Saturday, March 13, 2010

Walkin' in a Winter Blunderland

In the words of the great military officer candidate Zach Mayo: "I got no place left to go." With this column, that is.  Back in January, with about 36 hours to spare, I decided to enter this year's Erma Bombeck Writing Contest. My offering was slapped into the proverbial stands like Cole Alrich swatting away a layup at Allen Field House. So since "they" didn't publish it, I figured I'd throw it out here so it could endure some more abuse. Please read this then follow the link to the winners' entries and tell me where I went wrong.  I think my main problem is I can't write even a salutation in less than 450 words. That limit was the laughingly small number of words I could use for the contest entry. How can anyone develop a funny story, let alone a timeless masterpiece in 450 words?  So I guess I'm not in the business of winning contests, I'm in the business of crafting timeless masterpieces.

If you believe that, you should join Zach Mayo-Naise by dropping and giving me 20.

Winter Blunderland...

Some realizations strike abruptly, like a recent epiphany that I hadn’t seen my ribcage since Reagan’s second term. Others come slowly, like THIS WINTER’S NOT ENDING. Our family spent Christmas in Alabama, so we missed the snow that blanketed our ten acres. Wondering what remained of the White Christmas back home, we pointed our two cars northward on December 27, negotiating the 674 miles loaded with kids, presents, and Social Networking. Although our state’s snowplow had indeed cleared our road, when we reached our property we discovered a massive snow barricade between our cars and driveway—it seemed to say: “Merry Christmas from the D-O-T.” I then did what any lucid parent with a wife and five children looking on would do—I floored it. Suddenly stopped, I jumped out to motion my son (driving the other car) over to the shoulder. He interpreted my complicated hand gestures as “Son, drive your car into the ditch.” We spent the next two hours engaged in activities therapists would describe as “family bonding.” We excavated the first car, “log-chained” the second, and portaged presents, suitcases and French fries down 177’ of icy driveway. Welcome home.

The next wave of snow wreaked havoc New Year’s Eve as I employed my turkey fryer to boil some birds in 375⁰ peanut oil. Left to cool, the fryer was commandeered by our “outside dogs” (the ones we forget to feed). It was later uncovered near our pond. Fortunately, after the first snow I had told the kids to put the four shovels back in the barn. That explains why they could not now be found, undoubtedly in the general vicinity of the driveway but lying invisible under snow.

Snow followed snow, ushering in subzero temperatures and wind chills—an invitation to all mice within two miles to hunker down inside our garage. To the mice’s pleasure, the garage refrigerator’s door was left open. Finally one of us got around to closing it. The mice probably didn’t complain too much; the temps in the fridge were warmer than those in the garage. Good thing we’d stocked up with an array of fine meats and cheeses.

My despair continued through January. But just when it seemed no end was in sight, I awoke this morning and glimpsed a sod-colored oasis. A beautiful oval patch of brown grass was peeking from above the subterranean warmth of our septic tank. Like Noah receiving a dove’s olive leaf, it was my first sign that travail was subsiding.

Like a groundhog that didn’t see his shadow, I’ve decided to celebrate. I think I’ll fire up that peanut oil and see what I’ve got left to cook from the fridge.


Check out the Global winner and honorable mentionees of this year's contest:
Humor Category - Global

First Place: Barb Best - Sherman Oaks, CA, United States

Honorable Mention: Nancy Berk - Pittsburgh, PA, United States

Honorable Mention: Amy Mullis - Moore, SC, United States

Honorable Mention: Bob Shirley - Kingsland, GA, United States

Honorable Mention: Sarah Stirman - Abilene, TX, United States

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Truman Corners: Trials and Tributes

Author’s Note: Maybe I’m too much of a neophyte in the craft of writing to have seen it coming. When one of my Facebook friends posted a nostalgic status update last fall about Grandview Plaza and Truman Corners, I immediately conceived of writing what I thought would be a witty, humorous piece from the perspective of a young boy about a shopping center of his youth and the perceived trials and tribulations with which it was fraught. But I’m learning that stories and columns and “pieces” rarely leave the station of my mind and arrive, unaltered, at their intended destinations. Somewhere along the way they get hijacked, commandeered, or just plain take me on a Sunday drive in the country. Such is the case with what you’re about to read. The hoped-for wit came slowly; the humor sluggishly, and I’m all the better for it. I hope you enjoy, and I hope you appreciate, even if just a little better, someone who shaped you into who you are today.

Truman Corners Circa Early 1960s. Photo Courtesy Jackson County Advocate