Out in the country where I grew up life was tougher than it is now and people didn’t necessarily see humor in all that hard work and suffering back then.
Especially on my mother’s side. Granddaddy thought life was a God-watched test. I don’t ever remember the guy smiling. On my father’s side there was Mamma-Parker as mean and spiteful a person as ever has lived.
Now there were story tellers in the family, don’t get me wrong. Only stories weren’t meant to be funny, necessarily. Sometime they were, but stories with the Parkers and the Edwards were mostly to excuse, update, proselytize and educate.
Exception was my Uncle Harold, the subject of my 9-1-1 Rants and Yarns # 7. He liked to laugh and tell jokes and funny stories that he swore were true, but I don’t know.
1) Here’s one of his story I’ve heard a dozen different ways from a dozen different other people since Uncle Harold told it to me the first time… of someone sitting a nice looking suitcase by the side of a country road… with a snake or wildcat or possum in it… and wait for someone to drive by, see that suitcase, back up, get it in the car and take off again, to see the car swerve into a field down the way a bit as people inside the car tried to get away from whatever got out of that suitcase. The value to this story is that it appeals to country boys who could visualize the whole thing taking place. Actually Uncle Harold told this story a number of times in my presence, adding details with ever telling, and laughing harder every time.
2) Another story he told as if it actually happened was about a young boy and girl getting engaged in a small town near Raleigh, North Carolina. The bride’s mother decided to give them a surprise wedding-announcement party and set up this elaborate ruse to have the boy come over to their house to help the daughter look after her baby sister, while the Mom and Dad went to a movie. Boy arrived, Mom and Dad left, went around the block and slipped back in the basement to their house where they joined friends of the boy and girl, their ministers, school teacher and neighbors. On a signal one of the next door neighbors called over to remind the girl to go down into the basement (where everyone was waiting in the dark, teetering with excitement) and switch on the furnace. Within minutes the door to the upstairs opened and the people downstairs heard the girl and her fiancé coming down… and they gave them a little time, so that they’d be half way down or so… when someone turned on the lights and everyone yelled “Surprise.” Sure was. The boy was holding the girl in his arms and they were both buck naked. In the stunning silence that followed, the boy dropped the girl, went back upstairs and left. Marriage cancelled.
3) And this was one of his crowning glories: There was a farmer went out to the barn to milk the cow, and he was milking the cow, and milking the cow, and all of sudden the cow kicked the bucket over with her right rear hoof. So the farmer got up and got some rope and he tied the right rear hoof of the cow to the side of the stall, righted his bucket and went back to milking. Then the cow kicked the bucket over with its free left rear hoof. So the farmer got up and using what was left of the rope tied the cow’s left rear hoof to the side of the stall and pulled the rope tight so that the cow’s hind legs were sort of splayed, what with the fact their rear legs were tired to the side of the stall. And the farmer went back to milking. And he was milking when the cow using her tail, swung down and knocked the bucket over. Now this really pissed the farmer off, and he was going to do something with that tail, but there was no more rope, so he stood up and took off his belt, stood on his stool and was tying the cow’s tail to a beam above the stall, reaching up as far as he could to tie that belt, when his pants fell down… and that’s when the farmer’s wife walked in… Here again this is a country boy special, because those boys who had milked cows could just picture this, and stories about locals “romancing” farm animals always got a laugh.
My father on the other hand, never could tell a joke good… well mother couldn’t either. But here’s a joke my father use to tell and he’d start laughing long before he got to the punch line, so the great entertainment value was watching Daddy laugh.
Joke went like this: A city slicker from the east coast went out west to a dude ranch. First day he’s walking around the spread and comes up to the blacksmith’s shop. He’s standing there as the blacksmith – using some metal tongs – takes a horseshoe from the red hot coals of his hearth over to an anvil and he hammers that thing one way and then another, then he put it back in the fire for a little bit and back to the anvil, and finally holds it up to the morning sun… inspecting it. It seemed OK so the blacksmith (here’s where Daddy would start laughing) took that horseshoe and dipped it in a bucket of water – and it sizzled and all – and he threw it out in the yard near were the dude was standing. The dude walked over, picked it up and went, “Aaaaaaahhhhhh…” and he flung the what was obviously still a very hot horseshoe away (Daddy’s laughing more). Blacksmith said, “Hot weren’t it.” And the dude said (more laughing from Daddy) “No, just doesn’t take me long to look at a horseshoe.” And he’d laugh and laugh, and so would I.
But for all my relatives there is no one who tells jokes any better than Brenda, my wife. Now if you know Brenda, you’ll know why this one joke I’m thinking about – from her – is funny. If you don’t know Brenda, but have been reading these Rants and Yarns over the last few months, you’ll know she’s a very decent, very handsome, straight forward person. She doesn’t allow dirty shoes or the F-word in her house. She wouldn’t dare say anything to anyone throwing F-bombs around in her presence, but she’d never invite that person over again. She’s a Southern Lady.
But she’s no prude.
Here’s the joke I love to hear her tell.
There are two women talking, and they’re talking and they’re talking and one woman said to the other… but no, I can’t tell you the joke. I just can’t. But the next time you see Brenda, ask her about the two women talking and they’re talking… and…