Tag Archives: Humor

Inner-Tube Baseball

Long before there were video games or paint-ball guns, my buddy Gale and I developed a game of our own called inner-tube baseball. It was an offshoot of Whiffle ball after our last plastic ball either caved in from overuse or got belted into the neighbor’s blackberries.

All you needed for inner-tube baseball was a wood bat and an inner tube like any of the ones we all used to float down the Pilchuck River in the summers of our youth. But the game was unique in that you could only play it in my backyard, because of the ground rules.

Muttsy was a pitcher’s best friend in inner-tube baseball, unless his chain on the drag wire cracked you in the head.

Pitching and hitting was  simple. You rolled the inner tube toward the batter, and he smacked it with the bat. Any tube rolling past the pitcher was a single. Past the pitcher in the air was a double. Past the pitcher and over my dog Muttsy’s elevated drag wire was a home run. The drag wire ran half the length of our backyard,  six to seven feet off the ground, between the garage and the catalpa tree,  just this side of the clothesline. The foul lines ran from home plate to the grape arbor in left field and from home to the corner of the chicken coop in right.  Home plate to the drag wire was maybe 25  feet. There were also two fielding hazards to consider: 1) a raised water spigot roughly 12 inches high in right-center, and 2) Muttsy getting excited by any passing person or animal and racing blindly across the field, pulling his chain along the drag wire and head-smacking anyone in the way.

There was no baserunning in inner-tube baseball.  Every swing was either a hit or an out. Any tube snagged in the air was an out, whether it cleared the drag wire or not, and anything smothered before getting past the pitcher was also an out. Two tubes hit foul or any tube that happened to strike Muttsy, fair or foul, also constituted an out.

And, as a carryover from plastic baseball, you had to announce who you were before every at-bat:  Mantle . . . Mays . . . Maris . . .  Yastrzemski . . . Frank or Brooks Robinson  . . .  Clemente . . .  Kaline . . .  Aaron . . . Alou (any of the three) . . .  Frank Howard . . . Boog Powell . . . Tony Oliva.  Gale favored the Giants and the Orioles, while I liked the Yankees and Twins. Gale’s dad once duck-hunted with Harmon Killebrew, so that made him a dual favorite in my yard.

It was mostly a game of strength, as you had to hit it well to clear the drag wire. Anything popped up was  caught, so you had to hit liners or launch like Willie McCovey. Grounders down either line had a chance to get through, but anything  up the middle on the ground was an easy out.

Being stronger, Gale had the upper hand from the start. Then my big brother Skip waded in to challenge the winner and he dominated.

“Way to go, dumbass,” he taunted me, “inventing a game that you can’t beat anyone at!”

That eventually spelled the end for inner-tube baseball. That and the drag wire getting broken or pulled down so many times that it no longer functioned as a measuring rod or a dog restraint.

Still, it was fun while it lasted. Even if I never beat anyone.

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Gator Baiter

It was a probably a bad idea in the first place for Ned “Buck” Tyler to flip off the impatient biker  trying to get around his shiny Airstream trailer with the “Buckeye Buck” banner on the gravel road leading from Gator Lake in central Florida.

The finger from the Ohio State football junkie went up in answer to the biker’s shaking fist as the speeding motorcycle approached the diver’s side window of Ned’s scarlet and gray Suburban, en route to the OSU-Florida game in Gainesville after an overnight stop to buy booze, sex and some alligator meat. Ned didn’t actually intend to run the biker off the road, but he lost control a bit on the loose gravelGator face with only one hand on the wheel and drifted over enough to push the biker onto the soft shoulder and subsequently off the road and into a swamp water bath.

“Whoa, sorry there, pal,” Tyler uttered, although not sorry enough to stop, or even slow down. “That’s what you get for messin’ with the Buck.”

Buck Tyler always had an inflated image of himself ever since playing sousaphone in the OSU matching band and, more than once, getting to dot the “i” in the band’s script OHIO halftime maneuver. An insufferable Buckeye booster ever since, he bought the Airstream to supply home luxury at every OSU road football game he could get to, pulling into tailgate areas on Friday afternoons and usually staying until they threw him out on Sunday night or Monday morning.

He hit Gainesville right on schedule and made himself at home, cranking up the OSU fight song to play incessantly and setting up Lois, his bodacious Buckeye mannequin cheerleader with the nicest pompoms you ever saw, outside the trailer door. He then started to grill gator steaks, drink heavily and swap barbs with all the Florida fans within shouting distance, promising everyone a sound thrashing on game day.

The Gator baiting went on past midnight, when a drunken Buck finally retired for the night, unaware of the swamp-stinky figure that strolled into the tailgate area looking for the Airstream with the Buckeye Buck banner. Next morning,  when security was called to determine what had happened, funny how nobody had seen or heard anything.

They found the Suburban inoperable from a half-rotten gator snout stuffed into the tailpipe. Lois lay headless, armless and topless, wearing only a pair of men’s UF swim trunks with a cucumber stuffed inside the front, while her head, arms, cheer suit and pompoms smoldered nearby next to a half-can of kerosene.

There was a gaping hole in the back of the trailer, where someone appeared to have cut through with a chain saw, but there was no sign of Buckeye Buck.

“Hmmm,” the security chief muttered as he surveyed the damages. “Fella must’ve gone a little overboard with his partying last night. Gonna have to write him up for that open fire!”

(Note: This was written as a Writers Kickstart prompt containing the following elements: an Airstream trailer with back ripped off, a sousaphone, a rotten alligator snout, a half-can of kerosene and a headless, armless female mannequin in men’s swim trunks.)

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Taking Five

 “Jeez, I need a drink!”

“There, there, Annie, have some Kool-Aid,” June said cheerfully, as she filled a Dixie cup on the table in the bible school teachers’ break room.

“Jell-O shot would be more like it,” Annie shot back. “Where do these kids come from? Their parents must be zoo animals!”

“I hear you,” said Betty, holding a battery-powered fan near her neck with her eyes closed. “I got one boy who can’t keep his fingers out of his nose — unless they’re in his mouth. And he’s worn the same t-shirt for three days! Still has the grape juice stain from Monday, and here it is Wednesday! Who bathes this kid? Who dresses him?”

“Think you’ve got it bad? I’ve got pee stink,” chimed in Holly between puffs from a Marlboro, which she exhaled through a window. “Someone in my class wet themself, and it’s dried and I’m not sure who the culprit is. But in this heat, it’s like someone put a cat box under the table. Makes my eyes water!”

“Now, now, they’re just children. Everyone just relax and have a cookie,” June cooed.

“Children from hell!” Betty responded, with open eyes. “Snotty, noisy and stinky with the attention span of chickens. And I’ve got a whiner: ‘Everyone’s picking on me. Joey touched me! Trudy made a face!’  Little sniveler, I just want to tell her to shut up!”

“We’re just a free lunch and day care for most of these kids,” Annie added. “The parents don’t give a hoot about Christian education. Never see them in church. Just dump the kids off and don’t look back. Off to work – if they even have a job – or off to the salon, or the beach, or the couch or wherever there’s happy hour.”

“Ladies, please!” said the matronly April Strutt, June’s mother and the bible school coordinator, entering with a rush that threatened to turn all into pillars of salt. “We’re just three days into this, with two more to go, and we can’t lose anyone at this point.

“I’ve been doing this for 27 years, and, believe me, I’ve just about seen it all. Cranky kids. Booger eaters. Pee’ers and snivelers. But you know what? They’re all God’s creations, and we owe it to them to try to bring a little bit of Jesus into their lives. The fact that all of you are here, grumpy or otherwise, testifies to His power to call us to service. Nobody says this is easy, at least no one who’s ever done this before. It takes a truckload of commitment.  But if you trust in God and pray for His assistance, you can reap the rewards of  . . .”

“Oh, please,” Betty interrupted, “don’t feed us that heaven stuff. I’m not in the mood.”

“No,” the older woman said. “I was going to say, mojitos at my place on Friday!”

(Note: This was written as a Writers Kickstart prompt on the topic Group of Five.)

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Dolan to Doubleday to Chance

It’s October, and I’m feeling a resurgence of baseball interest with the major league playoffs about to begin. I played baseball as a kid,  and, after overcoming fear of failure,  managed to gain confidence, if not athletic competence,  on the Little League fields of Snohomish, Wash., home of Baseball Hall of Famer Earl Averill and a half-dozen other big-league players. Farther from home, my wife’s paternal grandfather and two other relatives played pro baseball in the  early 1900s, and I’ve uncovered evidence linking her Irish immigrant great-great grandfather John Dolan to the national pastime as far back as 1861.

Records confirm that Pvt. John Dolan did two tours in the Union Army during the American Civil War, the first a three-month stretch in Company H of the 10th Pennsylvania Volunteers, which was mustered less than two weeks after the war’s opening shots at Fort Sumter on April 12. 1861. That’s about the same time of year that baseball season traditionally begins.

John Dolan

Known as the Allegheny Guards, the 10th became part of a 16,000-man force under Maj. Gen. Robert Patterson, ordered to occupy a force of Gen. Joe Johnston’s Confederates in the Shenandoah Valley in the vicinity of Harper’s Ferry and Winchester, Va., while the main part of the Union Army under Maj. Gen. Irwin McDowell attacked the main Confederate forces under Gen. P.G.T.  Beauregard at Bull Run outside Washington.  The idea was to keep Johnston from reinforcing Beauregard, but we all know that didn’t happen and Johnston’s arrival at Bull Run saved the day for the rebels and sparked a rout of the federals.

A regimental history of the 10th from Samuel P. Bates’ “History of Pennsylvania Volunteers” suggests the Allegheny Guards went through spring training with the Yankees but saw little live pitching until confronted by an occupied toll house near the Potomac River.

According to Bates:  “On Monday, the 24thof June, Capt. Doubleday, having completed an earth work, placed in the battery one smooth-bore 24-pounder and one 8-inch howitzer, and opened on the toll house, a stone building situated about 1 mile from the river on the Martinsburg Pike and occupied by rebel

Abner Doubleday

scouts. The first shot struck the corner of the building, driving out a party of about 20 of the enemy, who were just then preparing to partake of a bountiful supper. Unwilling to leave the savory dishes, prepared with much care, the party halted some distance from the house to consider the situation. But a well-timed shell from the howitzer brought the conference to a sudden conclusion, scattering the party in all directions, amidst the cheers of thousands of Union soldiers who witnessed the scene from the Maryland shore. On entering the house on the following day, the supper was found undisturbed.”

I love this story, because Capt. Doubleday was Abner Doubleday,  mythically portrayed as the inventor of baseball in 1832 but more accurately perceived as the man who fired the first shots for the Union at Fort Sumter, where he was second in command to Maj. Robert Anderson.

After an “0-fer” day batting leadoff at Sumter, these might’ve been Doubleday’s first hits of the war.

Imagine the rebel scouting report from the toll house: “Watch yourselves, they’ve got a cannon out there in center.”

Or consider the lingering banter from the Union side, perhaps by Pvt. Dolan himself:

“Ah, Cap’n, those were a fine couple o’ balls ya pitched at ’em the other day. The first one might’ve been a wee high, but ya sure knocked dem buggers off da plate.”

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Squeamish Scouts

How many boy scouts does it take to kill a chicken?

Just one if he has anything but sand in his scrotum. Trouble was, my buddy Gale and I both showed a squeamish side at our first Caveman Cookout as members of Troop 50 in the woods of Camp Sevenitch.

We were town boys, 12 or 13 at the time, and we came fully prepared with the limited gear allowed to each two-man team: our sleeping bags and rain ponchos, one shovel, a compass, three matches, our pocket knives and the clothes we wore. Oh, and they gave us each a raw potato to go with our live poultry.

We had no trouble hunting down our hen by following the compass directions given to us. The bird was right where it was supposed to be, tethered to a tree, where there was no escape unless cut free by an imbecilic scout who failed to hold on.

We left our hen tied as we built a fire and fashioned a lean-to from our joined ponchos. Some scouts would wrap their chicken in leaves and cook it by burying it under coals, along with the potatoes. We weren’t into that. We thought roasting on a spit was the way to go, once the chicken was dead.

“You do it,” I said.

“Naw, go ahead,” Gale replied.

Older scouts had told us the best way to kill a chicken was to simply hold the head, spin the bird a couple times and then snap the head off with a quick jerk. But that didn’t fly with us, as jerking  the head off seemed about as civil as biting it off.

“Tell you what,” Gale said after protracted deliberations. “I”ll cut the damn head off if you’ll just hold him.”

“Fine,” I said. “You kill it and I’ll clean it.”

The act should’ve been routine. But when the chicken began flapping and squawking as Gale started to saw through the neck, I lost my nerve, and grip, and the bound bird flopped to the ground, still very much alive.

“Geez, couldn’t you just hold on for a few more seconds,” Gale said.

“No,” I said. “I have this thing about live chickens. It’s all I can do to even touch one.”

The second assault involved the shovel, swinging it ax-like. But the chicken refused to lie still and play Marie Antoinette. The result was a badly beaten, but still breathing bird.

Cutting to the chase, we then used the tethering cord to hang the hen like a horse thief, before Gale finally did what was necessary, using gravity to maintain stretch while sawing though the neck.

Plans to roast her on a spit fell through when we had trouble pulling all the feathers. An attempt to burn off the feathers begat both a bad smell and a blackened bird, which was only partially consumed – with raw potatoes – before all leftovers were cremated.

(Note: This was written as a WritersKickstart prompt on the topic of Roles.)

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Unsupported Amusement

It took her years to get the joke, but that only made it more amusing.

My wife saw a recent Facebook posting from a childhood friend, who was a buddy of her younger brother, and it reminded her of a long-ago summer at the New Jersey seashore where she picked up on a verbal chiding that the boys often would holler when a cyclist rode past: “Hey, why ride a bike, when you can wear one?”

She didn’t get it, but it sounded good at the time, and she whole-heartedly joined in the fun. All summer. And from time to time from then on.  Never really gave it much thought.

Wasn’t until 12-13 years later, while working in newspaper advertising and retrieving an ad proof from a sporting goods store in Fairbanks, Alaska, that she noticed BIKE athletic supporters in the display case. Suddenly, she was 13 again, and seeing bikes on the boardwalk.

Red-faced,  she phoned her brother in Philadelphia to share the revelation and got the horse laugh along with the admonition, “I thought you knew!”

Silly girl. Product of Catholic grade-schooling. Probably never heard a limerick with “Nantucket” in it, either.

Her brother is now gone, but the memories remain sweet and precious. No word yet on the friend’s recollection.

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The Prodigal Shithead

(Note: This is a loose street rendition of a Bible parable for those who might be challenged by the King James version.)

OK, so there’s this Rich Dude that everybody knows and respects. Owns car washes in like five states where folks come in like once a once week and listen to good music while getting all shined up and feelin’ good about themselves.

And this Rich Dude, he’s got two sons workin’ in the family business, and he loves ‘em like crazy and says, “Boys, this is all gonna be yours one day.” But one of the boys  says, “I love you, too,  Daddy, but I ain’t into waitin’ around for you to get old or die. So how’s about you settle up with me right now and I’ll hug ya and say, ‘Thank you, Sir,’ and just take it on down my own road whilst I’m still young enough to enjoy it.”

So the Rich Dude says, “Son, you’re startin’ to sound like a shithead, but if that’s what you want, OK. ” And he hugs the Shithead’s neck and sends him off in a big ol’ car with a truck full of money.

Now the Shithead, he figures he don’t need to work no more, and he starts drinkin’ and smokin’ dope and partyin’ and buyin’ more cars and bettin’ on football and snortin’ lines off whore bellies, and before long, he finds himself all fucked up, out of money and basically circlin’ the drain. He’s desperate for work, but too proud to go back home to Daddy, who he ain’t even called since leavin’ with the money. So he takes a shit  job with an asphalt company, and they work his ass off, pavin’ roads in hot weather and kickin’ up dirt and dust and oily shit that raises hell with the paint on every man’s car that happens along whenever and where ever pavin’ is going down.

After awhile, the Shithead gets all the shine worked off and he’s low as he can go when he finally  comes to terms with the fact that he’s a shithead who’d be better off washin’ cars for Daddy than makin’ ’em dirty. So he decides to go back to the Rich Dude and beg him for a job holdin’ hose or wipin’ down cars or tyin’ to get puke and jizz stains off upholstery.

Well, the Rich Dude sees the Shithead coming when he’s still draggin’ ass up the street, but instead of being pissed, it’s like he’s just won the Super Bowl. He sends car wash folks to hose the Shithead down and get him a fine suit and some new shoes and some bling. Then he sends folks to the  best barbeque place in town to pick up  ribs, chicken, pulled pork, beans, potato salad,  corn, cold slaw and cornbread for a big ol’ party. And he buys kegs of microbrew to wash it all down, and hires a great dance band backed by a full orchestra to rock everyone’s socks clean off.

But now, the Shithead’s brother sees all this and wonders, “What the fuck?” and refuses to join the party cuz the Shithead ain’t been put in his proper place.

And the Rich Dude  sees this and comes outside the party and says, “What the fuck’s with you. Get your ass into the party.”

But the brother says, “Fuck, no, I ain’t  goin’ cuz the Shithead fucked all of us by just thinkin’ of himself and walkin’ out on the family business. And it’s all been in the papers, and now we all look like dummies for takin’ him back, no questions asked, just like he never left.”

And the Rich Man says, “Whoa there, boy, this ain’t about the Shithead. This is about you and me, and you feelin’ sorry for yourself for takin’ care of business and doin’ just what you shudda been doin’ all this time.

“Don’t be tellin’ me how a daddy should feel when one of his boys comes home after walkin’ off. I love all my family just the same. I love you and your brother and your mama and your sisters and every one of the folks that works for me and tends to business, and there’s plenty for everybody. I’m just glad the Shithead came back before he died snortin’ lines off some whore’s belly. And you should be glad, too, cuz he’s your brother, and me taking him back don’t mean I love you any less.

“Look at it like this: Any shithead or sorry motherfucker pissin’ and moanin’ about workin’ in our car wash or the service we give, he can be a pain in the ass, and sometimes it’s best for business if he just leaves for awhile. But we don’t bust his balls for comin’ back. We say, ‘Motherfucker, welcome back!’ And we wash his fuckin’ car and try to help him get his shine back.

“Now get your ass inside and have some ribs and cornbread, before Mama gets pissed and starts throwin’ shit.”

 

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