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!

“American Story” Book Review

“American Story” Book Review

Although my thirst for books is fairly unquenchable, the years have seen a definite alteration in the format.  What began in infancy as strictly a page-turning habit (Thank You, Mother and Daddy!) graduated later to CDs and then Kindle versions and now even audio files that fit easily onto my cell phone and read to me from the comfort of my shirt pocket as I wash dishes in the kitchen, or (more likely) crochet an afghan while in my rocking chair.  My book addiction can be fed at practically any place or time now.  And since we’re coming up on Thanksgiving, I’ll mention again how absolutely grateful I am for public libraries!

One of the most recent audiobooks I checked out was by a TV journalist named Bob Dotson.  Titled American Story:  A Lifetime Search For Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things.   There weren’t many plot twists or big mysteries, but this book was fascinating.  Mr. Dotson–a native of Missouri, and a graduate of KU–has made a career of traveling around and interviewing folks, then broadcasting their true tales on his TV segments on NBC.  Being a bigger reader than I am a TV watcher, I haven’t seen those shows, but now I kinda wish I had.  This guy can really tell a story, and he can condense down the essence of a person as well as Campbell’s does soup.  Bob doesn’t bother with the sensationalist, expose type garbage that seems to clog the airtime of so many features.  Instead, he chooses to shine his spotlight on Real Folks.  Decent, quiet-living people who just happen to be special in some way.

This book is a collection of many of those stories, written from a selection of those interviews he conducted over the years.  My library offered the audiobook as an MP3 file, and it was read by Bob Dotson himself, meaning his own particular inflections and impressions come through all the truer.  And while there are many books I like, this is one I feel comfortable recommending to almost everyone.  It will give you a warm fuzzy feeling, and a renewed faith in people, or as Bob himself put it:  “A geography of hope.”

Well done, Bob Dotson.  Well done.

A Rose By Any Other Name . . .

A Rose By Any Other Name . . .

Domicile maintenance can be a stressful thing.  If you own a home, it seems like there’s always something in or on it that needs fixing.  If you rent, it’s irritating to have to call the landlord or property manager and then wait on their scheduled repairman to appear.  But if you’re almost as addicted to humor as you are to books–like me–you find funny bits wherever you can.  Maybe humor isn’t so much an addiction as it is a coping mechanism, but whatever works, right?

A few days ago I was talking to a friend on the phone, and she was lamenting the fact that the wax ring under the commode in their main floor powder room seemed to be failing.  The vinyl floor covering was showing a stain and (due to circumstances beyond their control), her dear husband had not had the opportunity to replace said ring in time to prevent the subfloor starting to go soft, which meant it was going to be a Big Hairy Deal to get corrected.  She dreaded having to go upstairs several times a day to utilize the other bathrooms in the house whilst this one was out of commission for repairs.

“You need a thunder-mug,”  I told her.

“A what?  Oh, you mean a chamber pot?”

Indeed, that was what I meant.  That got us talking about all the different names for such an object, and wondering about where the variations all originate.

Chamber pot, thunder mug, thunder jug, piss pot (not to be confused with the window to throw it out of), potty, bedpan:  all basic terms for the same thing.  And the item for which it substitutes, or sometimes the location thereof:  toilet, commode, john, head, latrine, outhouse, facilities, necessary, water closet, and powder room.  Why so many?

And people don’t just die.  They pass away, or pass over, or cross over, depart, expire, croak, go to their reward or “are at peace” (actually, I kind of like that one).  I once knew a co-worker who stated that one day his old auntie just “woke up dead.”

My grandma Helen was a great one for euphemisms.  People who were legally dissolving a marriage weren’t divorcing, they were “splitting the sheets” or “living separately now.”  When her eldest daughter (my mother) was expecting her first baby, she was “in a family way”, and Grandma asked her “When does the doctor say you’re going to be sick?”  Mother is not one for extreme bluntness, but neither does she beat around the bush.  “I’m not going to be sick,” she stated, “I’m going to have a baby!”  whereupon Grandma blushed as if she hadn’t given birth four times herself.

And when it comes to sickness, there’s another list:  puny, indisposed, under the weather, ill, caught a bug, got the Creepin’ Crud, the Drizzlin’ Shagnasties, the Backyard Trots, ralphing, woofing cookies, puking, Praying to the Porcelain God, commode-hugging . . . oh boy.  This list just keeps degenerating!

Well, if you haven’t laughed by now, you’re probably not going to, at least not due to my efforts today.  If you can, though, find something in your day to laugh about.  It truly is the Best Medicine.

photo credit:  Kate LeMasters; used with permission