“The Owl Critic”

“The Owl Critic”

Several years ago, two barn owls set up housekeeping in the hayloft of the old barn at my place. From seven eggs, the pair hatched four owlets, but they weren’t safe. The nest had been made on the top of a stack of square hay bales in a corner, but a crafty raccoon or possum must have found them, as one day the little ones had simply vanished. I was sick about that, and asked my friend Mike Mothersbaugh to build a nesting box for the owls, and mount it high up on the north wall of the loft, where no nasty varmints could get to it. Following a design from the conservation department’s website, he completed the job as requested, and every once in a while I climb the stairs in the barn to check for signs of occupants. Finally, this summer. . . success!

While it was fascinating to watch the progress of the little white fuzz-heads with the big dark eyes, I tried to keep my visits to a minimum so as not to disturb the family. Each time, though, I would speak softly to the owls, telling them how honored I was that they’d chosen my barn as their home, and how perfectly beautiful they are. Some days they would listen to me, tilting their heads to one side or the other from a perch far above my head, doing a little bob-n-weave move to bring me into better focus. Soon there were at least two fledglings–maybe three–out and about with the parents, learning to fly in the hayloft and later moving outside at twilight for hunting lessons. I learned about the various sounds they make, and what they eat (lots of mice and voles!) and examined the odd-looking pellets they cough up after they’ve digested all the nutrients from their prey. Captivating and shy, these barn owls have me enthralled. Maybe it’s because of a favorite poem that my sister and I memorized as children. I hope you’ll like it too . . . it’s a Hoot!

The Owl-Critic                                               

by James Thomas Fields (1817-1881)

“Who stuffed that white owl?”

No one spoke in the shop,
The barber was busy, and he couldn’t stop;
The customers, waiting their turns, were all reading
The “Daily,” the “Herald,” the “Post,” little heeding
The young man who blurted out such a blunt question;
Not one raised a head, or even made a suggestion;
And the barber kept on shaving.

“Don’t you see, Mr. Brown,”
Cried the youth, with a frown,
“How wrong the whole thing is,
How preposterous each wing is,
How flattened the head is, how jammed down the neck is —
In short, the whole owl, what an ignorant wreck ’tis!
I make no apology;
I’ve learned owl-eology.

I’ve passed days and nights in a hundred collections,
And cannot be blinded to any deflections
Arising from unskillful fingers that fail
To stuff a bird right, from his beak to his tail.
Mister Brown! Mr. Brown!
Do take that bird down,
Or you’ll soon be the laughingstock all over town!”
And the barber kept on shaving.

“I’ve studied owls,
And other night-fowls,
And I tell you
What I know to be true;
An owl cannot roost
With his limbs so unloosed;
No owl in this world
Ever had his claws curled,
Ever had his legs slanted,
Ever had his bill canted,
Ever had his neck screwed
Into that attitude.
He cant do it, because
‘Tis against all bird-laws.

Anatomy teaches,
Ornithology preaches,
An owl has a toe
That can’t turn out so!
I’ve made the white owl my study for years,
And to see such a job almost moves me to tears!
Mr. Brown, I’m amazed
You should be so gone crazed
As to put up a bird
In that posture absurd!
To look at that owl really brings on a dizziness;
The man who stuffed him don’t half know his business!”
And the barber kept shaving.

“Examine those eyes
I’m filled with surprise
Taxidermists should pass
Off on you such poor glass;
So unnatural they seem
They’d make Audubon scream,
And John Burroughs laugh
To encounter such chaff.
Do take that bird down;
Have him stuffed again, Brown!”
And the barber kept on shaving!

“With some sawdust and bark
I could stuff in the dark
An owl better than that.
I could make an old hat
Look more like an owl
Than that horrid fowl,
Stuck up there so stiff like a side of coarse leather.
In fact, about him there’s not one natural feather.”

Just then, with a wink and a sly normal lurch,
The owl, very gravely, got down from his perch,
Walked around, and regarded his fault-finding critic
(Who thought he was stuffed) with a glance analytic,
And then fairly hooted, as if he should say:
“Your learning’s at fault this time, anyway:
Don’t waste it again on a live bird, I pray.
I’m an owl; you’re another. Sir Critic, good day!”
And the barber kept on shaving.

Old-Fashioned Fun

Old-Fashioned Fun

My esteemed brother-in-law David H. had warned me:  “The iPhone will change your world. One day you will think back on life before iPhone and life after iPhone, and see what an enormous difference it makes. I think you’ll really like it!” And he was right; I do really like it. But lately I find myself succumbing to what so many of us have–a life with my attention on a screen of one sort or another for way too many hours of the day.

As a small fish in an ocean of cousins, I enjoyed the games at family reunions and ice cream socials. Hide and seek when we were younger, then “Flags” when we had grown a bit. “Flags” consisted of the kids dividing off into two groups, each one of which had a different colored shop rag from the barn or garage. The groups were each to hide their flags in the best spot they could find within fifteen minutes, and then each team scurried around trying to locate and take the flag of the other. It doesn’t seem like there were any rules or restrictions, just lots of running around in the twilight at my Aunt Kate & Uncle Dick’s farm. We had a blast!

Earlier this summer when I picked up my two youngest granddaughters to come visit overnight, we had time that Saturday morning to pause along the side of the gravel road between my place and theirs, looking at the various wildflowers and naming those that we could. We took photos of those we didn’t yet know, then used the conservation website later to figure out what they were. I also showed them a fun thing that my own Grandma Helen May had taught me when I was about the same age; instilling colors into Queen Anne’s Lace. We picked four specimens of the white blossoms, placed each one in a separate glass filled about three inches high with water, then the girls carefully added three drops of different food colorings to the water. We set the timer for half an hour. The results were less than spectacular, so they added three more drops and the timer was set for an hour. By then we were able to discern some color wicking up through the stems and into the flowers. And by the next morning, there were more definite results. Within the next week I saw larger, more open blooms of this weed along the ditches, and wondered if our scientific experiment might have worked better with those. Next time!

Since both of our grandmothers practiced the art of home canning, mason jars were always available. Another summer game was that of seeing which one of us kids could collect a jar full of what we called “locust” shells. I believe now the prehistoric-looking dried exoskeletons are actually from cicadas, but back then, we didn’t know the difference, nor did we care. They were fragile and hollow, and the brownish-gray color blended well with the trees onto which they were usually clinging. Yesterday as I was heading back into the house I found this one latched onto a rail outside my door. It brought back fond memories of hunting around outside with my siblings, gathering prickly cast-off bug shapes that were likely to end up tossed out our Grandma’s back door when the jar was needed. And it made me smile. We had some good old-fashioned fun, didn’t we?

What was your favorite outdoor activity in the dog days of summer, and do you still do it? Have you passed it along to a niece or nephew, a neighbor or your next generation? Leave a comment and tell me about it!

 

A Memory From High School Days

A Memory From High School Days

The following is a guest post from my dad, Howard Weilmuenster. He was a member of the last class to graduate from the high school at Middletown, Missouri; the following year the high school was closed, and the Middletown students in these grades were bussed eight miles away to Wellsville.


A Memory from High-School Days

 It was, to the best of my recollection, in the fall of 1944. World-War 2 was in full force, and we didn’t know when the end would come. The Middletown school was a 3-story stucco-covered building. The grade-school was the lower-level, then two floors of high-school, and above that, the attic – used for storage, with flooring on perhaps half of it. No air-conditioning in those days, some windows were left partly open, when the temperature was pleasant outside.

 One day, we were in class, and soon we could hear a strange sound, a sound that was completely different to anything we were used to. A humming sound, that kept getting louder and louder, and soon we were looking at each other with quizzical looks. One of us went to a window, and there were already a couple kids and a teacher outside, looking up. Within two minutes or so, the building was emptied, and everyone was looking up at the sky.

 Then, they came into view – American Bombers, a huge formation, coming from the west, heading east, (years later, I learned that they stopped in St. Louis for refueling). No one could count them; it seemed they blotted out the sky. Thinking back on it, I would estimate there were more than 100, perhaps even as many as 125… or more! The noise was so loud, many of the kids had their hands over their ears. It seemed that every window in the building was rattling; we learned later that a few of them cracked.

 And then, we heard a much louder sound – one of the bombers had dropped out of the formation, and ‘buzzed’ the high-school. It was so low that we could see some of the personnel waving from the gun-turrets.

 It was an experience that would be very hard to forget, I would say — as I think back on it now, 72 years later.

 Epilogue:  I phoned Willard Leverett in Middletown last week, and he had something to add. The pilot of the low-flying bomber was W. H. Steele (a first cousin to Gloria, Willard’s wife), and very shortly before he reached the high-school — he had just buzzed his parents’ farm out west of town. He got just a bit too low, and clipped a few branches from the tops of a couple trees. When the planes arrived in St. Louis, they had to pull a branch off the wing – where it was still hanging.

A few men, neighbors of Henry and Ruby Steele, got together (perhaps the day after the incident) and, with tree saws and axes, they cut more branches off the tops of several other trees, north and south of the damaged tree(s), so that the damage, now more wide-spread, could not possibly be blamed on one airplane–just in case there would be an investigation that might cause trouble for a hometown pilot. 

 —Howard Weilmuenster

More Than One Type of Red Bird

More Than One Type of Red Bird

Cardinals are such beautiful birds, and we see a lot of them here in Missouri, throughout the entire year. And while I adore seeing them at the feeders that hang over my front porch, there are other red–or at least partially red–birds that are just as fun to watch. Their plumage might not be quite as spectacularly scarlet as the ever-popular cardinal, but let’s take a look, all the same.

The photo featured above was taken yesterday near the bank of a cove on the Lake of the Ozarks. The picture isn’t crystal-clear, but I was sitting inside a screened-in porch when it was snapped. My cousin had recently filled the feeder outside, and we saw the ubiquitous sparrows, cardinals, goldfinches, a tufted titmouse, a nuthatch, and this purple finch. Why it’s called a “purple” finch when the parts that aren’t brown are so obviously red is beyond me! But it was a cute little thing, and seemed determined to get its fair share from the buffet. I don’t see these birds often at home; maybe I need to invest in another kind of birdseed to attract them.

One of the types that does show up here, however, is this Red-Bellied Woodpecker:

Frequently seen carrying his prizes back to the nearby cottonwood tree on my front lawn to hoard for later consumption, this bird is very vocal, and no longer allows my presence nearby to disturb his enjoyment of a meal. From inside the window or the storm door, I can stand within 10 feet of him, but if I’m outside on the porch, I sit about 18 feet away. Again, it’s a mystery as to why the name of the bird focuses on the belly portion (which has barely a dusting of red) rather than the top of the head and the back of the neck. Granted, he’s maybe not quite as striking in appearance as a Red-Headed Woodpecker, but he bigger than a Cardinal, and rather comical in his behavior. Until recently, I was unaware that they typically have two of their four toes pointing forward, and the other two backward, which better enables them to maintain a vertical stance while clinging to tree bark. Maybe that’s why he always perches on the feeder like this, with his tail tucked underneath for balance? I also learned that the repeated tapping they perform on trees is called “drumming”, and that they use it to help them find insects inside the bark, sort of like the way we might thump on a wall with a fingertip, our heads cocked to one side, listening for the difference in sound when trying to locate a wall stud before hanging a picture. A woodpecker might also drum to announce his territory to others, or a pair of them will sometimes use this method to communicate with each other. The smaller Downy Woodpeckers around here seem to favor the suet block, but this guy is an expert at picking out the peanuts from the feeder tray. Birds are such fascinating creatures!

What’s your favorite bird to watch? Is there anything new showing up at your feeder this year? Leave a comment, and enjoy the show!

Gimme a Sign

Gimme a Sign

During college I worked part-time at the university library, mostly at the circulation desk and the adjacent reserved reference book counter. It was probably the least amount of stress I would ever experience at a job, and it helped me meet some interesting people. One young lady was very bright, but had limited verbal skills because of her deafness. One day I saw her at one of the upstairs library tables, surrounded by books and documents. When asked if she was working on a research paper, she replied that she was studying for a big test. Drawing on my limited knowledge of American Sign Language, I gestured to the materials before her, then touched the tip of my index finger to my right temple while asking “Do you know it?” Her face lit up and she smiled broadly, recognizing my attempt to communicate in the way that she knew best: a combination of lip-reading and signing. While I was sad to have to explain that I actually knew very little sign language, the mere fact that I had tried seemed to mean the world to her, and any time thereafter when I was working and she exited or entered, she always threw a smile and a wave my way.

A couple of weeks ago my dad and I were looking through old photographs he’d scanned into his computer, including the one featured in this post. Mr. Owen Parkey lived on a farm near the small town where my parents grew up. With a 1940 population of 243, the number of people in town on Saturdays was substantially higher as the farm families all rolled in to do their weekly shopping, trading, and visiting. The feed store, the meat locker, the barber shop, the hardware, the grocery, and both taverns were abuzz with conversation. For Owen Parkey, however, there were usually only two guys in town with whom he could “talk”:  the men who would become my dad and my grandpa. Owen and his sister were both born deaf, and had gone to a special school to learn sign language. At the shops, he would present his list for purchases, written in perfect penmanship. But in Charlie May’s radio and TV shop, he could pass a bit of his perpetually quiet time in animated conversation, hands and fingers flying through the rapid movements that made up the letters, words and phrases that he knew. As my future father began hanging out more and more with his future father-in-law, he quickly picked up on signing, and joined the party. Decades later, he still smiles at the memory of the those pleasant encounters, and recalls Mr. Parkey as one of the nicest guys he ever knew.

The story reminded me of a video I’d seen recently, and with a quick YouTube search, I was able to play it for Daddy. Here’s the link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otUJzNtRPhw, and it’s called The Most Emotional Surprise of the Year. (Warning, have your hanky handy!) It made me cry. It made me grateful that I can hear. It made me appreciate the efforts of my Grandpa Charlie, and of my dad.  It made me want to learn sign language. It made me want to be a better person; to be more understanding and accommodating to folks less fortunate. It made me feel. And it made me wish I could hug Mr. Parkey.

photo credit Howard Weilmuenster

Remembrance

Remembrance

Last weekend was a busy culmination to a week that had been jam-packed with activity. It was great to be able to attend two of my grandson’s junior-high basketball games, ride my little gelding Tanner twice, see a late movie on opening night with my friends the Neufelds, (John Wick Chapter 2!), and then participate in an excellent fund-raising event for a cousin who is battling cancer on Saturday. To top that off, two of my cousins who were helping to spearhead the event opened their home to me–and another set of cousins–afterward, so we didn’t have to drive home in the middle of the night. The dinner, featuring BBQ pork, beef brisket, veggies, homemade rolls, and a wide assortment of desserts, was fantastic. The raffles and auctions were exciting and productive. The turnout by the folks in their small-town community of Wellsville, Missouri,  was truly amazing. People dug deep and gave from their hearts, and it was such an inspiration.

Somehow, the five of us managed to tumble out of our beds before 8am on Sunday; no small feat, considering at least two of us were up until almost 4am, chatting and unwinding from all the excitement! And when all four cousins agreed to join me for my side trip to the cemetery in Middletown where so many of our kinfolk have been laid to rest, I was grateful. It’s not that I’m opposed to going there alone, but somehow, it took a bit of the sting out of the grief of putting new silk flowers at my mother’s grave, having Desiree and Paul, Jeff and Linda at my side. Then we meandered around the place, paying our respects at as many of the headstones of our family members as we could find, and admiring the art forms exhibited on many of the markers.

This one, for instance, at the edge of an older part of the cemetery, wasn’t for anyone we knew. On the front is carved “Our Children”, and the date on one side is from 1865. Many names and dates we saw served as reminders of the days when childhood mortality, and even the loss of women in childbirth. was much more prevalent than we see today. It made us feel lucky to be born when we were, and appreciative of the fact that we haven’t had to face the hardships that so many of our ancestors did.

Near the opposite border of this extensive bit of land, closer to the road, we located the grave of Charley and Carrie (or Caroline) Steele, the couple who adopted my great-grandmother Peirrie Belle when she was a nine years old. Because their parents had died young, Peirrie (pronounced Peery) and her four siblings were split up, mostly among the families of relatives. The Steeles were friends of the parents, however, and had no children of their own, and so legally adopted my great-grandmother. She was loved and provided for, and raised almost as an only child from that point, and she returned this honor by naming my grandfather (the first of her eleven children) Charlie, and her next child Selma Carolena. So you can imagine our delight in finding here, amid all the dry brown grass of mid-February, the first sign of the Springtime to come:  a beautiful cluster of purple crocus, blooming just in front of their stone. And while we might never learn who planted them there, at least we know someone remembered. Someone, at some time, took a moment to slip those little bulbs down into the soil, knowing they’d sprout up each year as a beacon of Life renewed, and a hope for the future, a promise of the big Family Reunion we all hope to attend one day.

Won’t it be grand?

Comfort Food

Comfort Food

Chocolate Galas not withstanding, sometimes we just need a little Comfort Food. While the exact types and recipes can vary from sweet to salty, savory to spice, I think it’s probably more the memory or emotion a particular food evokes that is most meaningful.

For instance, back in the Dark Ages after I attended the morning session of kindergarten (yes, it was just half days back then!), Mother would often fix a grilled cheese sandwich for my lunch. White bread, with just enough butter to brown the bread, but not enough to make it soggy, American or Velveeta cheese, all nicely toasted in a cast-iron skillet.  Mmmm! This is still one of my favorite sandwiches, especially when paired with tomato or chicken noodle soup. Not the chicken soup from a can, mind you, but the Lipton kind from the packet with the little skinny noodles. Isn’t it funny to be so picky about such a simple thing as chicken noodle soup? Stir up a beaten egg with a little salt and pepper and add enough flour to make a thick paste, then drop tiny dumplings from the tip of a teaspoon into the simmering broth . . . oh my. That’s comfort food.

Another basic meal on the list is poached eggs on toast. Last weekend, while visiting Daddy, we had this for breakfast on Sunday. I told him how I recalled this as being one of the things Mother might make for me if I had to stay home from school due to sickness. Was it the protein she thought I needed?  The comparable blandness that would go easy on my stomach? The soft texture of the damp toast and the smooth egg that wouldn’t irritate a sore throat? The answer eludes me, but the memory remains, just like the times Dad would warm up milk in a pan on the stove and drizzle in some honey, stirring until it dissolved, and serve it in steaming mugs. That, too, was comfort food.

Custard pie and homemade ice cream make me think of my Grandpa Charlie and his siblings. Chinese food reminds me of my sister and her husband, because the first time I met him (before they were even engaged!) he took us to an excellent Chinese buffet for lunch in Tulsa. Chicken mole, first prepared for me by my dear sister-in-law, has become a favorite, and I never order it without thinking of her and my brother. And how can I possibly look at barbeque beef brisket without a fond remembrance of my Uncle Stan and cousin Dan, or see smoked salmon and not call to mind cousin Greg?

So, now it’s your turn. Leave a comment, if you will, and share your favorite comfort food, and why.  Then, get comfortable!

Chocolate Gala

Chocolate Gala

Cole Camp is a small, historic Missouri town on Highway 52 with strong German roots. It boasts several good restaurants and antique shops, it’s not far from the Lake of the Ozarks, and the folks there really know how to throw a party.

Last week I saw an advertisement for the annual Chocolate Gala to be held at their American Legion Hall, with proceeds to be going toward a new Community Building.  It sounded interesting (they had me at “chocolate”), but this Sunday was going to be my one day of the week to just relax at home, maybe put my feet up and read a good book. Last night, however, I saw a post on social media from Thaney Brockman–a lovely business owner of my acquaintance who lives and works in Cole Camp–stating that tickets were still available.  A quick telephone call to one friend, a text to another, and I was able to message Thaney that she could consider three of those tickets sold.

Not knowing quite what to expect ahead of time, the gals and I were blown away.  The Hall was decorated with white, silver and blue, the banquet tables were beautifully set, the background music was festive, and the folks working the event were warm and welcoming. Excited voices hummed like a busy hive of happy bees. There were display tables of door prizes and raffle items, wine tasting tables and bottles available for purchase, cream pies with mile-high meringue for auction, and even a classy drawing of the much longed-for Community Building to remind us of the purpose of the event. And, of course, there was the food. OH, MY, there was food!

With great wisdom and forethought, a long buffet table in the middle of the room held platters of thin-sliced meats and cheeses, savory appetizers, chicken salad and crackers, along with large chilled water dispensers at each end. These items presented a perfect counterpoint to the round tables before and behind, which were loaded with dozens of various sweet treats, all featuring some form of chocolate. From truffles to brownies, pretzels to green grapes, marshmallows to mint, there was chocolate galore!  It was all so good, I’m fairly sure I foundered myself.

Throughout the event, the buzz of conversation would lower occasionally as the master of ceremonies would hold up and describe a door prize or two, and announce the winning number for the drawing. Everyone present would check their ticket and then a cheerful exclamation would erupt from one corner or another, whereupon we’d all applaud our congratulations. My friend Karen won a gift certificate from a local restaurant, and then Michelle won a big basket with several goodies in it. And me?  I basked in the glow of fun, the prize of long-term friendships, the pleasure of helping out a Big Cause in a Small Town, and the sugar rush from all that chocolate. It was an incredibly good time.

If you haven’t been to Cole Camp, and would like to check it out, a good website is here:  http://www.colecampmo.com/    Just be sure to take your appetite!

Got Ice?

Got Ice?

Along with the many advantages–to me, anyway–of living in a rural area, there are occasional drawbacks. For instance, I really miss the pizza delivery, the vast assortment of restaurant choices, and the five minute drive to a movie theatre that I experienced when living in Springfield. Those things were swapped for being able to hear an approaching vehicle from more than a mile away, not hearing a siren from the house more than a handful of times in more than twenty years, and having the luxury of being able to see the Milky Way on lots of nights. Truly, my life is blessed.

Experience has taught me, however, to be prepared for certain things. Gravel roads mean buying tires more often, so I have to budget for that. I own two freezers and have several pantry shelves, because I choose not to drive several miles into town more frequently than necessity requires doing so. And although it doesn’t happen often, an ice storm can produce a power outage with darned inconvenient consequences. An event like that had been predicted for Missouri this weekend.

News photos showed empty shelves in the grocery stores. Many schools and businesses preemptively announced Friday closures last Thursday evening. People with fireplaces made sure they had dry wood stacked inside, ready to use. Because power outages on the farm often mean no water service (well pumps won’t run without electricity!), I keep more than a dozen gallons of water on standby at all times, and late last week made sure I had extra pet food on hand, and a new bottle of propane for the grill, just in case. My daughter’s husband came by with his farm truck and moved a couple of big hay bales underneath the roof of the lean-to for the horses. The kerosene lamp on top of the china cabinet got a thorough dusting, too.

Well now it’s Sunday evening, and Mother Nature had pity on most of us, it seems. Conditions weren’t anywhere near as bad as folks had expected for a good portion of the state. For those who did get damaging ice, I can sympathize, and be truly grateful that this area was spared. As one of my favorite fictional characters, Jack Reacher, says in the book series by Lee Child: “Hope for the Best, Plan for the Worst”. That seemed like a fitting motto for the weekend. I’d much rather be prepared and reprieved than neither!

A Fowl Story

A Fowl Story

Supper at the kitchen table was tradition at my parents’ home, a meal we all ate together, and one in which we (mostly) ate what we were served. Mother was a good cook, and her constant efforts to provide us three nutritious and tasty meals each day must have been exhausting. The discussions around that table could be interesting, educational, and often amusing. Daddy regularly kept us entertained with jokes and poems and stories of all kinds, but the one I’m thinking of this week actually came from one of my siblings. Here’s hoping one of them will chime in with a comment below and take the credit they deserve! The story goes like this:

Once Upon a Time, there was a state-owned zoo that was famous for its dolphins. The dolphins looked like the dolphins from any other zoo, and they acted the same, and learned the same tricks from their trainers. The special thing about this particular school of finned wonders was that the same set of dolphins had been there as long as anyone could remember, since the zoo had first opened a very long time ago, and none of them died. People began to say they were Immortal!

Well, obviously, this created some interest from the scientific community, and a team of marine biologists were sent in to make a study. The only difference they could pinpoint about the porpoises, was that they ate primarily a certain type of young seagull at specific feeding times each day, and that this habit had never varied in all the years of record. The scientists told the zoo officials at the state house that as far as they could tell, as long as the dolphins received their regular diet on time, every time, they showed every sign of being able to live forever.

Late one Sunday, however, as their devoted keeper approached the arched stone bridge leading across to the porpoise pool with the cages containing their evening meal, he encountered a dilemma. The zoo’s prized male lion had escaped from his cage, and was stretched out, napping in the last rays of sunlight that had warmed the bridge, blocking the path. What to do?! If the keeper woke the lion, it might attack him. If the dolphins failed to receive their regular dinner on time, they might die. He had to think fast. In a flash of brilliance, he recalled that the seagulls loved to eat little fish.  The keeper grabbed a bucket of shad, tossed them gently but quickly into a trail leading up to and over the sleeping lion and on over the bridge to the pool. Then he released the seagulls, who followed the trail of fish over ol’ Leo and into the waiting reach of the dolphins. All was saved!

The next day, however, as word got out about this episode, the police came and arrested the zookeeper.

The charge?

“Enticing Young Gulls Across a State Lion for Immortal Porpoises”.

(yes, I hear you groaning . . .)

And while it might be the longest set-up for a pun I’ve ever heard, keep in mind, I still remember it, more than 40 years later. Surely that’s worth something!

Got a favorite pun? Leave a comment, and Happy New Year!