With the summer season just around the corner, most people are making vacation plans. I, on the other hand, have been busy stressing about all of the things around my house that need my attention.
I’ve been thinking about what to do with all my “stuff” in the attic. Emmaline runs a trim ship. I sail a kind of garbage scow.
It’s time to get the wet leaves out of the roof gutters, put fertilizer on the lawn, fetch some sacks of pebbles for the rock garden. On a more personal note, I wanted to rescue a couple of my favorite shirts from the church donation box sitting by the front door.
Whenever I think that I have too much to do, my stress rises. When that happens, it’s like I’m being pecked to death by ducks. Its as if I were tied hand and foot and lying on wet grass with a raft, team or paddling (see Google) of ducks pecking me. Their blunt beaks don’t break the skin on my head like the peck of a woodpecker would, but the sensation is still painful, and
The feeling comes when I think I have too many things to do and not enough time to do them. I often get relief by day dreaming about decades past when I traveled a lot—to Latin America, the Caribbean, North and Central Africa, Japan. But if I day dream too deeply while I’m doing something like trimming the hedge, and I mess it up, and—out come the ducks.
I’ve been thinking Emmaline and I need to go back to the Caribbean, or Latin America. But then I realize that what we really need is to go back to our good old rental cabin in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. I always love our days on the river there, floating downstream on inner tubes, drinking steins of root beer with my friends, the little old colonial Dutchmen.
Back in March I got in touch with my humor column friends and colleagues at The Enchantment, that dingy roadhouse on the edge of town where so many of them congregate. I told them to meet us at the cabin. Then, what with the ducks in my head and all, I nearly forgot about the trip to the cabin.
So today, I got the word out—on Internet, by smoke signals, by homing pigeons, by mental telepathy–and by a few other means of communication that I won’t elaborate on here. I invited everyone
to meet us at the cabin. The invitation to my robot friend KB11.2 (Kaybe, for short) went zinging through outer space to his home planet that’s just a few parsecs from our nearest star, Alpha Centuari. And I asked Kaybe to stop by Cuba on his way andpick up Kate in the jungle down there.
Emmaline thought we couldn’t go to the cabin right now because there was too much to be done here: paint the shutters, plant a garden, clean out the garage, etc., etc.
“And What about Ginger?” she asked. Ginger is our dog.
“I promise to paint the shutters when we get back. The weather will be better then, anyway. It’s been a late spring, so we can put in the garden after we get back. Ginger always comes with us, remember? Her carrier is just inside the front door, next to that donation box we’re taking to the church.”
I knew that Emmaline wanted to go to the cabin all along, but we needed to tie up loose ends. After she went to pack, she called down to say she was including a variety of ceramic root beer steins.
She had chosen one for everybody. A few days later as we got ready to leave the ducks in my head took a nap—a nice long one, I hoped.
When I lifted Ginger into her carrier, she nestled down on top of my favorite dear old (not to be discarded) shirt. It was folded neatly underneath her.
I put the church donation box in the car to drop off on the way out of town.
Dr. Larry Day is a retired KU J-School professor, turned humor columnist. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available on Amazon.
About a year ago I wrote a column titled, “I Speak Alien.” In that column I told how my friend from outer space, the alien KB-11.2, had saved my engagement and my marriage by teaching me Mujerspeak, the native language of my bride-to-be Emmaline.
Recently my alien friend surged to the rescue again. This time Kaybe helped a colleague ofmine. Dr. Morris Amaraduckski is a professor at Letongaloosa Community Junior College where I teach. Morrie’s teaching and research field is polychromatic einsprechen. Scores of LCJC students have become linguistically nimble after taking Dr. Amaraduckski’s course, “Theory and Practice of Tergiversation, Circumlocution and Equivocation.”
All his life Morrie had been too busy for romantic distractions. He was a focused individual.
He sailed through high school, college and graduate school with topnotch grades by keeping his eyes on a computer screen, and the seat of his pants on a chair at the library. After hereceived his Ph.D., and came to teach at LCJC, Morrie focused on getting tenure. He taught his classes vigorously, and he published prodigiously. For a number of years after he gained tenure,
Morrie just focused on being focused.
Then one day, WHAM, Morrie fell in love. The object of his affection was Sally Beeglesdorf-Hannraty, wife of the late George Henry Hannraty, DDS. Sally moved to Letongaloosa to run aflower and gift shop after the untimely demise of her husband. Sally and her spouse had lived foryears on the East Coast where people talk loud and straight, and have funny accents.
When Sally moved to Letongaloosa she talked loud and straight and had a funny accent.
She caused culture shock among the locals who, as a general rule, speak quietly and bea around the bush a good deal. Sally’s social life was straitened and her flower and gift shop’sbusiness suffered as a result. But Sally was intelligent. She soon realized that Letongaloosa was not the East Coast, and that Letongaloosans weren’t going to adapt to her. She decided to adapt to Letongaloosa.
Sally enrolled in an elocution class at LCJC, and well before the semester ended she hadlost her East Coast accent, toned down her loud voice, and learned to put “at” on the end ofher sentences—as in “That’s a nice dress, where did you buy it at?”
There remained one serious problem. Sally still talked straight. She always called a spade a spade. Sally felt that speaking honestly was a matter of moral integrity, not a matter of accent orvoice level. She refused to compromise when it came to expressing her honest opinion. As aresult, the newly accent-free, soft spoken Sally remained in straitened social circumstances,running a business that attracted all too few customers.
It was the first day of classes for Spring semester. As usual, Morrie had a full roster of students enrolled in his popular course, “Theory and Practice of Tergiversation, Circumlocution and Equivocation.” One of those enrolled was Sally Beeglesdorf-Hannraty. Morrie had his back to the class and was writing on the chalkboard when Sally walked in and took a seat at the front of the room. Morrie turned around, and their eyes met. A jolt passed through them both. It was love atfirst sight.
A flustered Morrie jibbered and jabbered for the first few minutes of the class. Then he pulled himself together and called the roll. Then he fixed his gaze on a spot on the wall at the back of the room, and began to deliver the lecture. Sally found that she could keep from fidgeting and sighing loudly by tuning out Morrie’s voice, and staring fixedly at the blue lines on a page of a spiral notebook that lay open on her desk. She didn’t take a single note. The students, understandably, were bored. It was a painful fifty minutes for everyone.
Finally, to everyone’s relief, the electronic sheep bell that signals the change of classes at LCJC, clanged . The students streamed out. Behind the lecturn, Morrie was uncharacteristicallytongue tied. Sally sat demurely and uncharacteristically silent.
“Ms. Beeglesdorf-Hannraty…” Morrie began.
“ Sally,” said Sally, interrupting him.
“And I would be gratified, indeed, warmly appreciative, if you would address me simply as Morrie. That is the sobriquet by which I am known to my nearest and dearest friends,” said Morrie.
“Right,” said Sally.
“If you have no other pressing engagement, my dear Sally, may I induce you toaccompany me to the cafeteria for some light refreshment and a bit of conversation?”
“Sure,” said Sally.
Though they spent two hours sitting across from each other at a small table, neither of them could remember, later, what they had talked about. But somehow they knew that they were going to be part of each other’s lives from then on.
The next time they saw each other was at the second meeting of the class. Morrie wasfeeling ebullient and articulate. He was braced by the thought of seeing Sally again. Sally had spent all morning having her hair done. When she walked into the classroom she was breathlessly excited to see Morrie again.
The class had barely begun when the scales fell from their eyes.
Morrie began his lecture with a brilliant, if somewhat circuitous, explication of euphemisms as a conversational deflection technique. On the chalkboard he diagramed Wallburner’s Euphemistic Deflection Model, and recommended it to the class as a powerful linguistic tool for conversationally disarming friend and foe alike.
“With Wallburner’s Model,” said Morrie, “you can express your opinion articulately andpowerfully, and at the same time prevent your conversational opponent from taking offense.
When you use Wallburner’s Model, you never have to say you’re sorry.”
“What a bunch of crap!”
The words sliced through the air like a laser. There was a collective intake of breath. Morrie’s face froze, his mouth ajar. Dozing students’ eyes popped open. People sat up straight and looked around the classroom, trying to identify the speaker. The voice had been as quiet and well modulated as the words had been crude and combative.
“I beg your pardon,” said Morrie, gazing at Sally.
“I said that’s a bunch of crap,” said Sally. “Euphemistic deflection my hind leg. Where at did you get such baloney at?” she asked in the same quiet, well modulated tone she’d used in the first outburst.
All of a sudden Morrie and Sally were going at each other in what can best be described asa dogfight between a feisty rat terrier and an aloof, purebred afghan hound. Morrie’s eloquentcompound-complex multi-syllabic sentences in defense of euphemisms and decorouscircumlocutions soared with erudition. Sally flamed back with rapid fire four-word zingers andgraphic, monosyllabic epithets. It was a highly stimulating exchange for the students, but it was a very, very grim business for the two combatants.
That night my alien friend KB-11.2 entered the picture. Kaybe, as you’ll recall, looks like agiant tuna fish can. Erector Set™ arms sprout from the curving sides of his body, and three spindly metal legs drop down from the underside of his flat, stainless steel torso.
Decades ago Kaybe taught me Mujerspeak. Today my fluency in that language is a key to my happy home life. Apparently Kaybe is still assigned to do good works in this quadrant of the galaxy, because he beamed himself down to the den where Morrie sat brooding darkly over the romantic train wreck he’d just been through.
Kaybe’s assignment was a tough one, and he carried it out beautifully. He taught Morrie to speak a direct, straight to the point language called Ritefrumdashoulder, and he taught Sally to speak an easygoing, loose-limbed language called Goinroundabarn.
I was invited to their wedding a few weeks later. Toward the end of the ceremony, the minister asked the bride and bridegroom the “do you” question.
Sally replied, “My response is absolutely, indubitably, unquestioningly, totally, andecstatically in the affirmative.”
Morrie said, “Yep.”
I’ve written a humor column every month for the last 16 years. That breaks down to 192 columns—134,400 words. The columns go by many titles and most of the ideas for them come at times when I am not sitting at my desk, vis. while I’m walking the dog, having lunch with my Emmaline. My, ideas–it’s a stretch to call it inspiration—pop up wherever I may be. One of the most enjoyable aspects of my job is telling about some of my adventures (real and imagined), and in letting you, the readers, meet some of the people who inhabit those adventures.
In many stories, from exploring the Cuban jungle with my colleague, Kate, to meeting with my long-distance pal from outer space, the robot KB-11.2 (Kaybe), I have taken Life on some curious journeys. And I’ve share them with you. It’s never been boring, and as I write this month’s column, and as I think about all my friends, my pals, the little Dutchmen come to mind.
I haven’t really been out to the Smokies to see them lately. As a result, we’re thinking about making a trip there especially since St. Patrick’s Day is coming up. I first introduced the little guys in July 2014 in a column titled Man in the Mirror. It was about my first encounter with a curious-looking gentleman, a kabouter. Most people would think a kabouter as a leprechaun. Kabouters wear long beards and antique Dutch-looking clothing including tri-cornered hats.
I was standing in front of the mirror in a vacation cabin back in the Smoky Mountains where Emmaline and I frequently stay. The Dutchman was staring at me from a mirror that hung in the bathroom. I was startled. After I calmed down and got my bearings, the Dutchman and his friends took me tubing down the stream that flows alongside the cabin. We drank root beer from large steins, and had a rip-roaring afternoon. I’ve written a couple of columns about our adventures with the Dutchman and his fellow Kabouters. But I haven’t given you readers much detail about them.
Here’s some background: The Dutchman in the mirror is named Jurriaan. It’s Jurriaan Lievin, as a matter of fact. Jurriaan and his friends live in a mushroom village located in the woods just down the one-lane road from our family’s Smoky Mountain cabin. These guys, according to Dutch folklore, are shy of humans. Stories say that they play tricks on people who try to catch them. For whatever reason these little Dutchmen men were more curious than shy when it came to me, Emmaline, and our family well before wrote about them. They’ve been a part of our family celebrations ever since.
Folklore also mentions that some Kabouter love the off-stage limelight. They have been the focus of countless fairytales, but the stories always mention the tiny men slipping away after performing their good deeds. We all know the Legend of the Wooden Shoes. And on television we’ve all seen the gnome in that travel commercial. That’s Jurrriaan’s cousin, Nicholaas. He, wasn’t shy like the other men in the forest, so Nicholaas decided to head for Los Angeles and try his hand at acting. He’s become quite successful.
Emmaline and I are planning to go to the cabin soon. We need adventure, and our friends the Dutchmen are all about adventure. They always have been. In that vein, I’ve decided it’s time my best friends meet each other.
I contacted Kaybe and Kate and told them to meet us at the cabin this spring. Kate is excited to get out of the jungle for a while and to meet everyone. I asked Kaybe drop by and pick her up in his spaceship. It’s not out of his way.
Emmaline is excited, too. She’s planning a party and has already bought root beer steins for everyone. And there’ll be plenty of inner tubes too for the river float. Oh, that reminds me, I need to get some lubricating oil for Kaybe. The humidity at the cabin sometimes plays hob with his metal joints.
I looked up the “Rock Chalk Chant,” on Wikipedia. It is famous (as you’ll read) and beloved. Teddy Roosevelt called it the best chant/yell in college sports. Enjoy!!
History of the University of Kansas Rock Chalk Chant
The chant was first adopted by the university’s science club in 1886. Chemistry professor E.H.S. Bailey and his colleagues were returning by train to Lawrence after a conference. During their travel, they discussed a need of a rousing yell. They came up with “Rah, Rah, Jayhawk, Go KU”, repeated three times, which later became “Rock Chalk Jayhawk, KU”.
By 1889, “Rock Chalk”—a transposition of chalk rock, a type of limestone, that exists in the Cretaceous-age bedrocks of central and western parts of the state as well as on Mount Oread, where the University is located, which is similar to the coccolith-bearing chalk of the white cliffs of Dover—later replaced the two “rahs.” Those responsible for the change are unknown, with Bailey himself crediting the geology department, and others an English professor.
Kansas troops have used it in the Philippine-American War in 1899, the Boxer Rebellion, and World War II. In the 1911 Border War football game, over 1,000 fans gathered in downtown Lawrence to listen to a “broadcast” of the game by telegraph and participated in cheers including the Rock Chalk.
In the 1920 Summer Olympics, Albert I of Belgium asked for a typical American college yell, and gathered athletes replied with the chant.
Former United States President Theodore Roosevelt called the Rock Chalk chant, the greatest college chant he ever heard.
As a freshman in college, Dodd worked as a waiter at a pizza parlor in town. He was prompt and friendly, and people were liberal with their tips. Dodd saved his tips in a glass jar and opened a savings account at a local bank. When the tip bottle was full, Dodd took it to the bank to make a deposit. He asked the teller to use the bank’s money counting machine to count the coins.
The teller said, “Count them yourself.”
The Outcome: Dodd immediately closed his savings account and opened one at another local bank. The new bank’s teller cheerfully used the bank’s machine to count Dodd’s loose change. After Dodd graduated, he got a good job and continued banking with the folks that had counted his coins. In the following decades Dodd took out half a dozen loans and two mortgages at that bank.