kind of track record there was no doubt in my mind to whom I must turn for help with this whole giant issue. I gathered my stuff, hopped on Commanchee and headed for home. Missy would be walking home from the bus stop soon and I didn’t want to waste any time.

When Missy arrived home that afternoon, I was waiting on the front steps. I blurted out my discovery all in one continuous sentence. When I had finished Missy smiled knowingly. She put her arm around me and walked me into the house.

“You silly goose,” she said affectionately. “There are no such thing as giants.”

“But Missy! “ I implored, “I saw his house, I saw his milk jugs, you gotta come see!”

“Tell you what. After my snack I will go down there with you and prove to you that there is no giant.”

In no time at all, we were standing in the giant’s front yard. Missy was positively unflappable. Her courage in the face of our mutual, inevitable death via stew pot was an absolute inspiration.

“See silly,” she commented as she walked freely around the giant’s cabin. “There is nothing here. Just an old shack.” Missy entered the dark cabin so that she could prove her point further . “See Chris” she continued her lecture “ this is noting more than a dusty old…THERE HE IS CHRIS…RUN…RUN…RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!!!” With this she took off for home leaving me in a cloud of dust. I screamed to the top of my lungs and ran after her.

My sister was infinitely faster than I was, a fact which she was perfectly aware of and used at every opportunity to her fullest advantage. She used it now. She was a good 20 yards ahead of me and could have gained further advantage were it not for the fact that she would occasionally turn around and run backwards.

I, on the other hand, was busy churning my chubby little cowboy boot clad legs as hard as they would go. For some reason I felt as though I were running in molasses. I could feel the giant’s hot milk breath on the back of my neck. He was that close. Several times I was overcome by the urge to turn around, to at least see my attackers hideous face before he gobbled me up alive. Missy apparently sensing this urge and not wanting to end my terror prematurely would then scream “NO!! DON’T TURN AROUND HE’S RIGHT BEHIND YOU…JUST RUN!! RUN!!”

Upon hearing this I would scream again. These were not macho cowboy type screams. These were “Lord help me I am pee peeing in my pants”  screams. “The Duke” would have been appalled. After Missy’s second warning for me to “run for my life,” I felt the situation was so grave that good ol’ Commanchee would have to be sacrificed. I let go the reins and heard him clank to the hard Georgia clay. Perhaps the giant would stop long enough to eat him first and give me time to make it home. At the very least, perhaps he would trip over Commanchee’s dead carcass. Shortly after that things got even uglier as I began to shed equipment in an attempt to gain speed. I even threw my six shooter with real wood grips backward over my head in an attempt to bonk the brute on the noggin.

Finally, I could see home. Missy was waiting for me with the door open. “Thank God for you,” I must have thought. But suddenly I noticed something. Missy didn’t look very frightened for someone watching a giant chase her brother. In fact she looked pretty amused. At the same moment I was pondering this, I made it to the steps. Missy then slammed the door in my face and I heard the dead bolt turn. Curses! I was doomed I should have known I couldn’t trust her. I did the only thing left to me. I dropped to the porch floor and drew up into a ball to await my fate.

But nothing happened. And then I heard Missy laughing. She was enjoying a good old-fashioned belly laugh. It was all clear to me. There really was no giant. My dear big sister had set me up from the time she got off the school bus. But that didn’t matter. I was never scarred anyway. I was a cowboy after all. And just as soon as my momma got home I was gonna walk right back down that road with her and find Commanchee and my six-shooter.

The End

Camping, for your funny bone

My wife is descended from a camping family. When she was a little girl the family went from tent camping to a pop up camper. All their vacations were taken this way. She has told me that until she became an adult she cannot recall ever staying in a hotel. My family was not a camping family. It was not that we considered ourselves above camping we just never got around to doing it. We never really had camping stuff. We did go out once. We didn’t go to a campground mind you; we just drove my dad’s truck down into the middle of the woods on a friend’s farm and started a fire. We ate raw hamburger that had been warmed on a hibachi to optimum microbiological incubation temperature. Then we slept in the back of the truck on a cheap air mattress. The dew fell on us and we nearly froze. It was great!

A little later when I was in middle school I began to form an interest in camping. The thought of hiking across the hills and dales and then pitching a little tent seemed heavenly. I didn’t realize until later that it wouldn’t be that idyllic.  For my 11th birthday I got a backpack. A year later I got a sleeping bag. I still have the sleeping bag and it has held up quite well. However it is not the type of sleeping bag that one ties to a backpack. If one rolls it really tight one will end up with a bundle roughly the diameter of a nuclear submarine.  I could not tie my sleeping bag to the backpack strings so I stuffed it, with much pounding and effort, inside the backpack.

This stretched the seams on the backpack to their max and completely filled all storage areas. The tops of the pockets on the pack were stretched so tight that nothing would go in them. I was just able to slide a toothbrush into one pocket and with that added tension I was barely able to get a single strand of dental floss into the other. I might not have all the camping amenities but by golly I was determined to maintain good oral hygiene.

I had saved my allowance and purchased an army mess kit and canteen from an army surplus store nearby. The mess kit was neat because the knife spoon and fork all locked together. At least they were locked together when I bought them. After insisting my Mama serve my supper in the mess kit the night I brought it home, I never did get the utensils back together. They made a considerable racket inside the metal kit which I carried in a brown grocery bag as there was no room in the pack. The canteen, which oddly smelled like feet, was strapped to my belt. With the gargantuan backpack strapped to my skinny frame and the full canteen I was attempting to lift my body weight squared. This made the process of forward motion quite a challenge. On several occasions downhill momentum carried me forward so rapidly that I did a little summersault.  Nevertheless I felt I was ready to go camping.

Enter my Dad. Dad is a horse lover. And being a horse lover he feels that every recreational activity must include a horse. This often became a major issue when the family went to the movies but that is another story. Dad wanted to take me camping as long as he could ride the horse to do it. He had not camped since his days in the National Guard but he did know more about it than me. He threw a can of beef stew and some other items into his saddle bags and away we went. I was ambivalent about the inclusion of the horse but, for the sake of practicality, I rode behind my Dad the first part of the trip.

And boy was it ever a trip. My Dad took us across mountains and through valleys we forded streams and crossed ravines. He was looking for a certain spot near a creek he had once ridden past. He wasn’t exactly sure where it was but he knew if we rode far enough we would find it. As we approached the area where he thought the creek was, I asked to get down from the horse. I wanted to strap on my pack and hike like a camper should. It took some doing to get me all strapped in but I was soon scurrying along beside Dad and the horse. If anyone had seen me, it might have looked like I was starting a new exercise craze. Walk walk run run shuffle shuffle somersault.  Walk walk run run shuffle shuffle somersault.

We finally arrived at the creek after dark. We had yet to find the exact spot on the creek where Dad wanted to camp and had no fire and nothing to eat. It was somewhere in here that it occurred to us that we did not have an important item. We had no flashlight. It rapidly got too dark for Dad to ride. By now we were in deep woods and there was the problem of riding under branches and shrubbery. Dad got off and began leading the horse. Every few yards he would strike a match for light. The creek was to our left and as we continued to walk we would go farther and farther between matches. After walking awhile in the pitch black woods you weren’t sure what you would see when the match was struck. This made for a quite exciting midnight hike.

I was walking behind the horse as Dad led him. It was during one of the match lightings that I saw the horse look to his left and down. He gathered all four of his feet together as if he were trying to stand on a bucket and his eyes got very big. The three of us were walking about 2 inches from the edge of a 25 foot drop off. Upon realizing this we came to the mutual decision that this seemed like a good spot to set up camp.

After playing a vigorous game of tug of war to separate the sleeping bag and backpack, we finally got a fire going. Now we discovered that we also had no can opener for the beef stew. Ahh I can close my eyes and still hear the melodic sound of a Dinty Moore can being beaten against a rock. We finally did get to eat. Then we both squeezed into the sleeping bag, exhausted. We had located a nice smooth sandy spot for our sleeping bag. It wasn’t until the rainstorm came that we realized we were in the bed of a wet weather stream. About 3 AM water came rushing into the top of our sleeping bag like a tidal wave. The trip ended with us back out at the road at 5 AM riding for the barn in a driving rain. My mom was waiting for us when we arrived worried that we had been washed away.


Despite my initial exposures to camping, I was willing to try it again when my wife and I were dating. We went on camping trips to the beach a couple of times with her parents. They had a pop-up camper and those trips with them were pretty pleasant overall. So after we got married and wanted to go on our first vacation we decided to make it a camping vacation.

Actually we didn’t decide any such thing. Economics decided for us. We could buy a two-man (excuse me, two-person) tent and rent campsites for a fraction of what it would cost for a couple nights in a motel. So even though my wife was six months pregnant, we bought a tent and decided we would see the gorgeous state of Virginia. We braved oppressive heat in Williamsburgh. On that evening we even managed to survive the thermonuclear combustion of a Coleman lantern. This was a lantern handed down to us from my in-laws. The instructions my father in law gave me for lighting it went something like this.

“To light it you have to pump up the little plunger like this. Only the gasket in there is worn out so you have to pull down on the handle a little to form a seal. Then when the pressure builds up you lift this lever but first twist the plunger to lock it. Okay then lift up this lever then twist this valve over here about a quarter turn then.  Do you hear that? That is the gas going through the mantles. Okay so now you stick your match in here and you have to hurry before you loose all the gas pressure and you just light it but don’t touch the mantles they break real easy and if you break them then they have to be replaced and that is a real pain. So it’s really simple as you can see.”

Yep not a thing could go wrong with this. I made it as far as light the match. The next 3 to 4 minutes are forever lost to memory. I must admit though when I came to the whole campsite was indeed illuminated.

Finally we arrived in the Shenandoah Valley. This area truly is one of God’s great creations. After touring Monticello we headed our little car up the Shenandoah Skyline Parkway. Our destination was a campground on the highest point in Virginny. This had been our first attempt to budget for a vacation and we were down to sixty seven dollars and thirteen cents. The way we had it figured after paying for a campsite and a tank of gas to get us home that would leave around twenty bucks for the next three meals. We stopped at a little store and bought bread and lunchmeat and a 2 liter coke. It is well known among people that have lived in a college dorm that one can subsist for weeks on a loaf of bread, a pack of lunchmeat, and a 2 liter coke.

As we approached the campground late at night, a huge summer thunderstorm blew into the area. This was quite disconcerting as we were driving along windy mountain roads. About every three seconds a lighting strike would light up the whole ridge well enough for us to read the signs warning of bear activity in the area. “Don’t feed the bears,” read one. “Handle trash with care this is bear country” read another. By the time we pulled up to the ranger station the lightning had ended but rain was coming down in buckets. There was a handwritten note on the ranger station door telling campers to go in and set up on the honor system. We could pay tomorrow.

Interestingly, we had no problem finding an empty campsite, go figure. I got out of the car with the tent, while my wife stayed in the car and gathered the food from the cooler in the back seat. I managed to get the tent up in spite of the elements and dashed back to the car to fetch my young bride. I held an umbrella over her as she clutched the sandwich fixins under her raincoat. We giggled at our silly old luck and kissed as we dashed merrily through the puddles. Our glee lasted about two minutes. As we got into the tent I turned on a small battery powered lamp. I also had my prized 3 cell aluminum flashlight.

Tracy began spreading mustard on bread when suddenly a claw scrapped down the side of the tent.  Then we could clearly see the outline of a snout and ears as something pressed its face against the tent fabric. The impact from the snout knocked our little lamp over on its side. This caused the tent to go dark adding to our terror. Like Luke reaching for his light saber, I immediately reached out for my Mag Lite. Up till now my wife still sat in stunned silence, a slice of bread in one hand and a plastic butter knife in the other.

I knew I must spring into action to protect my bride and unborn child. The first order of business was to soothe my wife’s fears. With this in mind I said something like, “Oh my gosh honey you’d better get back we are being attacked by a rouge bear!!” This did not result in the calming influence I had hoped for. In fact it did just the opposite. My wife moved with lightning speed to the exact geographic center of the tent where she proceeded to sob uncontrollably. Oddly she continued to cling to the bread and plastic knife. I could only conclude that she intended these as some sort of last line of defense. Perhaps she would decoy the brute with the bread while she smothered him in mayonnaise.

But there was no time to evaluate her strategy now. As I tried to decide what to do the vicious beast clawed the side of the tent again. The only weapon I had was the aluminum flashlight. I actually took a moment to think out loud. As if my wife and I had formed an impromptu strategic planning committee.

“Let’s see,” I said. “We are in Virginia so it must be a black bear.” “There wouldn’t be any grizzly bears this far east would there honey?”

All I got from Tracy at this point was louder crying only now mixed with screams.

“Well if it’s a black bear there is a chance it won’t kill us.”

It wasn’t that I was that calm mind you. I guess this little conversation was just my form of hysteria. I decided I had a chance to put up a fight and scare the bear off. As I came to this conclusion the bear again stuck his head into the tent fabric. Now he was sniffing loudly at the sandwich stuff. I raised the flashlight and took an unsure half hearted swing at his massive skull. It dinged him but not that hard. I heard him grunt as he pulled his head away.  A very long ten seconds went by. I hoped the bear had left. My wife, who now had her head between her knees and covered by her arms, began to pray. She was spewing a stream of words at the good Lord like an auctioneer at a cattle sale. But suddenly the outline of the bear’s head came back. This time the brute seemed to be pressing his ravenous jaws farther in toward the food and us.

I knew I had to quit pussyfooting around. I got up on my knees, held the flashlight high over my head and came down with all the force I could muster. TIIINNNGGGG!! The flashlight rang out! The bear grunted again only this time louder. Seconds went by then minutes. Finally I came up with the courage to unzip the tent door. As I prepared to peak out, images of a massive paw slamming me in the back of the head filled my mind. Instead of sticking my head out I shined the flashlight out and held my eye up to the partially opened zipper. That is when I got the first blood chilling look at my nemesis. There, staggering away from our tent, was a big, fat,….raccoon. He stopped as he was about to enter the woods and looked back over his shoulder at me. It was as if he was saying, “Geez all I wanted was a lousy piece of bread.” With this he turned and staggered into the darkness.

I immediately found this funny. Tracy on the other hand, refused to even crack a smile at my witty comments regarding the entire incident. In fact it was some time before I could get her to stop hugging herself and rocking long enough to make my sandwich.