Humor

Roads Scholar and Gravel Slalom

I’ve finally reached that mind-body equilibrium we all seek. I’m both a Roads Scholar and a Gravel-road Slalom competitor. You’re probably not familiar with either unless you live at the end of four miles of a dirt road in Vermont and live here year-round. For many of us the primal terror of “mud season” faded with the invention of Tyvek, now underlying the uppermost gravel layer on our back roads. The white lingerie gracing many unfinished homes in our backwoods turned out also to be a boon for those of us living on back roads where in spring the water-table overtakes the road surface. Tyvek has drastically reduced the boggy swales that mired our cars each spring. Visitors driving along …
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Town Meeting Day is Upon Us

Soon, it’ll be March and Town Meeting will again be upon us. Our venerable system of local government – where it’s still practiced – calls townsfolk together to debate and make decisions of local and global import with a mix of comity and comedy. The characters and issues vary from town to town, but there are some regulars one can count on seeing and hearing from. I’m especially fond of the harumphers, those with the ageing teenage-pout who glower at the moderator with their arms firmly crossed on an ample bosom or chest. When recognized, their pronouncements are usually terse and glacially clear, after which they settle back into their harrumph posture with a “go ahead and top that!” look …
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The Curse of Instruction Manuals

When I was young, cursing was frowned on in our family. I was raised a Catholic and it was a mortal sin to take the Lord’s name in vain. But I remember shocking myself one day as I led a pack of Stowe ski friends down the mountain after a 20-inch snowfall in a game of “follow the leader.” To show off, I veered off the summit trail and over the cliff that begins the National, a notoriously difficult racing trail. The new snow had obscured a chain and a pendant sign across the trail indicating it was closed. I felt the sharp pain in my shins and pitched forward over the chain. Both skis and one boot released, and …
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Children should never be allowed to name pets

I’m not obsessive about pet names. I usually leave them to the kids, perhaps with a little parental guidance, like avoiding undistinguished names likeFluffy or Spot, or ambiguous names like Pussy, or aggressive names likeGenghis or Trojan. So, when we drove up to Frank Bryan’s hill farm in Starksboro to choose a tiger kitten from the dwindling array of barn cats left after an onslaught of fishers had depleted his neighborhood of most domestic pets under forty pounds, we decided on a double-toed tiger male and brought him home in the arms of my then 5-year-old daughter, Anna. Looking small and confused on the floor of our kitchen, the still nameless kitten relieved himself mightily. I muttered under my breath, “Oughtta name him sphincter.” Anna …
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What Lies Beneath?

I’m losing my war against field mice. This time they chewed through the power cord to the freezer. So, with the freezer thawing, it’s time for a family cookout. I’m pulling chunks of hoarfrost-covered packages out and sorting them on the garage floor. The 3, 4, 5-year old labels are illegible. Let’s see, this looks like liver – but lamb, venison, beef, or pork? These round things must be organs. That’s a chicken, or is it the wild turkey our lawn-mower guy gave us? My worldly wife spent some of her youth in France where people eat much more of an animal than we finicky Americans do, like tripe, trotters, head cheese, veal kidneys, pork cheeks, sweetbreads, and the like. …
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Hearing loss? Speak up ! Stop mumbling!

Real men don’t have “hearing loss.” Their spouses just mumble as they get older. It was true for my grandfather and father, and it’s true for me.  My wife keeps telling me to go to Costco and get my hearing checked. I explain that Costco is for red meat and toilet paper. I hear perfectly well, despite 55 years waving a chainsaw around, three years of concert-sound reinforcement for rock bands, and another ten years in a recording studio control room when I was young. If people just spoke clearly, hearing loss wouldn’t be such a relentless and annoying topic of conversation. For example, my wife asks, “How ‘bout a little snuggle?” to which I answer, “Sure, if the snow …
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Car Lust

My car lust began when an older buddy let me drive his father’s army surplus jeep in circles in a hayfield. I was like Toad in The Wind in the Willows. I was twelve. My car lust died a few decades ago when I had to be surgically removed, like a bad hemorrhoid, from a friend’s Mazda Miata. At 71, my automotive criteria are much simpler. Do I fit? Will it start? Is it inspectable? Will it make it? As a kid, I had to wait five years to consummate my budding car lust. At my high school graduation, my parents gave me the keys to a well-used 1958 VW. It had no gas gauge, an auxiliary fuel tank, and …
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Beware the Mt. Peculiar Jabberwalker

The Mt. Peculiar Jabberwalkers With apologies to Lewis Carroll on the last day of the 2015-16 session   ’Twas quiblous in Peculiar Town Rambunction and dysfunction, As Ceres eyed the legisphere’s compunction for injunction, Where Hobblespend Expropriations meets to cringe and oft to whinge About some new Progressive binge and tot infernal revenues. Next door, as if to complicate, the Caliphate Adjudicate Meets now to make more things illegal … to shake a fist or point at beagles Where lobbygobblers lurk and glom And green teens shuttle pros and cons Between their Fleecebook posts and texts. Beware the fearsome Job Creationist, haunting smokeless chatter rooms, Undone by tax and regulation, minion wage hikes, fambly leave, Bestowing gifts and currying favors, …
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Phinxter

I’m not obsessive about pet names. I usually leave them to the kids, perhaps with a little parental guidance, like avoiding undistinguished names like Fluffy or Spot, or ambiguous names like Pussy, or aggressive names like Genghis or Trojan. So when we drove up to the farmhouse in Starksboro to choose a tiger kitten from the dwindling array of barn cats left after an onslaught of fishers had depleted the neighborhood of most domestic pets under forty pounds, we decided on a double-toed tiger male and brought him home in the arms of my then 5-year-old daughter, Anna. Looking small and confused on the floor of our kitchen, the still nameless kitten relieved himself mightily. I muttered under my breath, …
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I Once was lost and now am found….

Any honest priest who knows his altar boys will tell you they’re prey to mortal sin, especially as they pass through puberty and their fervid imaginations evoke that which they have yet to experience firsthand – stern admonitions of wimpled catechism sisters notwithstanding. I was one of those altar boys in Morrisville in the 50s. We often caucused to share euphemisms for our particular sin. We’d stand around before mass, looking nervously at our palms and suggest such vocabulary to one another that would hopefully elude the hearing of our father confessor in a rapidly stated litany of otherwise venial sins. Altar boys must take communion and one cannot partake unless one is in a state of grace. Thus to …
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