Sunday, July 15, 2018


The meeting of IFMAC
(Ideas for Mark's Article Committee)

            The following report came from the minutes of last week’s meeting of the IFMAC -- “Ideas for Mark’s Article Committee.”
MARK: All right, the meeting of the IFMAC is called to order! Everybody plant yourself! Sit down! – Okay, Secretary Barry will now read the minutes of our last gathering. – Barry, go ahead...  Barry?

BARRY: I was s’posed to take notes? I don't want to be that kind of secretary. I want to be like Secretary of State.

MARK: Barry, you make me want to weep. Anybody remember last week's meeting? Anybody?

MILDRED: Yes, you mentioned flyswatters and the bug assault gun. We liked the idea and said you should go with it.

MARK: Right! Mildred, you’re a peach. By the way, I got a little feedback on the fly article. A guy named Rick Rose said his brother got him a Bug-a-Salt gun last Christmas. Since it came from his brother, it was the cheapest one on the market. But, Rick enjoys the daylights out of it. They have fly shooting contests and everything. He highly recommended it.

CHARI: Well, that settles it. Write about your new fly gun. How has it changed your life? What does Kay think about it? People like it when you throw Kay into the mix
MARK: Funny you should say that. Kay wouldn’t let me get one. Said there was no way I was paying $40 for a fly swatter. Told me to get two of the wire-handled swatters. Cost me $2
JAMES: I can’t help thinkin’ that Kay pretty much controls you. If my wife ordered me not to buy a bug shooter, I’d go out and buy six of ‘em. Maybe you should write an article about what a pansy you are. Hold it? You already have… several times.

MILDRED: Now, now, James. There’s no call for that.

MARK: I move we kick James’s rear off the IFMAC. Do I hear a second? Anybody? Mildred? Anybody? All right then, James. You’re still with us, but hanging by a thread.

BARRY: Look, I’ve got other things to do. Polishing my headlights comes to mind. So, can we forget last week’s article and come up with ideas for the next one? Oh, and if this offends you, Mr. President, I beg you to kick my butt off the committee.
MARK: Okay, Barry, there’s no call for that attitude… nor that language. Put a dime in the jar and let’s move along. - So, ideas for the next article? We’re running out of time, committee! – Flo! Great, you’re awake. What you got?

FLO: Why don’t you write about people having pet pigs. I hear they’re smarter than dogs.

MARK: No, that’s dumb.Go back to sleep, Flo. --  Let’s cut to the chase. I need to see what you think about this. It just so happens I finally published my book. I did it myself, because nobody else would. It’s called “The Summer of 1976.” It’s about a teacher who loses everything he cares about, and takes a hike that leads him to a small town where a bunch of good and bad stuff happens that leads to a change in the townsfolk and the “Teacher Man.” What do you think?

JAMES: So, you want to use your article to promote your book? You’ve got yourself some brass—

MILDRED: James! The dime jar? Mark, I think it sounds like a sweet idea. So, say somebody wants to get your book, how do they go about doing it?

BARRY: Yeah, say some sap wants to read the thing, what’s it gonna cost ‘em? You puttin’ that in the article?

MARK: Yes, Mr. Meany Britches. It’s an e-book. You go to Amazon Books and search for me or the name of the book, “The Summer of 1976.”That will pull up a site where you see the cover and can read a few chapters. If you want the e-book, it will cost you $2.99. I wanted to sell it for $3 but they only want prices that end in “99.”

CHARI: Since it’s with Amazon a lot of people might think it can only be read on a Kindle. You need to tell them that there is a place just below the price that says “Free App.” That will allow them to download an app that will let you read it on any device you have. -- Did I do good, Mark?

MARK: Yes, Chari., right up to that last part. By the way, I think I’ll include something about how easy it is to get your manuscript published for free as an e-book at several sites on the Internet. Amazon is just one of the bigger companies. Just follow the directions they give you.

JAMES: Sure, but unless somebody has a newspaper column, how are they gonna get anybody to know about it.

MARK: James your bucket always has a hole in it. Look, there are a lot of places where you can get advice about selling your e-book. Most cost money, but some are free. Most importantly, I suggest you pray. Doesn’t guarantee success, but it will provide peace of mind. -- Okay, so what do you think? I’ll hear a motion to accept “The Summer of 1976” as the topic for the next article. Do I hear a second? Anybody?

FLO: What’s the book about?

BARRY: I’m outta here!

Mark can be contacted at

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Doc visit

“Dread List”

            Some people keep a bucket list. I keep a dread list. The good thing about a dread list is the fact that I don’t need to write anything down. My gut constantly reminds me of all the bad stuff I have to do.

            For example, no one has ever needed to remind me to get my car inspected. July is the month we celebrate our Nation’s birth. It’s also the month I have to get my car inspected. August is the month of Kay’s birthday, but it’s also the month I have to get her car inspected. I love Kay to pieces, but at times I wish I had found a girl who really enjoyed changing the oil and getting the car inspected. I would’ve overlooked a lot of quirky behavior for just such a girl.

            I thought when we bought our new home I wouldn’t have to worry about checking on things, because everything was new. Get it? Today, I received a list from the mortgage company with 17 things I’m supposed to inspect during the summer. I’m s’posed to clean or replace my microwave filter. I didn’t even know microwaves had filters.

            But, forget the house inspection list. One of my biggest dreads has to do with my semi-annual checkup with the doctor. It rates right up there with having to attend a graduation. The doc used to schedule yearly appointments. He’d give me a year’s worth of refills on my meds. Now, he has my prescriptions run out at the end of six months. If they were refillable for a lifetime, the only time I’d return to the doctor would be when I was strapped to a gurney.

            The reason I’m spouting off about all of this is because yesterday morning, I had to go to my doctor for a checkup. He found nothing wrong with me. Hey, I was as surprised as you. Truth is, while he didn’t mention anything that was good about me, he didn’t share anything that was wrong, either. If he had called Kay, I’m sure she would’ve set him straight.

            Speaking of the Little Lotus blossom, Kay gave me a list of things I was supposed to bring to the doctor’s attention. It was either that or she was going to sit in on my physical. Kay’s main concern about me has to do my gallbladder. Last week, I had an odd episode in the middle of the night. I got out of bed at my usual hour to relieve myself when I got all dizzy and nauseated. I wasn’t too worried because I never throw up. I can get nauseated with the best of ‘em, but I never deliver. Well, on this particular night -- I delivered.

            Kay took a look at my output and said that I could quite possibly have gallstones. She remembered all of her symptoms, and noticed some similarities to my 3:30 a.m. experience.  

            When I mentioned the episode to my doctor and asked if he thought I might have gallstones, he told me it sounded more like I caught a bug. I liked his answer a lot more than Kay’s supposition. I actually thought my temporary illness had to do with the Keto Diet that I’ve been on for a couple of months. It’s like the Atkins Diet, only spelled different. Both diets allow you to eat only a few selected vegetables -- no bread, or anything that could be defined as “dessert.” Soda pops, sweetened tea, sugar in your coffee… forget about it.

             Somebody told me the way it works has to do with the fact that our bodies will eat fat if fat is the only thing we’re eating. Before the diet, my body would store my animal fat because it preferred baked potatoes and ice cream over ribs. Bottom line, our bodies are hoarders. They don’t realize that they’re housing more fat than we’ll ever need.

            On the Adkins/Keto diet, your main intake is meat, eggs, cheese and nuts. Of course, I didn’t read up on the diet. I thought I’d best just jump on the thing before scientists figured out it kills gerbils. When I explained to the doc that my diet was likely responsible for me throwing up bile, as a result of my intestines rebelling against a no-dessert policy, he stuck with his bug theory.

            He asked me a bunch of questions, too. -- When am I supposed to have my next colonoscopy? When was the last time I had a tetanus shot? -- How do you answer something like that? -- I usually just make up stuff. “Colonoscopy?  That was recent. Tetanus shot? Day before yesterday. Doc, what’s that for anyway? I’ve never heard anyone say, ‘Well, my husband’s in bed with tetanus. Cut himself on the dog’s rusty collar.’ Look, Doc, I know it’s bad, but is it any worse than the shot?”

            The doctor never looked up from his computer screen. He told me that I had a colonoscopy three years ago and would need another in two years. He had no record of a tetanus shot, so he had the nurse give me one. My arm bothered me all night.

            The good news is, I won’t have to go back to the doctor until after Christmas. The really good news is that my car needs its July inspection, but it also needs an oil change. That means I can kill two dreads with one stop. Life is good… at least until August.

Mark can be contacted at

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Bug Gun and VBS

Fly shooters and Old Cowboys

            OUT BACK Did anyone think to bring a flyswatter? We had three swatters when we moved in. Our guests stole two of ‘em. No other explanation.

            The third swatter took off day before yesterday. The only guest we had during that time was my old friend, Johnny Sutton, and I searched him before he left. Makes me wonder if I was too quick to blame our other guests.

            We don’t really have all that many flies, but the ones we do have are small and fast. The one taking up residence in our house is a cocky little bugger. I can hear it laugh when I put my hands on a newspaper or magazine and slowly roll it up.

            Have you ever seen one of those bug killing salt guns? I saw a Bug-A-Salt gun in Sam’s. -- Get it? “Bug assault?” -- The thing costs $40. It supposedly kills flies, roaches, spiders… practically any bug that will stay still long enough for you to shoot it. It apparently shoots a compact spray of table salt. 

            At Sam's, I stopped a guy who was happily minding his own business, and I asked him if he ever saw one of the salt guns. Instead of telling me to leave him alone, he stopped and picked up one of the packaged guns. He said, “I’ve heard about these. They’re supposed to be pretty good.” I asked him how hard he thought it’d be to clean up the salt from off the couch or out of your wife’s hair.

            I’m not sure he appreciated me talking about his wife, but he did put two of the guns in his cart. That’s $80 worth of fly blasting. I’m a whale of a salesman.

            I’m thinking of buying one of those guns tomorrow. I’ll have to make sure Kay doesn’t try to accompany me. A $40 flyswatter? The woman applies more logic than Spock.– Beg your pardon? Oh, Kay is at VBS this evening. I mean vacation bible school. She won’t be bothering us. In fact, if she were home, we wouldn’t be sitting out here.

            See the big spot of dead grass just off the porch? That’s where I set the charcoal burner when Johnny came over. I was going to cook some ribs, so I put the charcoal canister thing on top of a thick piece of plastic that looked a lot like wood..The charcoal burned right through the faux wood and scorched a good chunk of turf. I’m sure Kay’s noticed it, but, thus far, she has yet to yell at me. The next time the two of us are out back, I’m going to catch some serious flack. (That last sentence is the second verse of a song I’ve been working on.)  

            Speaking of VBS, Kay is really enjoying herself. I’ve mentioned it before that I’ve never been a fan of VBS. When I was a kid, it was a vacation from summer. I never asked for a vacation from summer. VBS was way too preachy when I was a kid. Today, it’s much better. I know that because one time, not too awfully long ago, I actually participated in VBS with my old friend Cliff Miller. (Columnist Peggie Miller’s husband.)

            This particular VBS lasted an entire week, just like when I was a kid. Clifford and I performed a couple of skits each day. We were old cowboys. Cliff, being a lawyer, got to play the sensible cowboy. The one who delivers the eventual godly message. I was Mark, so I got to play the slow-witted cowboy. The one who misses the point of everything.

             Unfortunately, the grownups caught on to the jokes more than the kids did, which had a lot to do with that being the last time I participated in VBS. Kids are not all that enamored by old, dumb cowboys. Gabby Hayes wouldn’t be much of a draw today. Especially since he’s dead.

            Like I said, Kay is having a blast. The theme of the bible lessons is tied to Daniel. You know, the guy who was tossed into the lions’ den? So many cool stories about Daniel. Been my experience most VBS lessons come out of the Old Testament. When I was a kid, we did something with Jacob one year, Joseph the next. Back in ‘58 Noah made an appearance. Then there was David. The story of David and Goliath was a kid magnet.  

            Kay said that she’s got some first graders who can read. I mean, big words. Not, “See Dick. See Jane. See Dick and Jane.” That’s pretty much what I got out of the first grade. Kay’s got a kid who can read, “Nebuchadnezzar responded, and said, ‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.’ ” -- I couldn’t read the word “Nebuchadnezzar” until I was 13… and, it certainly wasn’t because I didn’t go to VBS enough.

            What? Oh, that’s the garage door opening up. Kay’s apparently back. She can’t join us out here or else she’ll remember the dead grass. Even though she just came from church, she’ll be on me like a fly on jam. Which reminds me, next time we’re out here, you’ll each get one shot with my bug assault gun. We’d best not get any salt in Kay’s flowerbed, or else she’ll get me a pet cat. The girl can be vicious.


Mark can be contacted at An archive of

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Recycling made difficult

“Trash Talk”

            I never thought I’d live long enough to see garbage get so complicated. When I was a kid, a big truck with two guys standing on the back bumper stopped in front of our house. In the time it takes you to eat a grape, the two guys jumped down, tossed off the lids of our rusted and dented trash cans, poured the loose garbage into the back of the truck, dropped the cans on the curb and moved on down the line. Easy peasy.

            I wasn’t real sure what happened to the garbage after that, because there were no documentaries on waste disposal. Dad did take Dennis and me to the dump once to get rid of some old shingles. After that visit, I assumed the garbage was consumed by seagulls.

             Skip forward a few decades and I’m living in a new house inside the Conroe city limits, with a girl I knew from the eighth grade. In the big city, you don’t need to buy garbage cans. They give you two, thick plastic, 90-gallon refuse containers with wheels and lids that swing open and flop shut.

            The entire garbage collection process is conducted by one guy or lady who drives the truck and operates the giant claw that does all the lifting and tossing. It’s not as fast as two guys riding a bumper, but it’s less labor intensive and more expensive.

            One of our new trash holders is all green, and the other is green and yellow. That’s the one used for recyclables. I’ve learned a lot about recycling since we left our old place. I used to just recycle paper. Now, you can recycle hammers. I think. They won’t take large pieces of metal, but the metal part of my hammer is, what, four inches?  I’ll have Kay measure it later.

            I do appreciate the City’s program for the collection of recyclables. The only drawback to recycling is the fact that all items must be cleaned. I started off recycling cottage cheese containers, but with the amount of water, elbow grease and paper towels it took me to clean a quart tub of the small curd, I thought it not worth the resources and effort. A bean dip can? That’s a sliced finger waiting to happen. Believe me, I know. Not from washing the can, but from trying to salvage all the dip inside the lip of the opened can.  

            Plastic bags? DON”T put them in the recycle bin! You cannot make lawn furniture or ice chests from recycled plastic bags. I went to YouTube to see how all of the recyclable trash was sorted. First off, there is a wide conveyer belt carrying piles of bottles, cans, newspapers, smashed boxes, plastic bags and hammers. Standing on each side of the conveyor belt are four big guys trying to grab any plastic bags they see. You’d have to slow the conveyor belt down to a crawl before they could find even half of the bags.

            Eventually the bags clog up the gears and giant rollers that hurry the other stuff down the line. Every couple of hours the conveyor belt is shut down so men can crawl into the machine with knives  to remove all the plastic bags that were missed and ended up in huge bands wadded around the gears and rollers. One can only guess how many thumbs are lost in that process.

            So, don’t put plastic bags in the recycle trash bin. And don’t drop them off at the store until you’ve removed any paper receipts and cleaned out any goo. The YouTube guy told me that over half of the bags collected at grocery stores are too dirty to recycle. We used to send ‘em to China, before they got all capitalist on us. Now, they won’t even mess with ‘em.

            The only thing that can be done with used plastic bags is melt ‘em, turn ‘em into plastic pellets, and then melt ‘em again and make new plastic bags out of ‘em. Maybe one day, the process will become more cost effective. Until then, we need to bring our own totes into the grocery store for bagging purposes.

            See what I mean about the complications associated with trash? It used to be so easy to get rid of stuff. Plus it made it easier to get Dad something for Father’s Day. We’d pool our finances and get him a new garbage can. It was the gift that kept on giving… for about a month. Then the can became part of the trash.

Mark can be contacted at An archive of Hayter’s articles can be found at