It's Funny What We're Thankful For

I'm not going to be online much for the next few days, so here's my holiday column a little early. Happy Thanksgiving!


            “I cried because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet. So I took his shoes. What was he going to do, chase me down?”

            I don’t know who said that, but they clearly knew an opportunity when they saw it. It should remind us, this Thanksgiving season, to be happy no one has stolen our shoes … or our feet.

            I had trouble coming up with a list of what I was thankful for this year. The old, clichéd stuff is, well, clichéd. My family, my job, my pocket lint collection, my health …

            My health? The health thing tripped me up a little, this year. In 2013 I took my very first trip to the emergency room as a patient … and took my wife to her first emergency room visit … and visited my sister-in-law, grandmother, and father after they were all rushed to the hospital. The only time I visited the ER more was in the early 80’s, and that was only because I actually volunteered on an ambulance service.

            Believe me, looking down at the cot is way better than looking up.

            This year I had two sinus infections and a kidney stone, started getting weekly allergy shots, got stuffed full of meds for tennis elbow (and I can’t even hit a tennis ball), and suffered one of the few migraines I’ve ever had in my life. Then I had to get a heart scan after an abnormal EKG reading and chest pains. I’m on so many medications that the drug company representatives skip the middle man and come straight to my house.

            I had to start taking regular aspirin and ibuprofen, and started wearing an arm brace. Then I was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis. Can you believe that? Plantar fasciitis!

            Otherwise known as pain from fallen arches. But still … it sounds bad.

            But at least I have my health.

            Still, when you’re talking Thanksgiving, the first thing you have to conclude is that it could be worse. No, my feet have not been amputated. I haven’t had brain surgery, nor have I been forced to do brain surgery in a disaster situation. I realize that’s an extreme example. Here’s another way of looking at it: I haven’t been poisoned this year, or suffered liver failure, or developed an overwhelming desire to drink human blood.

            Believe me, if any of those things had happened, they’d be on the list.

            But just because other people have worse problems than yours, doesn’t mean you don’t have problems. Am I to be thankful that I just had a kidney stone? It beats giving birth, or so I’ve heard.

            In the end, it all depends on your point of view. I’ve been known to say (usually during winter) that the glass is not half full – it’s half empty, cracked, and slowly leaking.

            But I don’t usually feel that way, not really. The truth is – cliché or not – that I’ve been blessed with a wonderful wife, great family, an incipient fiction writing career that seems to be taking off, a good job because writing careers aren’t renowned for their income … and I still live in what is, despite the efforts of those in Washington, D.C., the greatest country in the world. Although I’ve heard Luxembourg is nice.

            That ain’t too shabby.

            For the rest of it? All those aches and pains, stupidity in government, bills, winter? Why, I deal with all that using the one personal thing I really am thankful for, something that has stood me in great stead and gotten me through some tough times:

            I’m thankful for a sense of humor.

            Some people don’t have that. We all know those people. They’re usually miserable, and a lot of them want to take everyone else down in misery with them. Just as I don’t understand how people who don’t read fend of boredom, I don’t understand how someone can survive modern life without making fun of it.

            I mean, come on. Joe Biden’s our Vice President. Joe Biden! You have to laugh at that, or jump off a bridge.

            I’m so thankful that I can make fun of politics and not get arrested. And so many other things, too. Imagine how horribly tragic the Kardashians really are if you can’t make fun of them. Reality TV is a danger to our entire civilization, but at least I can make jokes about stranding Congress on a desert island with crates of canned fruit but no opener. Watched over by Jeff Probst, of course.

            It doesn’t even matter if other people think I’m funny, as long as I’m entertaining myself. (This often happens when I’m at parties.) I can go to a PETA sponsored vegan dinner and order steak – rare. Everyone else in the room will be horrified, but I’ll think it’s hilarious.

            (I wouldn’t actually do that – those people are scary. They look like they’re always on the verge of giving up and biting into whatever flesh is closest.)

            The other day I was using a pair of wire cutters, when the cutters broke in half – without cutting the wire. Anyone else might have cursed and hurled the pieces across the room, but I started thinking up ways of working the story into a column. (Which I just did.)

            In fact, making fun of yourself is one of the best ways to go through life. (I even make fun of my overuse of parenthesis.)

            So that’s what I’m thankful for this year: My sense of humor. Or anyone’s sense of humor, really. The world would, by definition, be a sadder place without it. So cheer up, everyone, and have a laugh. Crying does you no good, anyway.
            Oh, and keep an eye on your shoes – just in case.

Daddy date day

     On Friday my brother Jeff, his wife Cathy, Emily, and I took Dad out for dinner at Applebees. We had a great time, but more importantly: Dad has his appetite back! Whatever new medicine the docs gave him is working.  Also, they might be taking his lung tube out soon, since they haven't found any new fluid in his lungs the last few times they checked. He's tired, of course, but looking okay, and has one more round of chemo to go through in early December.

A snippet from chapter 1 of Smoky Days And Sleepless Nights

            In 1859, fire breaks out in the Noble County Courthouse in Chapter One of
Smoky Days and Sleepless Nights: A Century Or So With The Albion Fire Department:

            John W. Bryant spotted the fire in Albion’s first courthouse at around 1 a.m. on a frigid January morning. He saw flames spread through the clerk’s office on the south side of the ground floor, and gave an alarm that likely consisted of a high pitched scream.
            In those days, the entire population of a town would turn out to give what help they could at the call of “fire!” In some communities the law stated everyone had to own at least one bucket. As the alarm spread, people would throw their buckets out the window, where they’d be grabbed up, until everyone formed bucket brigades to splash water on the fire.
            How many concussions resulted from fallen buckets hasn’t been documented.

            Albion’s first reported fire rescue and injuries followed … you can read the whole book by ordering on Amazon at, or from my website at

Hoosiers Go Hog Wild In China


            We here in rural Indiana don’t tend to think of ourselves as being part of the big worldwide picture. In fact, many people from the east and west coasts can’t tell Indiana from Oklahoma, while some foreigners mistakenly believe Indiana is America’s last Indian reservation.

Granted, Noble County contributed to the world Commissioner of Baseball Ford Frick, writer Gene Stratton-Porter, and me. (My contribution is pending.) Whitley County gave us country singer Janie Fricke, and the Beast of Busco. From Allen County we have actresses Shelley Long and Carole Lombard, not to mention incompetent M*A*S*H surgeon Frank “Ferret Face” Burns. It’s quite a lineup.

Overall, it would seem northeast Indiana outside of Fort Wayne is a mere blip on the economic radar. But then I read about Whiteshire Hamrock, a Noble County farm which recently shipped 1,180 pigs to China.

Specifically, Whiteshire Hamrock ships swine breeding stock, which they’ve sent to 22 different countries. They’re very happy swine. Amorous oinkers, you might say. I grew up down the road from a hog farm, but I’m happy to say I never overheard any of the porkers, um, porking.

I toured Whiteshire Hamrock once, as part of a pre-plan training for the fire department. The place is amazing. It’s got more pork than the federal budget, but is way better organized. Frankly, the place is cleaner than my basement, roomier than my house, and has a patented air ventilation system that makes the place smell better than my back yard. (In my defense, we have a compost pile.)

The company actually has an office in China. That’s no blip – it’s a swine station!

China owns a huge amount of American debt, but if we ship them enough pigs, we should be out of hock in no time. I do wonder, though, how we actually get them over there. I mean, they have to be alive – they’re breeders. If they fly, do they each have to be belted in? And would the seats be big enough in economy class?

Then, I assume, they become mail order hog brides, happy as a pig in a poke, producing piglets at a prodigious pace.

Sorry if I’m hogging all the puns; I didn’t mean to be a boar.

Then, eventually, they’d be all play-pigged out and some uncaring butcher would haul them away on their little pigs feet, destined to provide hams like me with both joke material and a really excellent Easter dinner.

I realize animal lovers may consider me a swine for thinking of this as such a rib-tickler, but making other things the butt of my jokes is how I bring home the bacon and stay out of hock myself. Believe me, it’s not always a picnic, so spare me. There’s a lot at steak.

Don’t you just love the English language?

According to the 2002 hog census, there were 185 million hogs sold in the US in 2002. I assume the hog census isn’t as complicated as the people census. And yet there were only 715,000 heart attacks, so take that, health nuts. That’s twelve billion dollars’ worth of ribs, ham, roast, and, of course, back bacon. There’s also something called St. Louis cut ribs, because some cities just have to hog all the attention. Canadian bacon is like regular bacon, only it’s very sorry. I have no desire to know where butt comes from.

Hogs were first domesticated 6,000 years ago – by the Chinese, so a little irony, there. They started salting pork bellies around 1500. But the hogs didn’t like that much so they sprayed the salt off, giving us the term “hogwash”. Pigs didn’t get to America until 1539, when a Spaniard named Hernando DeSoto brought some over for the first barbeque.

In the early days of New York hogs were allowed to run free, forcing farmers to build a wall to keep them out of their fields. The street that ran along that wall became – wait for it – Wall Street … which explains a lot, doesn’t it?

Harry Truman once said, "No man should be allowed to be President who does not understand hogs." If that’s true, than we should set up Whiteshire Hamrock as the new seat of government: We’ll call it the Whiteshire House, and take our government babyback away from the boneless porkers now stewing their lard in Washington, even if we have to pack it in racks and haul it in a wheel barrow.

So gird your loins for the Hamrock administration and let’s go whole hog, people. We can shoulder the responsibility; and the Whiteshire slab would be a prime location.

Yes, I'll finish that dragon

Yes, I’ll finish that dragon: A review of Barry Parham’s newest humor book:

“Thanks to Barry Parham, I’ve gained five pounds and have chocolate smeared across my face. I guess that technology’s still in beta.”

Speak of the Devil: The Last Full Measure Of Devotion

Speak of the Devil: The Last Full Measure Of Devotion: Before getting started today, have a peek over at our joint blog for a  different kind of review  of Thor: The Dark World. And leave us a c...

Be prepared

            We had a lot of damage in Noble County from the storm Sunday, including what may have been a tornado touchdown up in the northeast area of our county, but no injury reports that I’m aware of. Other people had it much, much worse – a hundred million people in 26 states were in the path of the storms. There were six deaths reported as of last time I checked, and it was the third largest tornado outbreak in Indiana history. Hundreds of thousands of people were without power.

            Parts of central and southern Indiana had it really bad, as did areas of Illinois. This is a call for disaster preparation: Tornadoes are rare in the northern Midwest in November, but it happened yesterday and it happened in November of 2001. There’s no place where bad things can’t happen, whether natural or manmade. Have your emergency supplies, disaster plans, and ways of being notified. Pay attention and be prepared. Nobody thinks bad things will happen to them … but they do.