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


  1. "Son, drive your car into the ditch." You made me laugh out loud! It took me seven years to place in this contest. Keep writing!

    Amy Mullis, Honorable Mention
    2010 Erma Bombeck Contest

  2. Dude. You've got family bonding genius here. I'm with Amy -- keep at it. And... Isn't 450 words the most paltry amount of words ever?

    Sarah Stirman, Honorable Mention
    2010 Erma Bombeck Contest

  3. Ladies (Amy and Sarah), You've made my day. Bless you both! You guys know more than those pesky judges anyway (except for their judging of your columns). I made my post before I read your columns. Now I see what I'm doing wrong, but I don't know how to correct it:)

    Thanks for the encouragement!


  4. I agree with both of the award winning writers. Well written and humorous. Keep it up, but next year give yourself more than 36 hours!

  5. Greg-Trying to send this from my iPhone -2nd time--which is a column in itself. Great job; loved the missing shovels! Keep submitting; you're on a roll.
    Nancy Berk
    Honorable Mention Erma Bombeck Contest

  6. Hey, Greg -

    Thanks so much for visiting my blog, and for your kind comments about my Erma post. I think you're being way too hard on yourself - your entry made me laugh!

    Take care and hope to see you at the conference...

    :-D Anna

  7. I have no writing credentials but even you had too many words, I thought the story was funny. As you know, I have lots of experience driving in snow. They have been marked by a few trips into the ditch and a few spins but managing staying on the road. Perhaps, I can work with you on your direction giving for Davis.