Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Beauty Tips

Ollie and Molly were identical twins. Their parents divorced; each took a baby and moved to a different state. Ollie was raised in Northwest South Dakota. Molly was brought up in Southeast North Dakota.
Molly’s schoolmates teased her about her physical characteristics and her lackluster academic performance. They called her gawky, ugly, and stupid. Molly accepted the verdict and acted accordingly.
The same nicknames were aimed at Ollie, but she did not answer to them. Her confidence came from inside. She proved to be an honest and reliable person. She became well liked and highly regarded, yet she never consciously courted popularity.
Even though the two were identical in every physical way, it was easy to tell them apart. Everything from their posture to their vocabulary gave them away. At the yearly family gatherings, it did not take more than five seconds to figure out which was which. Molly avoided Ollie because she did not feel herself a worthy companion for such a fine person as her twin. She felt clumsy and uncool in Ollie’s presence. She felt too short and too homely to hang around with her duplicate. Ollie wanted to help, but Molly would not give her a chance.
Ollie grew up, went to college, fell in love with a great guy, had a wonderful career, and a happy life.
Molly became the town drunk and did silly things like riding cows down Main Street.
Ollie had Molly checked into a rehab facility and visited her frequently. On one such visit, they were sitting in the garden. Ollie called her sister’s attention to the hummingbirds and the buzzing bees. She asked Molly, “Would those birds and bees be attracted to artificial flowers?”
“I suppose not,” Molly replied, “at least not for long.”
“Why not?”
“Well, there’s nothing in the plastic flowers that they want.”
“So,” Ollie said, “regardless of physical appearances, what attracts or repels others is what’s inside.”
Molly didn’t know what to say, but Ollie read the question in her sister’s eyes.
“Look around,” Ollie suggested. “You will see happy people in all shapes and sizes. You see happy couples representing every body type, color, and feature. You see, it’s not our physical characteristics that make us attractive or not—at least not to anyone you’d want to hang around with. What makes one person attractive and another not is the person’s attitude and values. We attract to us the friends, mates, and situations that exist at our own level. Nothing can change until we do, and I don’t mean superficial outer changes. If people would spend one tenth of the energy that they spend trying to change their outer selves—everything from weird diets to expensive surgeries—if they would spend one tenth as much energy working on their inner lives, they would see transformations that would seem like powerful magic. But it’s not magic, Sis, it’s the most natural thing in the world, once we know how the world works.”
(Originally published in The Lonesome Wizard Boys' Campfire Tales)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Having fun, Wish I Were Here

I’m homesick and I don’t know for where,
But I remember I was happy there.
It could be a wisp of mem’ry from a lifetime ago,
Or something I can’t focus on yet, further down the road—
I don’t know.
Where we came from isn’t clear.
And where do we take it from here?
Gonna head out on the highway, hit the trail, and hop the fence
To the only place I’ve ever been that made a lick of sense
To me so,

Take me back to Here and Now.
Hitch me to some holy cow.
It’ll happen, I just know it;
Dear God, please don’t let me blow it.
Put my feet back on the path to Here and Now.

I’m homespun and I don’t know from what,
But I have my suspicions what it’s not:
It cannot be felt with fingers, nothing farmers can grow,
Something stuck inside this shell we’ll have to shed before we go
To re-glow.
When we look out at the stars,
Do we remember who we are?
I feel foreign and frustrated when I cannot reach the sky,
Then things get back to normal when I dream that I can fly
And float, so,

Forward my mail to Here and Now.
What else is there anyhow?
If I don’t live another minute,
Let me be nowhere but in it.
Hey, there ain’t no place like home: Here and Now.

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. ~T. S. Eliot

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Color My Cow

Oh, you knew I was a farmer when you married me;
You said you liked hard-workin country ways.
You got goose bumps cannin peaches for the County Fair
And orgasmic satisfaction smellin hay.
When the sun came up, the birds would sing your favorite song;
The mornin breeze would whisper your name.
But since you ran off with Buck Wheeler, the John Deere tractor dealer,
Things around here just ain’t been the same.

So, you take this cow and color it brown;
She’s lost her moo; she just mopes around.
Take this pig and color it pink;
It used to be cute, but now it stinks.
The hens won’t lay, and the truck won’t start.
You made the mule cry; you broke my heart.

Our humble barnyard once was such a happy place;
The mules would hum “There’s no Place like Home.”
Now you ought to hear ‘em croon “Love Letters in the Sand,”
And “Am I Blue?” would chill you to the bone.
The beanstalk turned to vicious gossip overnight;
The once well bucket looks a little pale.
The tater crop is russeting below the ground.
Yeah, the dog’s been dirty since you hit the trail.

So, you take this cow and color it brown;
She’s lost her moo; she just mopes around.
Take this pig and color it pink;
It used to be cute, but now it stinks.
The hens won’t lay, and the truck won’t start.
You made the mule cry; you broke my heart.

We made the most of what we had and had a ball;
Lord knows the best things in life are free.
You swore an oath that you could live on love alone;
But “love alone” meant livin without me.
Hand-in-hand, we skipped and flipped and skinny-dipped;
You crusted pies; I busted up the sod.
We took a leak off Lovers’ Leap and took the plunge;
We jumped the broom, but then you hopped the clod.

So, you take this cow and color it brown;
She’s lost her moo; she just mopes around.
Take this pig and color it pink;
It used to be cute, but now it stinks.
The hens won’t lay, and the truck won’t start.
You made the mule cry; you broke my heart.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Me llamo Tiglathpileser

There are not many good reasons to leave San Michez. I’m content to spend most evenings around the campfire with Merlin Bob and Hotrod. Even so, I take a few weeks every summer to journey yonder to Burnside, Louisiana and pay a visit to Miss Lizzy. We sit on her front porch, sip mimosas, and solve the world’s problems.
I love the Mississippi River Delta. It supplies the planet with food, clothing, music, and weirdness.
One day last July, Miss Lizzy and I were watching her handyman mow the yard. He’s an artist.
Miss Lizzy was humming a tune, barely audible over the drone of the antique Toro. I recognized it and sang along: “♫ Lizzy, Lizzy bo-bizzy, banana-fana-fo-fizzy, me-my-mo-mizzy…Lizzy. ♪”
She smiled, nodded, scowled, and demanded: “What’s got into people nowadays?”
“Gads,” sez I, “pick a topic.”
“The names they give their kids! Good Lord!”
I had to admit, “I do hear some horrendous handles.”
“Parents anymore just seem to pick random syllables out of their…out of a hat. So many go for names that sound French or like cowboys. I swear, the young couple next door named their most recent offspring Davy Crockett DeTonto!”
“Davy Crockett wasn’t a cowboy.”
“Well, he died at the Alamo. That qualifies in my book.”
I said, “I’d love to read your book.”
Miss Lizzy sat up straighter and said, “The only book that matters is The Good Book.”
“The Bible?”
“Of course! What ever happened to good, solid, old-fashioned Biblical names?”
“Like Peter, Paul, and Mary.”
“Exactly!” she shouted. “Names used to mean something! These days, every Tom, Dick, and Harry is named Buffalo Cisco LeWanker!”
“I like Adam, Matthew, and Luke.”
“How ‘bout Rebecca, Ruth, Esther, Eve, and Elizabeth?”
“Well, yeah…if it’s a girl.”
“If you’re lucky, it is.”
Miss Lizzy inspired me. With your kind indulgence, I’d like to suggest some other Biblical names, along with their meanings (all references KJV):

Zebedee: In ancient Babylonia, Zebedee was the Keeper of the Doo-Dah. (Matthew 4:21)

Shethar: Sailors in Biblical times paid little attention to adverb/pronoun order, even when speaking English. Shethar came from a familiar response our nautical friends gave to the question, “Where does she blow?” (Esther 1:14)

Zadok: Even Vulcans have Biblical names. (2 Samuel 8:17)

Parnach: Another Vulcan. (Numbers 34:25)

Keturah: Hey, Klingons, too! (1 Chronicles 1:32)—check out the names of her kids.

Puah: Another Klingon. Puah was the son of Dodo. It just wasn’t very intimidating: “I am Puah, son of Dodo!” The other kids gave him a really hard time. (Judges 10:1)

Shaashgaz: What Jumpin Jack Flash was back in the day. (Esther 2:14)

Eldad: Means “father” to someone who flunked Spanish I. (Numbers 11:26)

Raamah: The King of Lama-Ding-Dong. (Genesis 10:7)

Zerubbabel: That’s someone who just drank a whole firkin of wine trying to say “Jerusalem.”  (1 Chronicles 3:19) (See also John 2:6)

Elzaphan: Same guy trying to say “elephant.” (Exodus 6:22)

Rakkon: Ancient French for “raccoon.” (Joshua 19:46)

Pekah: Official charged with keeping track of how many pickled peppers Peter Piper picked. (2 Kings 15:29)

Suppose you are blessed with triplets & suppose they’re of the male persuasion. How about

Shem, Ham, and Japheth? (After Shem retired, it was Curly, Ham, and Japheth.)

Mibzar: A cousin of the Coneheads (1 Chronicles 1:53)

Jozadak!: Something Drill Sergeants can yell in G-Rated movies. (Ezra 3:8)  

Iphedeiah Shashak!: That Drill Sergeant’s really ticked! (1 Chronicles 8:25)

Maadiah: Comedy routine in which the part of a feisty elderly woman is played by a young man. (Nehemiah 12:5)

Yes, friends and neighbors, names used to mean something, and with your help they can again.


♪ In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight…♫ (Judges 10:1)


(By the way, Nehemiah 12, the whole chapter, is jam-packed with some Jim-dandy handles.)

Out West with Doc

Doc Arnett always has something positive to say, and he says it very, very well. He likes to write and talk about the things and people for which and for whom he is grateful. I want to take a paragraph or two and let you know how much I appreciate Doc. I’ve been acquainted with him for over a decade. I know him to be a guileless guy with no hidden agendas. Doc Arnett is the Real Deal.
I remember in particular the time Doc and I attended a conference in Las Vegas. At breakfast on the first morning, I was moaning and bellyaching because I was sore and scuffed up from riding the mechanical bull in the hotel bar. I explained that I had no choice about riding the mechanical bull because I was the only person present from the Lone Star State and it was my patriotic duty to show them how it’s done.
I’ll never forget what Doc told me. He said, “Tom, they don’t have a mechanical bull in the bar.” He went on to further inform me that we were at a conference in Los Angeles, not Las Vegas.
Coming from anyone else, I would have interpreted this as impertinence or base sarcasm.
“Okay,” sez I, “If we’re not in Las Vegas, what’s that machine I’ve been poking all those quarters in?”
Doc said, “Hmmm…” His eyes looked up and to the right. (See, that’s why he has a Ph.D. while I only have a Certificate of Attendance: He thinks before he speaks.) “Was your bed by any chance vibrating all night?”
“Sure, but I just thought it was an earthquake or something.”
Doc, ever the gentleman, did not press me for what I meant by “or something.”
After the conference, when checking out of the hotel, I saw a man and a woman carrying battered and obviously heavy bags. The suitcases had, no doubt, rolled at one time—one of them still had part of a wheel, bent at an odd angle, hanging from it.
I understood. These conferences are often held at hotels we could not afford if we had to pay for it from our own pockets. Not all of us can afford fancy clothes or portmanteaus. It is not at all uncommon to be standing behind someone at the ATM who must first check his or her balance before withdrawing five bucks to tip the doorman. Some even try to make excuses, pretending they like those cattle-class flights that arrive at midnight because you get to rub elbows—and knees and shoulders—with real people or that they prefer the taste of their own canned chili to that of a $12.00 room service hotdog.
I was not exactly eavesdropping, but I did hear the man with the tatty bags explaining to a colleague: “Our room wasn’t quite ready when we arrived, so we had to wait in the bar. Some maniac from Texas wrecked our luggage!”
I hid behind Doc and eased on out to the bus stop.   

Friday, February 22, 2013

Whinin 'Till I Lose My Mind

I liked Conway Twitty for several reasons. For one, we come from the same hometown in Arkansas. For another, he chose his last name after a town in Texas, my adopted home state. But what I liked most about him was that he saw his songs as ways for suitors to express their feelings. If a guy wanted to say something romantic (or even a tad risqué), but could not quite find the words, all he had to do was let Conway do the talking—buy her the record, or even better, have some deejay dedicate it to her.

That’s something else CT and I have in common. I too speak for a group that has something to say, but has the devil’s own time trying to articulate it. Conway spoke for the lovers; the Lorax speaks for the trees; but these, these bellyaching blamers have come to rely on me as their spokes-moaner.

You know the ones: they have it all figured out in their heads that their sorry situation cannot possibly be due to anything that they have done or left undone. They try to pin their pathetic plight on the politicians, big business, the fates, the flukes, the flakes, or the phantom. But they can’t quite string the words together in any coherent fashion. These folks stand ready, willing, and able to throw their hands up in resignation and have another beer.

My mission is to help these people give voice to their frustrations, so I have offered my services, free of charge, to write a country song especially for them. Now when a fellow is feelin frustrated and needs to lament his lack of character, all he has to do—if you’ll loan him a quarter—is press a few buttons on the jukebox. And it comes out somethin like this here (reach on down to about the key of C sharp, boys): 2-3-4

Honey, have I told you lately
How horribly I’ve been screwed?
Everyone I run into
Is low-down, mean, and rude.
I cain’t get a break to save
My worthless, rotten life.
That’s how come I lost my job,
My address, and my wife.

When I was only five years old,
I fell and skinned my knee.
But the government won’t let me
Draw my disability.
All my luck and bright ideas
Came to a screechin halt;
I’m just amazed how it’s always
Somebody else’s fault. 

Whinin ‘till I lose my mind,
Complainin just to keep from cryin,
Draggin my sad behind
Across the credibility line.
Belly full of cheap moonshine,
Misery’s my Valentine.
Honey, that’s the reason I’m
Whinin ‘till I lose my mind.

Everybody else has got a
Big, new house and car;
They prob’ly lied and cheated
To git to where they are.
They’re all out to gitcha,
It’s a gross conspiracy.
If you don’t won’t to miss the boat,
You’d best listen to me.

Everybody hates me,
That’s why I cain’t git ahead.
I’ve been singled out to lose;
They all wish I was dead.
All that I can think about
Is gittin my revenge.
I’ll teach them fools a lesson:
I’ll go on a drunken binge.

Whinin ‘till I lose my mind,
Complain just to keep from cryin,
Draggin my sad behind
Across the credibility line.
I’ll keep drinkin ‘till I’m blind.
Fodder for the daily grind.
How can life be so unkind?
Whinin ‘till I lose my mind.

Them educated idjits
Think that they is such big shots.
I may not have nothin,
But I worked for what I got.
You’d understand real good
If you’d of had the life I had.
You’ve heard of poor but honest?
Well, one out of two ain’t bad.

I cain’t concentrate good
‘Cause I worry about stuff.
When’s the gittin gonna git good?
I cain’t git enough.
Got collectors and the IRS
And lawyers after me,
And lots of them diseases
Like they show on the TV.

(Poor me, I’m)

Whinin ‘till I lose my mind
Complainin just to keep from cryin
Draggin my sad behind
Across the credibility line.
So mistreated and maligned!
Dwellin where the sun don’t shine.
Wish I could afford strychnine.
Whinin ‘till I lose my mind.

(Yodel the big finish):

Whi-EE-inin ‘till I loo-OO-ose my mi-Hind.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Big Fun on the Bio

What is a lifetime? Well, it was as long as she could remember; the actual numbers don’t really matter; it’s all relative. It was a long time to her...all her life. What mattered was that it was time to move on to the next stage of...what? What’s it going to be like over there? Obviously, she didn’t know anyone who knew. No one had ever gone there and come back to give her any news or any clues. All she had to cling to was the conviction—okay, more of a wish than a conviction—that Mother Nature knows what she’s doing.
It was definitely time to move on, no doubt. All the signs were lining up. She wondered if her experiences amounted to anything. It seemed as if it was just one day following another, each one filled with pretty much the same activities. Now and then some novelty came along and she enjoyed it, but did it mean anything? The changes were gradual, and then one day she noticed that she was drastically different and that she was older…and that it was time to go. Could she have learned more if she’d tried? Could she have perhaps interpreted things differently and grown more as a person? Pointless questions at this stage of the game.
She tried to keep her thoughts positive but they kept ricocheting off a wall of trepidation. Okay, I’m ready. This is a logical and necessary next step. There’s nothing to fret about. No! Wait! I’m not ready! Changed my mind. Don’t want to go. Not yet.
She was reluctant to leave her familiar surroundings. She was safe. She never went hungry. Her little home was sometimes cramped and uncomfortable; sometimes the plumbing made weird noises, but so what? It was home. For all she knew, the next place would be even better, but that was the problem: She didn’t know for sure. 
She was assisted by a salubrious seraph (“Call me Sally”). She didn’t recall Sally ever being a stranger, didn’t remember their first meeting. It was like Sally had somehow always been there. Sally professed great confidence in Mother Nature, but Sally was sort of silly sometimes, too relaxed, didn’t take things seriously enough. Even so, you’d think that having a really cool magical helper would ease, if not erase, the anxiety. We can get used to anything, can’t we? Never underestimate a human’s capacity to take anything for granted.
She’d outgrown this place. It was time. She felt herself traveling down a tunnel. Sally called out, “Go to the light, Little One!”
Like I have a choice!
Damn, that was a bright light!
She heard Sally calling after her: “In about eight decades we’ll have this conversation again. Meanwhile, I’ll be standing by. Holler if you need anything!”
Do what? Oh, right...sure will.
Then she heard another voice, a strange and loud voice: “It’s a girl!”
I’m no longer there, but I’m still here.

This is one of The Lonesome Wizard Boys’ Campfire Tales. You can find the others here

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Just Say Gnaw

Listening to NPR yesterday morning, I heard a story about farmers in Colorado considering hemp as a cash crop. 

One of the comments in the story got my attention:

“…hemp can be used to make just about anything: rope, paper, plastic, clothing, shoe polish, car parts and even dog chew toys…”

Some possible product names for the dog chew toys:

Malamute Munchies

Mutt Stash

Lassie Grassy

Bowser Wowser

Kibbles ‘n Blitz

Scooby Doobies

McGruff Stuff (help take a bite…)

Old Meller Yeller

Coo-Coo Cur Chew (Iams the walrus)


Pongo Bongo

Buzz MacKenzie

Wal-Mart will want to get in on it: Ol’ Roy Oh Boy!

Bullet Bites

Chuckleberry Hound

Snoopy Whoopee

This one already exists: Jolly Joints (From our friends at Blue Buffalo).

Clifford’s Big Red Eyes.

Something to please even the finickiest Fido—you know how picky they are about what goes in their mouths. Your dog will dig ‘em.

“And Toto, too?” Yes, Toto, too!

Now, to sing us on outta here, Perry Como with "Hot Diggity (Dog Ziggity Boom)."

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Señor Coffee

In the words of the old blues song—sing with me!—“I woke up this mawnin!”
But it took a while. I’m never fully awake until about midway through the second cup of coffee. The water and the grounds are set ready the night before. That way, all that needs to be done next morning is flip the switch and find a way to distract myself for a few minutes until the brew is through.
We’re never really ready, are we? Things are going along right on schedule, day in and day out, and then the rug is yanked.
This morning, after a reasonable interval, I moseyed back into the kitchen and found the coffee maker gasping and sputtering. There was but about an eighth of an inch of murky water in the pot. I closed my eyes and visualized Juan Valdez, patron saint of the caffeinated. Señor Valdez shook his head, lowered his lids, and led his donkey toward the horizon.
Mr. Coffee did not go gentle into that good—to the last drop—night.
KWICHHH…SCHNAAA! Mother of mercy…Is this the end of Rico?
VZSCKIZZ…BWIP! Oh happy dagger! This is thy sheath; there rust, and let me die.
WTFAKA-FAKA-FWEEEEW! Don’t touch that water! Ohhh! You cursed brat! Look what you’ve done! I’m melting! Melting! Oh, what a world!
HAJAH-HOO-FNEZZ-BISSH! I have been…and always will be…your friend. Live long…and prosper.
SKANITFF-BSHIZZ! Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees.
WHOCK-MFFFF-KWA! Either that wallpaper goes or I do.
This could take a while. Not to be insensitive or anything, but I could sure use a cup of coffee.
HGGGSHHHH…NKIP…PKAHHHH! ♫ Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do. I’m half crazy…♪
Sanka Maria, Madre Mia, Mrs. Olsen.
Okay, what are the options? I could maybe afford a small cup from the convenience store. The credit card’s not quite maxed out, but there’s still the electric bill to take care of. Campfire coffee! Just boil a pan of water, dump in the grounds, and let them settle. Wait! There’s that one-cup coffee maker they gave us when we opened the checking account back in ‘87. Never saw much use in a one-cup-at-a-time… Please tell me we didn’t donate it to the ecumenical garbage garage sale. Where is that thing?
That thing was still in the box, way in the back, behind the doo-dad collection. Whew!
Instructions? Nah, how complicated could it be? Toss those. Wash it? How dirty could it be? Forget that.
I set the one-cup thing on the counter, loaded it, and plugged it in.
HVNUZZZ-KWUCK-FOOOSHHH! Say hello to my little friend. 
In times like these, we must ask ourselves some hard questions: Do I really need to take a shower before going to Wal-Mart?

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Place Where Something Once Was

It seems like when I’m all alone I’m with nobody else.

It’s as if there’s no one else around except myself.

Like now, for instance, look around and I nobody see.

Is there a lack of company or is it just me?

It reminds me of the place where something once was,

A place that used to stand right there, but now nothing does.

All the things that happened there were local events,

Then the place was gone, and so they haven’t happened since.

Oh, the place where something once was.

“Was it stolen?” No, don’t call the fuzz.

“Why is it gone?” Simply becuz

It’s the place where something once was.

Some say the future and the past don’t really exist;

“It’s always right now,” so the sages insist.

It’s as true this instant as it was yesterday,

And I bet tomorrow it will still be that way.

You know, perhaps what once was hereabouts

Was fictitious, but I really have my doubts.

I always eschew the absolutes.

Could it be that faux and for real are in cahoots?

I know a place where something was here.

Now it’s not, it’s not even near.

“Is it invisible?” So it would appear.

It’s a place where something was here.

They don’t make ‘em like they used to—Lord knows they never did.

It may not be a lost art, but it’s certainly well hid.

It can’t be replicated—go Google it and see;

There must not be a recipe for creativity.


Infinity, by definition, has to run both ways ∞

So I suppose, it will be back one of these days.

I may be someone else by then and miss it. If I do,

Set your timer and remind me, please. I’m counting on you.

Yes, I’ve been here when something was there.

You ain’t seen nothing like it, I declare.

Maybe I’m just biased, to be fair,

But if you’d of viewed it, man, when it was there!