Category Archives: From Married Life

15 Down and a Lifetime to Go!


I love you, Budge 🙂

Fifteen years ago today, I hit the lifetime lottery. Hopefully, Budge feels the same way even if she’s had less of a reason to rejoice than I have all these years. We celebrate our 15th Anniversary today. The traditional gift for the fifteenth anniversary is crystal. I’ve thought about that some lately and I’ve come up with some thoughts about the Crystal Anniversary.

Crystal is fragile — just like a marriage. Now by that I don’t mean marriages (especially Budge and I) are about to fall apart anymore than I mean an expensive crystal vase is going to shatter just by sitting it on a table. When I say fragile, I’m talking about easy to break. No matter how good a marriage is, it’s easy to break. Break trust, break hearts, break a whole lot of things. Just like crystal, you can glue it back together but it won’t ever be the same. No, it’s much easier to keep things together in the first place rather than having to try fixing it. Thankfully . . . VERY thankfully, Budge and I haven’t had to reach for the glue.

Crystal comes in all shapes and sizes and crystal is useful for a plethora of different things. HOWEVER, crystal isn’t meant to do everything. Some jobs need steel. Some need paper. The important thing to remember is not to try forcing something onto an object that isn’t meant to take the stress. A marriage is wonderful. It’s an opportunity for love and warmth and intimacy that cannot be found ANYWHERE else. HOWEVER, a marriage isn’t meant to take the place of everything in the couple’s life.

Way too often, people marry and expect their spouse will NEVER change and will ALWAYS provide EVERYTHING necessary for happiness. Going into a marriage like that is begging for trouble and ultimately a divorce. Marriage isn’t the be all and end all. Couples need each other but they need friends and family too. Most of all, they need God. Remember, I’m a Christian and make no apologies for it so all my atheist friends will just have to skip this part. Trying to make a marriage fulfill a role in life that only God can fill is a disaster waiting to happen. Budge has told me more than once that she loves me, but she’s known all along that I can’t make her happy. It took me a few years before I understood what she meant.

Crystal has to be cared for to look its best. Put a crystal plate on the mantle and leave it. It’ll sparkle for a long time. It’ll look good even longer, but if you walk up to the mantle and look closely, you’ll see dust and dirt. Marriage is just like that. Leave it unattended too long and the dust and dirt start to accumulate. It’s much better to take the plate down and rinse it off with clear water and maybe a spritz of cleaner to keep the plate shiny. To keep a marriage shining, it takes regular cleaning and care.

Speaking of cleaning, here’s a little known and somewhat unpleasant fact. Vinegar is a great cleaner for fine crystal but it has a harsh smell and isn’t really fun and pleasant to work with. Marriages do better if they have a little “vinegar” every now and then. When everything is sugar and teacakes, you don’t really know what your spouse can handle. A good dose of vinegar sets your teeth on edge and shows the true mettle of the matter. My Budge and I have drunk our fair share of vinegar . . . and part of some other couple’s allotment as well — I’ve BEEN the vinegar in Budge’s glass more than once. Thankfully, the sour times have made the sweeter times just that much sweeter.

Finally, remember this if you remember nothing else. Someone will ALWAYS want your crystal. That vase you were once so proud of? Now it just doesn’t sparkle and you’ve gotten tired of it. SOMEONE WILL TAKE IT IF YOU LEAVE IT OUT. What you may be tired of is exactly what someone else is searching high and low to find. Something else I’ve figured out along the road . . . the BEST way to DESPERATELY need something is to get rid of it and see it in someone else’s possession. Hopefully, we’re all adults here and I don’t need to draw you a picture. Keep your crystal safe and clean and shining. Don’t start yearning for other vases and glasses and knickknacks. Yes, the grass does always look greener on the other side of the fence but that’s because it’s got more cowsh- well, you know what I mean. If you want a good marriage, work at it. Be where you are and quit wishing to be somewhere else.

When Budge and I started dating, our relationship was very complicated for a multitude of reasons. I can’t tell you how many people, including members of our families, didn’t give us a chance. A good many people claimed we’d never make it. In fact, within 18 months of our wedding, eight other couples in our church at the time married. Of the nine total couples, only four of us are still married to the same spouse. Budge and I are one of them 🙂

No matter what people said, we’re still here. Still standing. Still together.

Still crazy after all these years.

Happy Anniversary to my best friend, my biggest cheerleader, and my favorite snugglebunny.

I love you, Budge.

Yes, As A Matter Of Fact, It IS Mine!


The wallet I carry every day. Why, yes it is a Vera Bradley.

Hello, my name is Shannon and I carry a Vera Bradley Zip-Around Wallet in the “Simply Violet” pattern given to me by my plural wives.


Apparently, I am single-handedly bringing about the demise of Western culture and the downfall of our civilization because I carry a “woman’s” wallet. Well, I’ve checked both eyes for tears and, finding none, have to assume that the care bears that live in my tear ducts have decided to stay mute on this fashion point.

My favorite pair of Croc Caymans. Color: Grape.

At least once a week, when I take my Vera Bradley out of my left leg cargo pocket of my favorite brown cargo pants to pay for something at a restaurant or store, I get an incredulous look and some smarmy, snarky comment from a salesman or a waiter like “Cute wallet? Does it match your shoes?”  Of course, if I’m wearing my favorite pair of shoes, I point down and say — with as much scorn and vinegar-laced honey as possible — “Only when I’m wearing these, Sugar.”

Budge hates it when I do that.

Now if we are being served by a waitress or checked out by a lady, the comments aren’t nearly as vilely undertoned. It is more of a “That’s a nice wallet there. Is it yours or your wife’s?” I seldom go out in public without Budge or another of my handlers like Mama or Deuce, so one of them is usually close enough to warrant the comment. The sweetness usually turns to apology laced surprise when I unzip my wallet and show her my oft-washed and well-worn wedding dress picture of Budge. Then I’ll usually smile and say, “Do I look like I’d marry someone so vain they would carry around a picture of herself in her own wallet?”

The odd part is, if this same pattern of wallet had a metal zipper and was cast in cowhide or some dull colored canvas instead of cutely stitched cotton, I wouldn’t have this constant questioning. Well, what can I say? I like a little color along with my functionality. Of all the evils foisted upon our collective American psyche by our overly dour and legalistic Puritan forbears, the abhorrence of brightly colored clothing — particularly MALE clothing, is possibly the worst.

The story behind my decision to carry this particular stripe (or paisley as the case may be) of accessory is very practical and simple. I was tired of carrying a regular guy’s billfold in my back pocket. With the ton of loyalty cards, a debit card, a driver’s license, and one or two other sundries, the billfold my wallet replaced was three inches or more thick. Sitting on that monstrosity not only made my right butt cheek sweat too much, but it was also like sitting on a boulder. Added to the fact that my chiropractor warned that sitting on a billfold is a leading cause of spinal misalignment and associated back problems and my choice was clear. I needed a better system.

Unfortunately, the aforementioned cowhide or fine leather “manly looking” wallets cost more than the cow from whence they originated. I fail to see the logic, humor, or even irony in paying so much for a wallet that one has no money left to place therein. Enter Budge.

Budge was changing out her old “Simply Black” Vera Bradley zip around for her new monogrammed clutch. I saw what all she took out of the old wallet and realized I had found my solution. I asked her if I could have her old wallet and she handed it to me with that usual look that says, “You’re going to do something that will embarrass me, aren’t you?” I ignored the look, took the wallet, found it carried all my “stuff” in a much more orderly fashion, and so carried it until it almost fell apart. So for Christmas, Budge and Deuce bought me my new purple wallet. End of story. It’s what I carry.

So I like purple?!


Love y’all and keep those feet clean!

But They Were Both Green!


God's gift to men-children everywhere. For some reason, all mine were green elephants and purple hippos. Coincidence? I think not.

I’ve had some people ask me if I had personal experience as my guide for my last post. To that, I can only answer “Of course!” I am still amazed by the amount of knowledge I lost on January 7, 1995. (That would be the day Budge and I started dating, in case you aren’t keeping up!) For the last ten years, I had been a passable driver, notching only one wreck in that decade. It was a GOOD wreck, but still, it was only one and, to set the record straight, Budge had TWO wrecks in the six months before we met. More importantly, I had managed for the previous 20 years to dress myself in clean and decent fashion. I admit that when I was younger, I benefited from the miracle that was the original Granimals line of clothing, but even after I outgrew my mix and match zoo, I still looked presentable.

In one day, I not only lost the ability to drive, it seems I was no longer competent to dress myself either. Strangely, the only thing different from 1-6-95 to 1-7-95 was that I had become joined at the heart, if not the hip — at first at least, to She-Who-Was-To-Be-Called-Budge. Now, to get everyone just joining us up to speed, Budge was a student where I was a first year teacher. We met. We clicked. We became the worst kept secret in the school district and the fact I didn’t get fired has always warmed my heart because people must have thought I was a good enough man to have a relationship like this without taking advantage of a poor, lovestruck teenage girl.

Yeah, RIGHT! If they ONLY knew!

Anyway, when I started teaching, I was a bit strapped for clothes fit to wear in front of a classroom full of students. Four years of college will do that to a guy’s wardrobe. I did, however, have ONE outfit that I thought was, to use the student vernacular of those days, “Da Bomb!” It was a nice, heavy cloth Duck Head button up shirt that I wore with Duck Head cargo pants.

Now, if you aren’t familiar with Duck Head, you didn’t go to college in the South in the late ’80s or early ’90s. They were a ubiquitous brand of khaki pants and pastel shirts in solids, plaids, and stripes. Some of us called them “the poor man’s Polo” since they were better made but lacked some of the cachet of Mr. Lauren’s little red horsey. They certainly were a great deal more affordable, especially when every dollar one saved on clothing was money that could be put towards paying down student loans! Yeah, I know and you’re right, whatever we saved went to beer, but it’s nice to think about what might have been had we been a bit more responsible.

But I digress.

This is pretty close to what mine looked like. Snazzy, right?

I had this one well-made, well-maintained and — to my eye anyway — STYLISH outfit. Since I am a firm believer in the old adage, “If one guitar string breaks in the middle of the set, play harder on the other six” I wore this particular outfit once per week, every week, from the time I got my job at the school in October until the outfit’s untimely demise six months later. Now, I’ve noted the cut, construction, and origin of this outfit, but what I failed to mention, and what apparently is SUPREMELY important, is that both the shirt and the pants were green. Apparently, that presented somewhat of a problem.

This would be a good time for me to reiterate one fundamental difference between men and women that happens to be most germane to this recollection. Men, to use computer terminology, are 4 bit color depth beings. If you’ve ever hooked up a monitor to your computer that wasn’t quite compatible and it reverted back to the lowest color setting, you’ve seen color through a man’s eye. We have red, blue, green, white, black, grey, and beige (and we’re not to sure about beige.)

Mine were a little lighter, but this is reasonably close. Does anyone else see a problem? I certainly didn't!

Women, however, are 256 XVGA HD 1080 color compatible. They do not have “beige.” They have eggshell, off-white, candlelight, old lace, ecru (which I always though was a bird from Australia), flat champagne, and at least ten other “shades” for what men call “beige” and which no being in possession of less than two X chromosomes could discern a difference between even if held at gunpoint.

So, I thought the shirt was green and the pants were green. No problem. To Budge, however, I discovered that the pants were “olive” and the shirt was “dark lime.” Here I thought I was supposed to wear the clothes and she’s making it sound like I need to eat them. The very first time I brought her home to meet Mama, before I had revealed to Mama that Budge was — in fact — a student which is a story for another time, Budge went into my room — later to be our room — took out my “olive” pants, brought them into the kitchen, and threw them in the trash. She then told me that I could wear THE shirt with jeans and nothing else.

Life would simpler. I might even get to buy my own clothes again!

When I pointed out to her that I had worn that same outfit once a week for six months and she had NEVER said one word about it, she had a ready reply: “I know that, honey, and I told ‘the girls’ when we first started dating that once I found out I was coming over here the first thing on the agenda was to GET RID OF THAT OUTFIT!”

That, beloved, is how I found out that green actually doesn’t “go with” green and from that day to this, I have not bought an item of clothing to be worn in public without my Budge’s express approval.

I want my Granimals back!

Love y’all and keep those feet clean!

Being a Bad Parent — continued


People don't always notice signs.

I’ve had some people ask me about my last post. They want to know what set me off. Was it something specific or was I just railing against the general inability of some people to parent. Well, my post about poor parents actually DOES have its roots in a specific local family dynamic. Now I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by naming names, so let’s call them, oh, I don’t know — my next door neighbors. The ones on the right hand side as one looks at our home. The ones with the blue car with the duct tape and plastic tarp side window. And the pile of trash on the back porch. And the yard strewn with debris. You get the idea.

These people do not look after their kids! Gentle readers, I don’t live in DisneyWorld. This is a lower middle class / upper working class “mobile home subdivision”, basically a trailer park but we have to take the tongues and wheels off the trailers and we don’t rent the spaces. Kids NEED to be watched after around here.

What makes matters worse is this is a particularly FERTILE couple. Is it just me or has anyone else noticed how the lower down on the intellectual level one goes in the animal kingdom the more offspring a given pair of animals produces? For instance, dolphins are super smart. Dolphins have ONE pup at a time. Two is a rarity. Frogs, though? Frogs will NEVER top anyone’s list of Einsteinesque fauna and they have THOUSANDS of offspring at once. The reason is obvious — the dumber the animal, the more offspring that are needed to ensure the species survives.

They are working on that principle right next door.

Happens WAY too much.

This woman has FOUR kids. The oldest two are both in the FIRST GRADE. They are only 10 months apart in age, and get this — they have different daddies! Let THAT math keep you up at night. These kids are 6 almost 7, barely 6, four, and two years old. The oldest is a girl and the rest are carbon copy boys.

Do these people not know what a TELEVISION is?

Anyway, they have this slew of kids. The dad lost his job in the downturn two years ago so he’s been working about six part-time jobs. I’m not sure if he works so much for the money or if he just wants to stay away from home. I know which one I’D pick. The mom stays at home with the brood until dad gets home at which point she takes the car to her job at McDonalds. I’d be worried about them financially, but when she was big as a barrel with the two-year-old she told Budge and me they were in good shape because of WIC, food stamps, and about six other government programs.

Now up to this point, you might think I’m just cracking on some poor white trash in an attempt to get blog hits. You couldn’t be more wrong. First of all, I hesitate to call anyone white trash. Too many members of my family have been branded with that particular moniker over the years for me to toss such a label around lightly. More than that though is the fact that I’ve seen other families in similar states be adoring and careful parents and raise some amazing kids.

No, I’m cracking on this bunch because of the UPS truck.

I was straightening up the house about a week ago when I heard a LARGE vehicle LOCK DOWN on the brakes. I looked up to see the four-year old staring at the grille of the Big Brown Truck. I know this UPS driver and he’s not an excessive speed demon. If he’d been traveling two miles an hour faster, that kid would have been road kill.

Just a matter of time?

If that was a one time deal, I wouldn’t be going to the trouble of writing this, but that kind of thing is the RULE in their house, not the exception. The three oldest kids stay outside from the time school lets out until dark. They have NO IDEA what it means to look before crossing a road. To date, besides the UPS truck, two school buses, the Charter guy, the water meter guy, and at least six cars that I have seen have nearly wrung the brake pads off the front of their cars trying to keep from turning one of these chaps into a human speed bump. They NEVER look where they are going. I’ve told Budge that it is just a matter of time before someone can’t make a last second stop and that’s going to be terrible.

I used to never lock my gates. Now I do because these kids have no concept of “that’s not yours.” It’s nothing for them to go across my yard — which I really DON’T mind — and get out toys belonging to my OTHER neighbors’ GOOD child and start playing with them even if no one there is home! I can’t imagine how long I’d have been stuck inside if my mama had caught me doing such!

Let me be clear though — it’s NOT THE KIDS’ FAULT.

Too late to watch over them now.

If a six, five, or four-year old child doesn’t know how to behave, it is not his fault. It is the PARENTS’ fault. Children are just that — children. By definition they are ignorant of most dangers, evils, and pitfalls and thank God they are. The horrible state of the world will catch up to them soon enough. Until then, though, it is up to MAMA and DADDY to RAISE them and that requires a little something called WORK.

Now I’ve seen a child run out in front of a car before, but every other time it was because he wasn’t listening to THE ADULT STANDING RIGHT NEXT TO HIM. The adult is attempting to provide a safe transit from store to car and the child isn’t listening. Most of the times I’ve seen this happen, Mama or Daddy will reinforce the lesson of the near tragedy by a vigorous application of the Board of Education to the Seat of Understanding just as soon as everyone reaches the car.

Not this family.

No one is watching these kids. We live on the busiest street in our neighborhood and Mom is nowhere to be found unless she happens out onto the porch to smoke. Granny wouldn’t let me play in the FRONT YARD of her and Papa’s house and they lived on a street full of nothing but old people in the quietest neighborhood in Fountain Inn. If I GOT ran over it would be due to Mrs. Johnson losing control of her power scooter and tearing through the wisteria bordering the back yard. Otherwise, I was safer than the gold in Fort Knox. Plus, this was in the pre-Adam Walsh days when we kids didn’t know strangers would kill us. Someone in a van could pull up, offer these kids next door candy, snatch them into the vehicle and be gone and it would be suppertime before Mom even noticed they were gone. That’s insane!

I don't want this scene in front of my home. Children deserve better caretakers.

If anyone is looking out for these kids, it’s ONE little girl who is about ten and seems to be the natural “mothering type”.

You haven’t seen irony until you see a ten-year-old berating a four-year old at top volume like R. Lee Ermey on crack because the kid didn’t look before crossing the street. If it wasn’t for though, these kids would be as rudderless as a capsized canoe in a whitewater whirlpool. I for one think the child deserves a medal.


I am at a loss to know what to do. As a final thought, if one of the kids DOES get hurt, I’LL have to call 911 because THEY don’t have a phone. Correction, they have a cell phone, but instead of leaving it at home in case — I don’t know — the two-year old swallowed something and needed an ambulance, Daddy takes it with him on his “rounds.”

Talk about priorities?!

Any thoughts on this comedy of errors? I’m open to suggestions!

Take care, y’all and keep those feet clean.

Perils of Playing House


Consider yourself warned.

In this country, anyone wanting to operate a car, truck or motorcycle must pass a test and be licensed. If you don’t have a license, you are not legally allowed to drive. You may spend years in schools obtaining a medical or legal degree, but if you don’t pass the tests for the bar or for the medical specialty of your choice, you cannot call yourself a doctor or a lawyer and if you are caught trying to deceive people into believing you ARE a doctor or a lawyer, you will go directly to jail neither passing GO nor collecting $200.

BUT, any one man and one woman can pair up and, as long as they possess the correct anatomical and God-supplied equipment, make a baby and bring that baby into the world. In doing so, they often deceive people into believing they are, in fact, PARENTS. They are not. They are a sperm donor and a very sophisticated incubator. Making and / or birthing a baby doesn’t make you a parent any more than putting on a lab coat or a powdered wig (in England at least) makes you a doctor or a lawyer.

Therein lies the source of a huge amount of the problems facing the country today. Too many people are running around PRETENDING to be parents when all they are really doing is playing a cruel version of “house” just like kindergartners.

Why yes, I would like to get her started in her mama's footsteps as soon as possible!

If you want to know whether or not I am talking to you or if you should be giving me multiple loud “amen, preach it, my brother” outbursts is simple for me to ascertain with ONE question. Have you ever worried that you were not being a good parent or actually thought you were being a poor parent? If you have dwelt at any length on those statements, you are NOT a bad parent or — at the very least — you are trying. Just the fact that you CARE if you are a good parent or not says volumes.

Two of my favorite former students married, in due time, produced a gorgeous little tow-headed, blue-eyed girl just as pretty as her mama and as much of a smartass as her daddy. Her daddy has gone from being a favorite student to being a dear friend and he has said to me on more than one occasion, usually with tears in his voice, “Coach, I just don’t know if I’m being a good daddy to Lisa.” I tell him every time what I just told y’all, “Mike, the fact that you CARE whether or not you are a good daddy means you are trying really hard to be a good daddy and that is all any man can do.”

Entirely too many incubators and sperm donors today seem –by their actions at least — to view their offspring as accessories like a watch or a chihuahua, or maybe the next logical step in some middle class fantasy plan. Others actually see their children as INCOME producers and keep having them until the government says they won’t pay for any more. Worst of all, however, are those poor fools who see their children as “friends” and not “children.”

Here is a story I have told often and it still flabbergasts me more than ten years later. It illustrates the perils of poor parenting.

My second year as a teacher, I was in on a meeting with a 16-year-old tee-tiny white girl, her mama, the AP, the guidance counselor, and a few other assorted teachers. We were trying to explain to mama that baby-doll wasn’t doing so hot in the academic realm. When it came time for the mama to respond, she didn’t get three sentences out before her daughter spun around and unleashed a torrent at her that turned the air of the conference room a Smurfy shade of blue. This 16-year-old slip of a girl called her mama every name in the book and actually worked herself into such a rage that she had to be restrained and taken from the room.

Mama’s reaction? She put her head in her hands and started moaning about, “I just don’t know what to do with her. I’ve tried so hard to be her friend and get her to like me.”

Even then I was not known for having either volumes of tact or great reserves of self-control so while everyone else in the room (the older, more experienced ones) sat staring at the table, I got up and sat next to the poor woman. I put my hand on her shoulder and she looked up at me with red-rimmed eyes and I told her, “Ma’am, my mama is my best friend in this world. I love her like I love no other. She is 5’2 and weighs 110 pounds in a full winter suit of clothes, heavy boots, and soaked in a swimming pool. She has bad lungs from smoking for years and working in cotton mills. She is a bit past her physical prime. I am 5’10, 250 pounds (I was then anyway) have wrestled, coached wrestling, and fought in full contact karate tournaments. I’m in the prime of my life, but if I — TODAY — let alone when I was 16, said HALF of the words your daughter just said to you to MY MAMA, I know EXACTLY what she would do. She would walk over, pick up that nice heavy metal stool and proceed to disfigure the metal of the stool seat with the bone of my head. Once she had beat me unconscious, she would call Bull Street in Columbia and tell them to come get her son because he had OBVIOUSLY lost his mind. Ma’am, your daughter doesn’t need another FRIEND. She needs a MAMA.”

Well, she got all pissed off and I got another letter in my file, but I stand by what I said to this day. My mama has said many things to and about me and we’ve had our disagreements over the years but at NO TIME has my mama EVER uttered the phrases “I can’t do anything with him” or “I just want him to like me.” Mama never gave one tiny tinker’s damn if I LIKED her or if she was my FRIEND or not, but let me assure you she ALWAYS knew SOMETHING to do with me and it was the thoughts of what she COULD do that kept me on the straight and narrow most of the time.

This doesn't REALLY say "Juicy." It REALLY says "Mom and Dad don't care that perverted old men are going to stare at my butt."

Remember this — You are a PARENT. You RAISE the child. Teachers, pastors, day care centers, and TV stars don’t RAISE your kids. It’s not their job; it’s YOUR job and if you didn’t want it, you should have given little Johnny or Jill or LaKwisha or Jaquan up for adoption to one of the thousands of infertile couples like me and Budge who would love to have a child to raise but can’t. EVEN BETTER, if you didn’t WANT the responsibility of being a parent because it might CRAMP your style, you should have stayed off your back or out of that hotel room or out of the back seat of that car. As I have told more than one young person over the years when they were facing choices about sex, drugs, or rock ‘n roll, “If you don’t want to go to Atlanta, don’t get on I-85 South!” Stay on that interstate long enough and eventually you WILL end up in Fulton County, Georgia. Guaranteed.

Hope I didn’t terribly offend anyone, but I’ve just seen some stuff this weekend that has made me question how our species has made it this far! Unfortunately, the ones who need to read this the most will never see it! ***sigh***

Love y’all anyway and keep those feet clean!

Food Fight


This is a pretty long post, but stick with it, thanks!

Yesterday was Budge’s first day on her medically supervised six-week weight loss plan. This isn’t the first time she’s attempted to lose weight, but it is the first time she’s gone to this careful extent. My job is to fix the shakes and provide moral support and encouragement. I plan to eat a bigger lunch and forgo supper to avoid cooking and eating in front of her and hopefully that will make this easier on her. I don’t trust diets like this, but she is under an excellent doctor’s care AND — more importantly — she’s promised me this is for HER not ME or anyone else. She’s my Budge no matter what she weighs and that’s all that matters, but her mama fought the battle of the bulge her entire life before dying at 46 of complications from pancreatitis and a final stroke. With 46 looming large in life’s windshield, Budge told me she didn’t want to go out that way so I told her do what she had to do and I’d have her back.

Needless to say, I’m insanely, stupefyingly proud of her.

With Budge starting this diet, many people are pressuring on me to join her and want to know why I’m so resistant to adopting “the healthy lifestyle.” As I’ve mentioned before, I am not a small man. I am slightly south of six feet tall and slightly north of 350 pounds. I believe the medical term is “morbidly obese.” I prefer the much cuter sounding euphemism of “as big around as I am tall.”

Lately, my glib put-off has been “I’m going for the heart attack before the diabetes has a chance to get me.” That statement is anchored in a grain of truth. The men on Daddy’s side of the family die of massive coronaries. Granny Matt had ten children who lived and that included six sons. Of the six, five died at 78 or slightly before of the aforementioned coronary. Uncle Jack was the lone dissenter, but that’s another story for another time. Daddy had HIS first heart attack about nine or ten years ago. Many of Daddy’s male blood related first cousins have already had one or more heart attacks or have perished from the sudden squeezing of the chest.

On the other side of my family tree lurk diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. More of Mama’s kin than I can count have fallen victim to “The Sugar” and the lucky ones died quickly. The unlucky ones left the world a piece at a time. Many dodged diabetes only to succumb to Alzheimer’s and left the world not knowing themselves or their closest loved ones. I have no intention of going out like that if at all possible. Given the choice between slow piecemeal death and quick heart exploding death, my decision is clear.

As I said, that is my somewhat humorous glib smart-ass answer. The pure and simple truth is, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, not so pure and definitely not simple. Fact is, obesity and I are old and bitter foes and after many bloody engagements fraught with pain, sadness, and disappointment, I have bowed to the stronger will and chosen not to fight my weight anymore.

See the oh-so-pinchable legs?

I was BORN fat. I weighed 10 lbs and 5 ozs the day I came into the world and I was born hungry. The story is I slurped down an 8 oz bottle in two minutes and started crying for more. After 8 more ounces, I was still hungry so the nurse asked Mama what she wanted done and Mama, probably glimpsing the future, told her to go ahead and get me full. I was over 14 lbs by the time I came home from the hospital with rolls of fat on my thighs that my beloved great-Aunt Pearl delighted in lovingly pinching and patting.

I never looked back.

I think I topped 100 pounds by fifth grade. I may be off a year, but I do know that all my clothes came with the “HUSKY” label. I suppose that was the clothier’s way of trying to salvage the self-esteem of  a fat pre-teen. From almost the start, the family was worried about my weight. I was placed on a few diets by Dr. Monroe, our long-time family physician, but they all required keeping track of calories and such. I wasn’t clear on the concept of “serving size” or “portion control” so I figured a bowl of cereal was “one serving” of “180 calories” when a true serving size was 3/4 of a cup of cereal meaning my punch bowl of Cocoa Crisps with whole milk actually contained about SIX servings.

One of the greatest ironies of my saga with obesity lies in how Granny Wham tried to help me lose weight. She was THE most concerned of all my family, Mama included, when it came to my being — in her words — “a little too heavy.” She would constantly admonish me about eating too much at supper or cutting myself too big a slice of pound cake (Granny Wham made the greatest pound cake this side of paradise), but at the same time, SHE was the one asking me if I’d had enough to eat and did I want more chicken or rice with gravy or roast beef or whatever delicious dish she or Papa had prepared that night. It was like living in rehab with a drug pusher!

God bless her precious heart, it was confusing as all get out when I was a child, but looking back, I understand a little better. Granny couldn’t stand to see me fat but she couldn’t stand to see me sad either and not getting enough of that wonderful food would always make me sad so the doting grandmother in her usually won out over the concerned for my health responsible adult and I’d get another piece of pound cake . . . with ice cream on top . . . and Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup . . . and Cool Whip. You get the idea.

All through elementary school and junior high, I just got bigger. Of course I got picked on and bullied because of being

Mama LOVED to dress me in horizontal stripes. Michelin Man anyone?

fat. I was called “fatty,” “lard-butt,” “two-ton,” and — my all time favorite — “The Great White Marshmallow.” I tried to shrug off the barbs as much as I could. I was dealing with other stuff. Unfortunately, one of my earliest and most cherished coping mechanisms was “escapism eating.” I’d get to Granny and Papa’s after a day at school enduring the shark tank of junior high, grab a book and a bag of Oreo cookies and go hide in the yard until supper. That kind of emotional eating did wonders for my waistline.

That’s the way things rocked on pretty much until my first year of high school. I was a nonathletic 225 pound blob when I went out for wrestling to try to get a date with Kim Robertson. The date never materialized, but I fell in love with wrestling, even if I was getting creamed twice a week at heavyweight. Funny thing is, the more I wrestled, the smaller I got. Who knew?

Then, right after wrestling season, I got braces to fix my crazy teeth. Now, I didn’t get the cute little “invisible brackets” glued to my teeth. I got the full monty of railroad track bands all over my mouth. My head, jaws, and mouth hurt so much that I couldn’t eat. I did good if I could sip some Cream of Chicken soup through a straw. I endured that pain for two months and when summer came and my teeth had finally moved enough for the agony to ease up some a funny thing happened. I looked in the mirror and a skinny kid was staring out at me.

Junior year of HS. This was the best it ever got. Skinny AND hair.

For 24 blessed months — a brief, shining moment — I was svelte. I dropped from 225 to 160. I could shop in the regular men’s section for the first time in my life. My inseam was actually longer than my waistline was round. My acne cleared about the same time and another odd thing happened. Without all the lard in the way, girls began to notice my crystal blue eyes and thick strong blond hair. Oh, and the straight white teeth — shout out to what made it all possible! It seemed like overnight I was being favorably compared to guys like Rick Mathews, our class’s resident Adonis, who played football and wrestled the weight class right above me. I was actually kind of a big deal.

Of course it went straight to my head and turned me into the exact kind of insufferable douche I’d always hated. Not to worry though. As Pony Boy is fond of reciting, “Nothing gold can stay.” Senior year came. My foibles and mistakes caught up with me. My head started filling up with thoughts and voices I couldn’t fight back. I was entering the worst depression I’d ever encountered and starting what was to become a desperate lifelong battle with my mind and emotions — but I didn’t know it. I had no idea what the hell was going on.

The final straw came when wrestling season started and the weight classes had changed. The 167 class was gone. I was now in Adonis’ weight class and Adonis was a better wrestler than I had a prayer of being.  When our 154 pounder went down early in the season with a blown out knee, everyone looked at me to cut the 15 pounds, take that spot, and make us an even greater team. I took a shot at it. God knows I tried, but the more water I drank and the harder I exercised, the bigger I got. It seemed I gained instead of losing. So I became a senior riding the bench when I should have been a captain. I gave up the fight.

I went into a headlong spiral and started drinking whenever I could, but mostly, I started eating whatever I wanted to again. It’s not like I had to keep my weight down anymore anyway. I was a three-year letter-man in wrestling. The only year I didn’t letter was my senior year.

But I’m not still bitter or anything. I’m just saying.

In college, I skipped the freshman fifteen and traded it for the freshman 50. I went from a 34 waist as a high school sophomore to a 40 waist as a college sophomore. I’d look in the mirror in disgust and I’d go on the fat wagon for a week. I’d work out every day down in Fike Hall gym. I took up tae-kwan-do. It helped a little, but in the end, the weight always won.

I was to be skinny and handsome one final time in my life. It would come after college and brought about a similar “senior year type” downward spiral with nearly identically disastrous personal results. A sordid, sad tale — for another time.

I’d started gaining back my weight from that episode when I met Budge. She married me fluffy and has stayed with me fat. I can’t thank her enough for that. These days, from time to time, I’ll contemplate hitting the fat wagon again and trying to get healthier. I don’t keep chips and dip or things of that nature in the house — fleeing temptation and all — but I watch too much Paula Deen and cook like her too much as well.

I gave up pill popping, driving fast cars, hanging out with my Five Favorite Uncles, and chasing crazy women. I started taking meds to try to quiet the cacophony in my head. All of that draws heavily from my well of willpower. For Budge and Mama’s sake, I have to concentrate my energy on what’s going to make me the most endurable. Losing weight, no matter how important I know it is, would take reserves I don’t have.

Fairly recent picture with a good view of the booth-busting belly.

Don’t get me wrong — it’s not like I revel in being fat. I haven’t bought clothes in over two years because I can’t stand the disappointment of the fitting room. I’m reminded of what, to quote from Full Metal Jacket, “a disgusting, flabtastic piece of fatbody filth” I am every time I try to sit in a restaurant booth and have to ask for a table because of my size. It isn’t like this is a high-ho bunch of fun because it ain’t. I just have to pick my battles and this is one I know the outcome of all too well.

Dr. Lopez — my primary care physician — stays on me about losing. He WANTS me to lose down to 200 lbs. I haven’t seen 200 lbs since my junior year of high school. That’s a little over 150 lbs. THAT IS A PERSON! THE MAN WANTS ME TO LOSE A PERSON. He can’t understand how a former wrestler and wrestling coach who knows so much about nutrition and exercise can be so blase’ about dropping the 10% body fat that produces measurable health benefits. Unfortunately, he also doesn’t understand something else — nothing good has ever come of me being skinny.

Sorry for the book length post.   Keep those feet clean, okay?

Love y’all.

Southern Snowstorm 2011


My Element in the elements

Okay, it’s cold around here. For everyone who doesn’t have access to a weather outlet, a huge cold system dumped anywhere from six to twelve inches of snow on us here in Upstate SC from Sunday night through Monday morning. Then, starting late yesterday afternoon, a soft misting drizzle coated the fluffy snow in a clear crystalline crust with the result being we won’t thaw out here for another week at least.

Budge’s district was out yesterday and by noon yesterday, their administration as well as every other district in this corner of the Heavenly Triangle that is South Carolina, agreed to phone it in again today. At the rate this stuff is not melting, tomorrow is very likely a wash and Thursday will be at least a two hour delay so the bus drivers have a fighting chance to spot the black ice slicks BEFORE the big yellow banana goes into the ditch. Of course, with this district extending all the way into the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, some parts of the county STILL won’t be passable and my Budge may not go back to school this week.

The unfortunate issue in all the preparation for and fighting of the snow is it actually makes things a bit worse in the short run. Our state and county DOTs have been doing a masterful job of clearing the interstates and main artery state roads, BUT, while the plows clear the snow away quite effectively, they cannot help but leave a thin sheet of water on the now-exposed asphalt. This sheet of water becomes a sheet of ice just as soon as the sun goes down. So in a sense, all those plows out on the roads now are acting as giant yellow Zambonis creating a veritable plethora of ice rinks up and down the roads. This results in many drivers, especially those who have more horsepower than brains, pulling a Paul Simon and “slip sliding away.”

Slick, frozen hills like this are what will keep schools closed for a good while.

Skidding off the road isn’t so bad in most places in the main roads because about the worst you can do is slide into the median or onto the shoulder, but once you make a turn or two and get back here into the sticks a bit, flying of the road via a sheet of black ice can be fatal. I’m thinking of one spot less than two miles from here where a long curve over an old bridge meets a long, steady, SHADED uphill incline. Now I know as surely as I know I’ll never own a Porsche that stretch of road is going to be slicker than snot on a doorknob until Saturday at the very least. Remember the bridge and the curve I mentioned? Well, the bridge has nice concrete guard rails, of course, and a set of metal guard rails extends from both ends and both sides of the bridge for another ten feet or so and stops right where the curve begins. That means anyone sliding down that hill — forwards or backwards — has a straight shot past the guard rail and down a 50 foot embankment into the Reedy River below the bridge. That water is deep and cold and I’ve seen more than one car winched out of there followed by four rescue workers struggling up the hill with a human sized black plastic zipper bag held between them.

To paraphrase CCR "Dut, dut, dut, lookin' out my front door."

Still, people don’t learn. People get all broke out in dumb when the white stuff is on the ground. The worst offenders are Yankee expatriates and guys who have jacked up four-wheel drive trucks. The Yankees scoff at us poor benighted hillbillies who can’t drive on snow. I hear it all the time, “Why this is a dusting compared to what we get every day up in X part of Yankee-land, I simply can’t fathom why you people can’t drive on it!” Well, Goober, the reason we can’t drive on it — and you can’t either, by the way — is it’s NOT SNOW. Anyone CAN drive on snow. Snow is easy. Once the roads clear a tiny bit OR once they get nice and compacted, it’s not snow anymore though. It’s ICE and NO ONE can drive on ice. Even James Freaking Bond can’t drive on ice! Watch Die Another Day if you don’t believe me.

The other goofuses (goofi?) with the four-wheel drives are just obnoxious and have no knowledge of physics. They reside in a safe and strange little world where the phrase “I’ll put ‘er four-wheel drive!” makes Mother Nature soil her gauzy shift in terror. In reality, the phrase, “I’ll put ‘er in four-wheel drive” is usually followed by the phrase, “any y’all got a winch or know a good tow company?” Once again, the culprit is ICE. The only difference between a four wheel drive vehicle and a two-wheel drive vehicle on ice is the number of wheels spinning helplessly as the car or truck slides inexorably towards the Ravine of Doom.

So, if you’re reading this around these parts, hunker down, make up some snow cream, drink a cuppa, and take a nice nap. Those of you up and out where this stuff is normal, be careful, and those of you in warmer, snow free clime — keep your obnoxiously sunny and cheerful opinions to yourselves.

Love y’all, and keep those feet clean!

Signs, Signs, Lots of Purple Signs



Crude approximation of the first sign we saw that made me think Budge was off in the head.


Today marks 16 years since my Budge and I went on that fateful Hummer ride up the mountain at Camp Awanita. We’ve been together SIXTEEN years! That’s only four years less than half my life!


We married the NEXT August, so God willing, this August will be our 15th anniversary. We almost didn’t make it past the honeymoon, however, because by the time we reached our destination, I was certain I had married a lunatic.

To understand the humor, irony, etc of this story, you need to know that Budge and her family were very well traveled. They took vacations all over the country. Most importantly, they went to Walt Disney World at LEAST once a year from the time she could walk until she was in the ninth grade. She and her dad went together the year her mom passed then they skipped a year, then she and I went there on our honeymoon. Walt Disney World is my beloved’s most happy place. I cannot stress enough how much she loves the place. It is VERY germane to the story.

I, on the other hand, have only left the state of South Carolina a bare handful of times. We just didn’t travel much due to lack of money, lack of time, or both. Then, and pretty much now still, I hadn’t been many places. I had been to Disney World with the National Junior Honor Society from GCO when I was in the seventh grade, but by 1996, that’d been a while.

So, we get married, clean the goop off the car, go to Mama’s, pack some last minute stuff, eat supper, and spend the night in the Greenville Hilton. The next day, we got up, ate with Dana’s dad, brother, and my dear niece Kayla. Then we headed for Orlando and “The Happiest Place on Earth.” I drove the whole way. This was before I learned not to CARE what other people think about a man having his wife drive him around. It was also before I learned that Budge is a MUCH better driver than I am. She has a lead foot and needs a 3 painted on the side of any car she drives, but she is a fantastic driver.

But I digress.

We got to Orlando / Kissimmee after dark and went to the Holiday Inn Express to check in. This was when we discovered that Kissimmee was home to about 1,500 HIEs and ours was the absolute most remote from all humanity. We drove another hour to find it, wrestled the bags up the pee-stained elevator to our room . . . and crashed.

The next day, at the butt-crack of dawn, Budge gets me up. It was time to go to Disney World! We ate breakfast, piled in the car, and joined the rest of the United Nations in driving to the Magic Kingdom. Now please realize that back then, I was MUCH more intense than I am now. I was in the middle of the biggest crowd of traffic since Moses led the Exodus AND I had no idea where I was going. I was piano-wire tight.

By following another “Just Married” SUV, I managed to find the entrance to the park. Still, the traffic was stacked up on either side of me. I was sweating in the August Florida heat and was beginning to feel like a complete failure as a husband only three days into a marriage when it happened. My wife LOST HER FREAKING MIND.

I’m listening to her talk and am intently concentrating on the bumper of the balding guy in his midlife crisis Corvette when my sweet, quiet, and meek little wife ERUPTS beside me with a high pitched elephantine bellow of “I SEE PURPLE SIGNS, I SEE PURPLE SIGNS, I SEE PURPLE SIGNS, I SEE PURPLE SIGNS, I SEE PURPLE SIGNS!!!!”


Another Crude Representation.

I snapped my head up so fast I felt the vertebrae pop, banged my head on the ceiling, bit my jaw, and whipped around incredulously to find Budge bouncing up and down in her seat pointing to a purple sign with Mickey Mouse’s hands on top of it. I thought the girl had gone around the bend.


It was then that she chose to point out “THE PURPLE SIGNS” evenly spaced along the road. Each one revealed a bit more of the famous rodent while letting all we lemmings know how far it was to the parking lot. The final sign showed Mickey’s smiling face, ears, and clapping hands and announced “You’re Here!” The look on my new wife’s face was one of complete rapture. We pulled in to Sleepy lot A, row 6, I think, and made our way to the shuttle.

As I took her little hand (she has THE daintiest hands), I realized then — after I had a moment to recover — that I had not, in fact, married a lunatic. I had married a precious young woman with a child-like, but not childish, spirit who could enjoy three days of purple signs as much as some would have enjoyed a three week cruise. We had a wonderful honeymoon in “The Happiest Place on Earth” and it saddens me to no end that we’ve never gotten to go back. Hope springs eternal however and I hope we’ll get to return to the land of purple signs soon.

Until then, know that I love y’all and keep those feet clean for this newly old man!

On Outdoor Nuptuals


Yesterday, my exquisitely multi-talented wife reached back for one of her former professions and created two beautiful bouquets for one of her fellow teachers who was getting married. Budge attended the wedding; I did not. I have told Budge — and anyone else who would listen — that it was all I could do to endure my OWN wedding, 35 minute marathon that it was, much less sit through someone else’s ceremony. Don’t misunderstand me, my wife planned a gorgeous wedding for us in a very short time on a even shorter budget, but the fact remains that am not a wedding fan. Of course, that is one of the few areas I am like many other males. I’m not certain I’ve ever heard anyone in possession of  an unsullied Y-chromosome say, “Oh wow! My buddy Glenlivet is getting married!! I’m not in it, but PLEASE let’s go!!”

That is not to say we of The Brotherhood of Men will not, on occasion, be dragged kicking and screaming from our spot on the sofa in front of The Game to be shoehorned into our most uncomfortable set of clothes, forcibly shod with shoes designed as medieval torture devices first and footwear second, then marched, nearly at bayonet point, to some relative or friend’s wedding.

But we don’t have to like it!

Yesterday, though, I was excused from the ceremony. I will say, however, that for someone having an outside wedding as this couple was, yesterday’s weather was hard to beat. The sky was a radiant azure with nary a cloud to mar the canvas of heaven and the temperature was quite mild, even if the ladies were obliged to leave off the shawls originally planned for the occasion. It was verily the perfect day for an intimate backyard hitching up.

This meteorological perfection stands in rank contrast to the only OTHER outdoor wedding I attended, and that against my will. That marriage ceremony, early in Budge and mine’s own tenure of wedded bliss, provided the single, solitary time in — to date — fourteen years of marriage when the two of us very nearly had “words.” It is also the only one of a veritable plethora of  incidents of my being an ass for which I have steadfastly refused to apologize ONLY because I STILL maintain that I was in the right.

Allow me to present my case and ye may judge.

First of all, I barely knew the bride as one of Budge’s college classmates and I had nary a clue as to the groom’s identity. Next, the wedding was scheduled for 3:00 PM on a Saturday. The hours of 2:00 to 4:00 PM on Saturdays have been marked out on my calendar as dedicated time for studying the backs of my eyelids for structural imperfections at least since I was in college. I was being dragged to a wedding when I was supposed to be sleeping.

Then was the matter of the time of YEAR for this debacle. Yesterday’s wedding was in the relatively mild weather of an Upstate October. The wedding to which I refer was in AUGUST. For those of you who may live in other parts of the world than the Blessed Land of Dixie, allow me to explain — AUGUST in South Carolina has two temperatures: blast furnace and Hellish. Sane people do not leave the safety of air conditioned houses in “The Burning Month” except to go to an air conditioned car and drive to another air conditioned location.

Which brings me to my next point. This wedding was not only outside on an August afternoon that would have melted car tires on green grass, it was in the middle of a church lawn. NO SHADE. NONE. NOUGHT. NADA. NO TREES. Not even a canopy. The heat was only broken by the breeze generated when one of the BLACK TUXEDO clad groomsmen fell out from sunstroke and made the air move by his descent. Finally, the wedding lasted nearly AN HOUR and these people were NOT Catholic. No Mass or other sermon was involved.

So, allow me to sum up. For over an hour, I was standing in slip-on toe-pincers with WOOL socks under a pair of navy pants topped by a royal blue polo in the middle of a forty acre pasture on the hottest day since the Earth cooled from it’s fiery formation watching someone I didn’t particularly know or like get married. For those who don’t know, I am NOT a small man. I am large. I am fat, nay I AM OBESE! Fat men were never meant to endure those types of conditions. Within five minutes of leaving the comfort of the car’s excellent A/C, I had an Amazon Rivulet of perspiration running from my bald spot, through my hair, down my back, cascading in a cataract of sweat around my nether regions thence to trickle down into my toe-pincers and form two puddles of lukewarm misery.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I was HOT as the HINGES of HADES and my body was literally rendering into lard as I stood there watching this slip of a girl in her WHITE, SLEEVELESS, BACKLESS wedding dress get married.

Then we had the reception, which, thanks be to God the Father of All Things, was indoors. Of course, the A/C was having all it could do to pull down the temperature from somewhere near boiling since, as I think I’ve mentioned before, it was the HOTTEST FRICKING DAY OF THE YEAR and 400+ people were packed into the space somewhat smaller than the Apollo command capsule. Didn’t matter to me, though. A stroll through the depths of Mauna Kea in Hawaii at full eruption would have been cooler than outside.

It was at that point that the final straw was applied to this dromedary’s spine. A caterer waitress set a plate of GRILLED EGGPLANT down in front of me. Turns out the bride was a VEGAN.

I am not a vegan.

I was hot, I was hungry, and I had missed my nap. This was not going to end well.

It was at that point that I looked — just looked — at my lovely wife and something on my face made her run to the ladies’ room, friends in tow, to cry about how mean I was and folks, at that point and for the only time in our marriage, I really DIDN’T CARE!!

We laugh about that day now, as much for the reactions of our friends who were with us as anything else, BUT that also remains the LAST outdoor wedding I ever went to with Budge.

Now, as you go to wash your feet I ask you, “WAS I WRONG OR NOT!!!???”

Love y’all!

A Layman’s Observations of Applied Herpetology



Image is to scale and quite accurate I might add.


I just wanted all of you to know Budge has a final goodbye post from me in the event of my unforeseen and untimely demise. I thought y’all should know that because she almost had to upload that document Monday morning.

I dropped Budge off at school and returned home before 8:00 AM. It was quite cool Monday morning so I thought it would be the perfect time to tear down the pool pump and filter for its long winter’s nap. It’s usually a dirty, unpleasant job and, given my large man propensity for sweating, not something I like to do in direct sunlight.

So, beginning the task, I went to my ManCave workshop for the tools I would need for the job minus — of course — the obligatory “wrench-that-I-knew-I’d-need-but-swore-I-wouldn’t”. I walked to the pump, sat the tools down, used the screwdriver to remove the intake and outlet hoses, tried to take the filter seal loose with a wrench that was close, but not the right one because I didn’t want to walk back to the workshop, let that wrench smash my hand between the filter housing and seal, cursed loudly, went back to the workshop to get the aforementioned forgotten correct wrench, returned, and removed the filter from the mounts. I took the filter around to the hose to wash it and went back to get the pump. I unplugged said pump, reached down, grabbed the pump, heaved it up, glanced down, and nearly soiled my undergarments.

Right where my hand had JUST been engaged in lifting the pump,  lay coiled the unholy hybrid offspring of an anaconda and a king cobra. I’m quite certain he also had some western diamondback rattlesnake somewhere in his family tree because I’m positive I heard a buzzing rattle as he coiled to strike me down where I stood. He was no less than 25 feet long, big around as my sizable thigh with six-inch sabertooth fangs dripping with neurohemocytotoxins heretofore unknown to man.

How such a huge serpent managed to squeeze under a filter platform barely 2′ x 2′ square, I’ll never know. He must have had some sort of extradimensional space-time altering mind powers.

Confronted with this massive specimen of reptilian death machinery, I did what any red-blooded American male would do in such a circumstance — I screamed like a little girl at a Justin Bieber concert. Afterwords, I turned to run, forgetting that I still had the pool pump — all thirty pounds of it — in my hands with the cord still dangling between my feet. As I turned, I managed to step solidly on this particular cord. This action, true to Newtonian physics, caused the pump to jerk out of my hands and land — all forty pounds of it — directly on the top of my Croc-clad left foot. That would be the one with the badly ingrown toenail. Twenty five pounds of the filter crushed my instep while the other twenty-five pounds found that very toe.

However, at the time I was dropping the sixty pound pump onto my Croc-clad foot and severely ingrown toenail, I was in the process of turning AND accelerating to Warp Factor 9 like the Starship Enterprise running from an Imperial Star Destroyer. All this pain, acceleration, and torque had the effect of causing the thought-producing portions of my brain to say, “The hell with this, I’m going to Florida” at which point my lower limbs, now leaderless, tripped over the seventy pound pool pump and came crashing to the dew-soaked grass in a heap of agony completely at the mercy of Kaa the Python.

Luckily, no one was around to witness this debacle except Jack, my beloved dog, who had watched the whole scene with typical canine stoicism. Seeing me in distress, he promptly did what he always does when I nearly break my neck and end up on the ground, like the two times I flipped the riding lawn mower over on top of myself. He sauntered over and licked me on the cheek that wasn’t plastered to the ground.

The faithful dog saliva had the effect of breaking the mind control spell force field cast on my by the 18″ long, thumb thick Eastern Dusty Pine Snake still curled up in the depression where the eighty pound pump had been seconds ago. As I climbed unsteadily and extremely painfully to my feet, the little fellow began to very slowly try to make an escape. He was sluggish with morning cold and probably terrified at the surreality playing out before his bright, beady little serpentine eyes.

I figure his cold-induced torpor was what made it so easy for Jack’s doggie kiss to break the formidable illusion the poor thing had obviously cast as his first line of defense.

I’m not the reincarnation of Steve Irwin by any stretch, but I refuse to kill anything that is not actively attempting to harm me or someone (human, feline, or canine) under my care. If I had to kill my own meat instead of buying it from the insulating safety of the supermarket, I would be a vegan or, more likely, starve to death. If I accidentally run over a frog hopping across the road after a downpour, the rest of my day and a good chunk of the next one is ruined.

With that in mind, I went BACK to the workshop and got my six foot long rod with the crook on the end I keep for just such an occasion. Returning to the narrow fellow in the grass’ burrow, I gently lifted him up with the crook and carefully deposited him over the back fence near a large brush pile that he will likely find much quieter and safer than a burrow under a ninety pound pool pump.

Love y’all and don’t forget to check the tub for Mr. No Shoulders before you wash those feet!