Friday, August 28, 2009

That's why they call it school

MARK’S ARTICLE – August 28, 2009
“Back to school!”

It’s the start of another school year. Don’t know if you realized that. You couldn’t have stopped it with a brickbat, either. A hurricane might’ve slowed it, but nothing could stop it. That’s why they call it “school.”

This time of year used to send me into a deep funk. I never in my life experienced an “Oh, boy, school!” feeling. Some people do. Mostly girls.

Since the start of August I’ve been taking a poll. I’ve asked every kid who would make eye contact with me what he or she thinks of the start of school. Thus far every girl is happy. I’ve yet to find a boy who’s pleased with the concept.

I know you can come up with many theories for that. Girls are smarter. Girls are more accepting of challenges. Girls like to learn. That’s all a bunch of hoohaw. The only sound reason I can come up with is that girls are nuts. Just plain nuts.

And, I knew that even before Glenda beat me up in the fifth grade. She’s flirting with me all during the day, then after school she beat the daylights out of me. And, I didn’t do anything! Didn’t even put up much of a fight. That’s ‘cause I knew why she did it. She was a girl. Ergo, she was nuts.

Obviously, I quizzed no teenagers about the start of school. I could never make eye contact. I’m absolutely invisible to teenagers. Haven’t always been. There was a time when I was even respected by some of them. Hey, I’m not joking. That was back when I was a teacher. Now, I’m a retired teacher. That means I can smile when I see a school bus go by.

Like I said, I was always depressed about the start of school. It meant I had to look forward to the class preparations. The grading of papers. The documentation. Near the end (my end of teaching) there was a big push to document stuff. If you didn’t document it, it never happened. I liked it better when teaching was more of what you did and less of what you wrote.

Yes, I dreaded all the work. I’d come home, eat supper while watching the news, and then head for the study to get ready for the next day. I had to do that to stay ahead of the kids. I had some dandies.

When I was a student, it was socially unacceptable to be seen talking with teachers, unless they were yelling at you. Any non-disciplinary discussion was seen as fraternizing.

The stigma attached to consorting with the enemy must have skipped a generation, because when I became a teacher some of my most enjoyable moments were when I stood in the hall before and after class talking about stuff with the kids. I got to know ‘em so much better. I think some of my old teachers might’ve helped me more, maybe even liked me more had I stopped to talk. But, then I would’ve ceased being a chick magnet. Uh, that was a joke.

One of my best in-hall talkers was a kid whose funeral I attended last week. I know this sounds like a major mood change, but it’s not. I cannot think of this kid without smiling.

Josh Tierney had just a super sense of humor. And, he was undoubtedly one of the brightest kids I ever had. And, like I say, a talker. A most persuasive talker. At the funeral service, I told one of my ex-students that Josh could talk a toaster into thinking it was a can opener. Gifted he was.

Definitely one of those students who made you a better teacher. In preparing a lesson, I’d usually make sure that whatever I was going to say would hold up under Josh’s scrutiny. In truth, I had to do that with a bunch of my students. But, Josh would generally take deeper reasoning. He never came across as rude or haughty. Just, well… persistent.

Teachers will tell you about the kids that they hated to see coming. I’ve had some (a very few) whose absence would make me do the dance of joy. But, class was less fun… less of a learning experience on the few days Josh wasn’t there. If his parents had decided to home-school him, a bunch of classmates and teachers would’ve been the less for it.

At the funeral service, as Kay and I waited in the long line to pay respect to the family, I was recounting a bunch of my teaching experiences with a teacher friend in line behind us. Heath Manuel is now a principal! Can you believe that? The second wackiest teacher I ever knew, and now they’ve made him the Assoc. Principal at the Oak Ridge Ninth Grade Campus! And, I hear he’s doing a good job! Sheeesh!

So, I’m talking to Heath and we’re carrying on about old times. I’m remembering “The Day,” while he’s still living “The Day.” So many great kids, super times, tough times, hard work… Then when I got to the Tierney family to pay my respect, I looked at the casket and just started to sink.

I was supposed to be offering my condolences to his parents, Steve and Debbie, and to his absolutely precious sister, Hannah, yet, I had no words. His mom ended up holding me and letting me know that everything was going to be all right. I’m glad Josh didn’t see me acting like that. He’d make a big joke about ol’ Mr. Hayter being at a loss for words.

And, if he saw this article, he’d get after me out for the “girls are nuts” remark. He would’ve agreed with me 100 percent, but he would’ve argued the girls’ side. I don’t care where you stood on an issue Josh was going to take the other side.

So, no, I don’t miss all the work and long hours that were involved in being a teacher. But, I’ll always miss the rest of it. I was blessed to teach some exceptional kids. And, a few of them, like Josh, left this life much too soon. I seldom write about them because… well, it’s not an easy write.

I didn’t mention it, but Josh was going to start work on his Ph.D. in Education this September. He would’ve been a teacher of teachers. As it was, he ended up doing a super job helping this teacher. And, likely, most others he had.

Before I leave you, let me say that I’m sure Josh’s parents would be honored if any cared to make a donation to the Epilepsy Foundation in their son’s name. Josh Tierney. He was a treasure. Hey, they all are.

Mark can be reached at


Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Faris Biography. Hey, I'm on the cusp.

MARK’S ARTICLE – Aug 20, 2009
“On the Cusp of a Bio”

The earliest memory of my dad was of him tossing me up on his shoulders during the Foley’s Christmas Parade in downtown Houston. Might’ve been the first parade ever. First in Houston, I mean. I didn’t attend the first parade ever in the world. I believe it was the Kill Big-toothed, Slobbery Beast Day Parade way back in the BC’s. I’m guessing here.

I only mention the earliest memory ‘cause of my next writing project. If I play my cards right, it just may turn out to be a project I actually finish. Cross fingers.
The idea came from Kay. The other morning she suggested I write a book about my dad. I liked the idea ‘cause it sounded so much easier than the one I was thinking of. I wanted to do a psychological play where every… Uh, never mind. I hate to give the idea away. When (and if) I finish Dad’s story, I may go back and write the crazy play.

But, for now, I’m on the cusp of a bio. I like that word. Cusp. Sounds like something you could eat. “I’ll have the buttery cusp with some blueberry ice cream.”

Like I said, this oughtta be easy to write, ‘cause I know a lot about Dad. Uh, he was my dad. Did I mention that? Anyway, I made a list of stuff to mention in the book. Give me a second. Here it is. Let’s see, I’ve got the first paragraph at the start of the article. That’s cool. I’ve got the trip to Florida. What an adventure. And, Dad didn’t kill us or anything like that.

All the stuff that happened on our golf trips oughtta make a fascinating chapter. The many carpenter jobs we did with Dad could be a book in itself.

Yeah, I’ve got a whole list here. Problem is I don’t know where to start. I hate to do it chronologically. That’s what people expect you to do. It’s so overdone. Kay suggested I get organized. Maybe make an outline. She can take so much fun out of stuff. Turn fun into a chore. Turn a cusp into a trudge. “Trudge” is not a fun word. You don’t wanna eat anything called “trudge.”

So, I’m gonna try for an outline. But, first I’ve got to finish with my research. I hate research. It means I have to talk to people. I asked the brothers and sisters to send me their memories of Dad. Good and bad. I wanted an honest bio. Larry said, (and I quote) “Why do you wanna write a book about Dad? He didn’t do anything. Who’d read it?”

That’s the oldest son talking there. What Larry meant was that Dad was not famous. Larry thinks books are only written about famous people. Dad was so not famous. In fact, he’s two generations from being forgotten.

But, what Larry doesn’t realize is that books are written about characters. And, Dad was certainly that. I defy anyone to prove that Faris Hayter was not a character.

To get at least one objective account of Dad, I went to Pasadena yesterday to interview one of the guys Dad used to work with at Crown Refinery. The gentleman’s name is Howard Bradley. I don’t think there was a day at the plant where anyone called Bradley, “Howard.” He was the youngest operator in the refinery, likely the country, so they called him Junior as a joke. And, added in "Bradley" so they could tell him from anyone really named Junior. I guess that’s what they did.

Junior Bradley with Evelyn. Have you ever seen a more charming couple!

Before yesterday, I don’t believe I had ever met Junior Bradley. I heard more about him than practically anyone at the plant, but I don’t think we met. Dad would come home and announce that he was going golfing with Junior Bradley. Or, building a garage with Junior Bradley. They were thick as thieves.

When I met the gentleman yesterday, he told me that he spent more time talking with Dad than he did with anyone in his family. Told me that Dad knew something about everything. Politics, history, religion… Dad could talk convincingly about it.

I tried to get JB to be perfectly honest about Dad. Told him to tell me everything he knew, warts and all. I even encouraged him by mentioning what a temper my dad had and how we were always afraid he might snap or something. Dad’s old friend acted as if I was talking about a different Faris. I couldn’t get the man to say anything negative. Oh, he told some stories, but none that painted Dad as less than respectable.

I asked him about some of the other guys at the plant that Dad used to talk. Guys named Blacky and Curly and Red. Dad would occasionally even mention some normal named people. Ed Weston, Clyde Archer and Pete Conner. JuniorBradley knew ‘em all. Even took the picture of the Crown Fast-pitch Softball team I brought along and gave me the names of those in the photo.
Find Dad in the photo. The guy was a catcher on the fast-pitch softball team.

And, he had stories about practically all of them. Mostly funny ones. I enjoyed the talk and was especially pleased with finally getting to meet one of Dad’s old friends. And, the man is in such good shape mentally and physically. He’s 84 and sharper than I am. Right. No big stretch there.

And, his hearing is better than mine, which shocked the willies outta me. I didn’t think there was any way a person could work at Crown Refinery for 37 years and walk away with his hearing intact. I worked there for two weeks one winter and came away nearly deaf. The boilers were hissing and roaring, the flackstack compound blades were clangin’ away… (I made that up. I never knew what was making all the noise.)

After the interview, I shook hands with JB and hugged his charming wife, Evelyn. Whatta doll! Then I drove over to Dennis’ house and talked with him and Larry about Dad. What’s weird is we each had a different view of the man. Not shockingly different, but different.

We each witnessed pretty much the same events, but those events didn’t generate the same emotions. Maybe that’s normal in a family.

Regardless, my book is not going to be normally written. I’m pretty sure about that, ‘cause I doubt I do an outline. I hate outlines.

I’ll give Susan, Jill and Big Al a couple more days to give me their input, and then I’m launching forth. I’ll be on the post-cusp of Dad’s biography. That sounds like a cereal, doesn’t it?. “Post Cusp. A lot like Cap’n Crunch, but in a different box.” I think they do that with a lot of cereal, don’t you? I’m just sayin’.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Big Al goes to a beauty shop! Really.

Debbie Cuts Big Al's hair. All eight of 'em.

MARK’S ARTICLE – Aug 17, 2009 “Big Al stirs up trouble at Debbie and Martha’s”

Where do you get your hair cut? I get mine cut on the carport or in the kitchen, depending on what it’s like outside. That’s ‘cause I live with my barber. I recommend it. Uh, I don’t recommend you live with my barber. You need to find your own. Preferably of the opposite sex. I’m just sayin’.

Big Al doesn’t live with a barber so he has to go to town to get his hair cut. His barbershop of choice is Debbie and Martha’s Hair Salon. Did you get that? Al gets barbered at a beauty shop. What a sissy boy.

Obviously, I’m joking, ‘cause Big Al would beat me up, otherwise. Turns out a lot of guys go to a beauty shop for their haircuts. A few of ‘em even at Debbie and Martha’s last Friday when Al and I were there. I wasn’t there for my hair. I was there at Al’s urging. He said I should do a sequel to an article that appeared in “The Villager” back in September of ’90.

At the time, I was driving down a Farm to Market in East County, when I saw a small sign that read “Debbie’s Family Hair Styling.” I drove right in like I had good sense.

I went in ‘cause I needed a topic for my article. And, I sure got one while listening to Debbie and her clients talk about… Well, everything. And, not much. It was interesting as all get out.

So, two decades later, I found myself back at Debbie’s. Only, she’s long since relocated and renamed. As I mentioned, it’s now “Debbie and Martha’s Hair Salon.” And, it’s located at 900 West Davis in Conroe. It’s just behind the Valero station that’s just east of 45 on 105. Hey, Google the address. I’m bad with directions.

Debbie’s new business partner is Sally. I mean, Martha. Between the two of them, they’ve got 40 years experience styling hair. I think they both started when they were 12. (Just in case, I ever need a free haircut.)

When we arrived, people seemed to take to Al right off the bat. I guess they were taking to him. Maybe I should’ve said they were responding to him. Al can get a response from algae. At one point I thought he and Dorothy were going to get into a real fisticuff. Dorothy is a retired English teacher. The lady was 41 years in the classroom. You don’t mess with a Dorothy.

Big Al and Dorothy go at it. A mysterious orb appears in the background.

I should’ve mentioned that to Al. It wasn’t five minutes before I heard him say, “Hey, you’re talking to me like I’m one of your students!” Al can say mean stuff like that, and people know he’s joking. I say it, and they take a swing at me. Dorothy gave as good as she got. I only had to break 'em apart once.

Al was really the only one stirring up trouble. Everyone else was being nice. I believe it was Carol who said, “I come here for the warmth and friendliness of the place. The hair is just a bonus.”

Al shows up for his little bit of hair and to cause trouble. At one point he got into a fight with Richard. Richard is a 90 year-old ex-golden gloves champ. He would’ve turned pro, but Ann wouldn’t let him. Ann is his wife of 70 years, and the only one who can keep up with the character. Richard told us that his trick for staying married so long was in learning to say “Yes, Honey” and “No, Honey.”

Ann said that there was no trick for her. When she got married her mom told her that if she ever ran home, the door would be locked. So, 70 years later, they’re still together. And, as cute and charming a couple as you’re going to find.

Richard was struck by lightning once. I don’t know if you were aware of that. The experience not only hurt like all get out, but it ruined his new boots. He hated that. And, his mom actually died from a lightning strike that hit her while she was hanging up clothes. I couldn’t keep up with all the stories that man had. He could write a book. A collection of books.

90 year-old Richard delivers a right to the jaw. Big Al was stunned.

Big Al eventually coaxed Richard out of his chair and had him demonstrate some boxing moves. The old man was reluctant, but finally rose to the occasion. After the bout, Al came over and whispered to me, “That old man is stout. He blocked my punch great.” I wasn’t surprised.

Early in our visit, Frances arrived with her great granddaughter. She was here on this particular Friday to get her hair done for her husband’s funeral. Mickey Bowers had finally lost in his struggle with cancer.

Frances said that her husband was involved in the nation’s first atomic tests in Nevada. He had five different episodes of cancer, which Frances thinks were each attributed to his work with the bomb tests.

It was apparent Frances enjoyed talking about her husband. At times the stories cost her some tears. Cost me, too. Listening to her stories made me more than a little self-conscious about all the laughing and carrying on we had been doing. Frances didn’t seem to mind. Might’ve been be a pleasant break from despair.

Leah, Frances’ great-granddaughter, proved mighty hard to draw into the conversations. The li’l doober was shyer than shy. Mostly clinging to her great-grandma.

The talk kept coming from all corners. I could do a whole series of articles on my one outting at Debbie and Martha’s. Time doesn’t allow for mention of the conversations with, uh, let’s see, Bessie, Lucille, Carol, Jim, June and… Who else? There were others.

Oh, I’ve just gotta mention this. Before leaving, Leah, the little shy four-year-old, walked right over and hugged Richard like he was her grandpa. She then came over and hugged me. Shocked my socks off. Oh, I wish someone had taken a photo.

Before she made it out the door, Big Al said, “Hey, Leah, aren’t you forgetting something?” The little princess came over and gave me another hug. She knows who the nicest brother is.

Yes, you can always find a story in a beauty shop… or barbershop. At Debbie and Martha’s, I found the warmth and friendliness that Carol mentioned. Oh, and Leah’s hug? Well, that was a bonus.


Friday, August 7, 2009

Western Premiere

Some of us clown around after the shoot of Return of the Outlaws.

HAYTER’S ARTICLE – August 7, 2009
“Outlaws in Cowboy Capital”

BANDERA – Don’t unpack. As soon as Kay finishes dolling-up, we’re heading back home. Our business in the Cowboy Capital of the World is done. We came, we saw, we ate… we’re leaving.

Kay’s got another 20 minutes of… whatever women do to get ready, so sit on the bed and I’ll tell you about the weekend. Uh, Terry, don’t sit on my pillow. It’s one of those super foam things that, uh… Just don’t sit on it, okay? My head goes there.

What say we cut straight to the Salado part of the trip? It’s, oh, 50 miles north of Austin. We arrived Saturday morning. We came to the beautiful and historic spot because they have a super place for buying beads. I like beads. Gotta have ‘em.

Kay was the first in the giant bead shop. She had the whole place to herself. She hobbled around on her broken foot for an hour. The doctor gave approval as long as she hobbled in a shoe that had little give. Kay found a New Balance tennis shoe that has negative give. It’s so stiff that your foot wants to bend backwards with each step. Titanium, I’m thinking.

While Kay looked to replenish her supply of necklace makings, I decided to go somewhere cool and read. Ended up by the creek where the naked mermaid statue is. It’s a replica of the mermaid in Copenhagen. I don’t think it’s the same size. Can’t be the same size. Of course, I’ll never know for sure, ‘cause I can’t see me going to Denmark. Oxnart, maybe. That just came to me.

As I sat reading, a few cars pulled up, stopped and then left. I think people are uncomfortable walking down to a creek to see a bare-breasted mermaid while a guy sits close by. I look at it as a conversation piece. The mermaid had apparently heard it all, though. Not a word.

After my cell phone beeped, I headed back to pick up Kay and make room in the trunk for her haul. A lot of beads exchanged hands that day, my friend. It wasn’t pretty.

With our wampum on board, we headed to Bandera for the big movie premiere. What better place to hold the premiere of a movie titled “Return of the Outlaws” than at the Cowboy Capital of the World. I don’t know how a town gets to be the Cowboy Capital, anymore than I know how Jacksonville got to be the Tomato Capital of the World. The whole world? I think it’s the first one to claim it. Oxnart probably missed out by two days. Where is that place?

Obviously, I wouldn’t argue with any cowboy in Bandera about their “Capital” distinction. I know some cowboys who could break me in two. Some of ‘em are my friends. Some of ‘em were even in the “Return of the Outlaws” movie with me and Big Al. These guys were the real deal. Uh, not as far as acting goes, but cowboying. They can outride, outshoot, outspit and, uh… Oh yeah. Break me in two.

Sheriff Corbin Timbrook with a shot-dead me during the filming of RotO.

There were a few Hollywood actors in the movie who flew in for the premiere. The faces behind the names, you would likely recognize. The names, I’m not so sure. Let’s see, John Castellanos, Corbin Timbrook, J. Eddie Peck and Michael Gregory were there. A couple more California actors didn’t make the trip, so I don’t need to mention them. Hey, if they’re not gonna show...

The premiere was held at the Long Horn Saloon, owned by Clint Black’s brother, Brian. I doubt Brian likes to be introduced like that. I also think he owns the saloon. Pretty sure. Talented guy, too. Good voice, great performer. Before seeing Brian, I only knew of Kevin Black. No telling how many other brothers Clint has. I’ll bet they’re all talented, too. I’ve got three, and not a one of ‘em can sing. Nor, do any of ‘em own a saloon, or even a Jiffy Lube.

Nobody asked me, but I wouldn’t have staged a movie premiere in a big saloon. Even a big blockbuster movie. RotO is a low budget movie. Way low. If it had been, say, “Tombstone” I think even the drunks would’ve stayed quiet. But, midway through the feature, it got to hear the dialog.

I can't tell you how mean Castellanos was in this movie.

Truth be known, I may have started it all. Viewers were fairly attentive until John Castellanos killed Big Al. When that happened I booed really loud. “BOOOO!” And, I hadn’t even been drinking. You don’t plug my kid brother without getting at least a “Boo!” from me. Castellanos was mean. Boy, was he mean.

A few minutes after that, things got noisy. You mix cowboys and booze with a B-Western and you’re gonna get some disruption. Fortunately, I didn’t try to throw anybody out. It might’ve gotten ugly. Kay had a strong hold on me, or I woulda come unglued. I’m just tellin’ you.

All in all, I’d have to say that all cowboys were valiant. I don’t know what that means, but it’d make a good book title. I thought Terry Mann the best “real” cowboy actor. He played the cowboy doctor in the movie. After delivering one line, he paused as if putting impact on his next statement. When I bragged on him for that, he told me he had forgotten his next line and was simply thinking real hard before it came to him. If you ever rent the movie, you might notice that.

Don’t look too hard at the other stuff. Did I mention it was low budget? Director, Chuck Walker, and Producer, Sam Cable, can do a whole lot with not much. But, they can’t make another “Tombstone.” In fact, I hope nobody tries. You can’t beat perfection.

Still, the way I see it, Terry Mann was the best “real” cowboy in “Return of the Outlaws.” A big thumbs up for Mann. Now, Terry, you big sidewinder, will you get off my pillow? I know you are, but what am I? -- Kay! I might need you in here! Somebody hold me back! PLEASE!

The great actor Terry Mann is in the white hat.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A joke told by a ghost. Really.

MARK’S ARTICLE – August 4, 2009
“A ghost of a joke”

In just a little bit I’m gonna tell you a joke that my old friend Rodger Parker told me just the other night. Odd thing about that is the fact that Rodger has been dead for over a decade now. Yet, the guy showed up in my living room just to tell me a joke. – You’ll want to grab a chair and hold on.

I took this picture of Rodger as he was leading me on an excursion to a long ago deserted logging camp.

Some of you may remember that Rodger was Virginia’s dad. The guy went to school through the eighth grade, yet he was among the smartest men I ever knew. I had so many conversations with that old man where I’d nod occasionally just to make him think I knew what he was talking about. He went to his grave actually believing I could keep up.

Still, I thought his joke a bit weird. Didn’t sound like a Rodger joke. Don’t know why he cared to share it with me. But, there he was in my living room.

He showed up on the night I got back from the doctor. The telling of the joke won’t make sense unless I set up the situation. Bear with me here. Hey, you’ve done it before.

I went to the doc for my allergies. They’ve been killing me. You should know that. I defy you to find a garbage can in this house that isn’t filled to the brim with spent Puffs. The kind with lotion. If I didn’t use lotion Puffs, my old honker would look like a torched strawberry marshmallow. The jumbo size.

It was the second time in two weeks I’d been to see the doctor for my allergies. Actually, I couldn’t get an appointment with the doctor till September, but I got his physician’s assistant. I think that’s what they call ‘em. Assistants are easier to see, but you still have to wait when you get there.

The assistant is a super nice and smart young lady. Not as smart as my doctor, though. That guy knows stuff. However, I’ve had to see his assistant the last few visits. I’m not even sure my doctor is still alive.

The assistant listened to my lungs, looked up my nose and in my ears, and then said I needed a shot and some different medication from what she prescribed last time. I tell you, my nose laughed at the last pills. I didn’t know noses could do that.

The assistant then left the room. I thought she’d instantly reappear with a hypodermic and a prescription. No, next thing I know, I hear her talking to a lady next door about some kind of fungus. Have you noticed how there are absolutely no sound buffers at the doctor’s office? I give away some pretty big secrets in those rooms. One can only imagine the amount of giggling that goes on next door.

Turns out, the assistant never returned. Several minutes later, her 14 year-old helper entered the room and told me to drop my pants. I faced the padded, paper-covered contraption and let ‘em drop. She stuck me right in the waist. Could’ve gotten there by me simply raising my shirt. My pants ride kind of low. I think most men’s my age do. It’s a curse.

The girl then gave me the prescriptions the PA had drawn up. She told me she recommended I wait and take one particular pill the next morning. She said the stuff keeps her up all night if she takes it in the evening.

After a considerable wait at the pharmacy, I got home and instantly took the pills. It was evening, but I didn’t care. My nose was running like a bad dog. I did read the side effects of the medication, though. I’ve got ‘em right here. Not making this up. “Unusual weakness, stomach upset, diarrhea, dizziness, cough, headache, nausea, vomiting, TROUBLE SLEEPING, or mouth pain may occur.”

I’m pretty familiar with all of those symptoms except for the mouth pain. Oh, and the diarrhea. I’ve had that problem once in my life. I considered it a blessing.

So, I took the pills and got in bed. After an hour of looking at the ceiling and listening to Kay breathe, I went to the living room and sat in the recliner. I couldn’t watch TV or read. Too nervous. All I could do is sit there and stare. Occasionally, I’d see something out of the corner of my eye. I didn’t care.

Eventually, Rodger showed up. He sat on the couch right next to me and said, “Hey, Mark I’ve got a joke for you. Before I could say anything, he went ahead and told me the joke. Are you ready? Well, six of you are still here. Here goes.

A big corporation contracted out for a state-of-the-art oil tanker to be constructed. The bid went to a bunch of rabbits. You know, Peter Cottontail things. It took the rabbits two years to build the ship. Upon completion, thousands of people showed up to watch the launch.

When it hit the water, the tanker floated for just a few yards and then sank. People went crazy. A committee was chosen to investigate the incident. People wanted to know if the problem was a design flaw, shoddy materials or poor workmanship… uh, workrodentship.

Four months later the committee chairman called a press conference to give the findings. He said, “You know, we’re not even sure those critters can count.”

That’s it. And, it really struck me as funny. By the time I finished laughing, Rodger was gone. The next day, I repeated the joke to several people, including Virginia. Nobody laughed. -- “I don’t get it.” “That’s stupid.” “You’re not pinning that on my dad?” “But, rabbits can’t build things?” These were a few of the comments I received. I heard nothing pleasant.

There’s no question the joke would’ve been funnier had squirrels built the ship. Squirrels are much funnier than rabbits. But, Rodger said it was rabbits, so I had to go with it.

Now, if any of you have ever heard that joke before, please get back to me, ‘cause Rodger’s telling was the first I ever heard it. And, if any of you think the joke even remotely funny, please shoot me an e-mail. I may want to save a few of these pills incase I do a standup comedy routine.