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FIRST ANNUAL WRITING CONTEST

The Southern Humorists had us a writin' contest. Everybody who wuz a member was invited to send in their very best articles and we even had a real prize-winning judge that works fer a newspaper to do the judgin' so there would not be any cheatin' or bribin' going on (knowing our bunch). A few still tired to attach sacks of boiled peanuts and slabs of barbecue to their entry, and had to be disqualified. The moderator said the food was real good though. We had $2.37 left over from the entry fees after paying fer prizes and sech, so we won't get to have a catfish fry this time around. But we are still real proud of our winners and if we had another 63 cents, we would buy them each something real nice from the Dollar Store.


FIRST PRIZE WINNER
Keep a Man from Fishing
By Brenda C.Birmelin


It poured rain for three days and I was stuck in the house with my retired husband whose only hobby is fishing. This was a lot worse than being stuck in the house with grandkids. After all, I could always take them to a fast food restaurant with an indoor playground.

I was desperate. I needed a plan other than homicide or suicide.
“Why don’t you go to the grocery store, dear?” I asked. “We only need about six things. I’m sure you can handle that.”

He jumped at the chance. He was as desperate as I was. He grabbed his cell phone, the grocery list and the dog. The fishing dog at our house goes everywhere the fisherman goes.

As soon as the door closed, I grabbed the remote and changed the channel. Then I poured myself a cup of coffee and grabbed the cookies I kept hidden for a special occasion. Getting the fisherman out of the house after three days was an occasion worthy of celebrating with cookies.

I propped my feet up and enjoyed the serenity a small retirement house has when the master and the dog are gone. Not for long, though.

The phone rang. It was my husband, “What does auto. dw. det. mean?” he asked.

“Automatic dishwashing detergent,” I replied.

“Oh, that’s easy,” he said. “I know just where to find that.” He hung up.

I grabbed a cookie and before I could get the first crumb in my mouth, the phone rang again. "What’s t.p. mean?”

“Toilet paper,” I said.

“Oh, good,” he said. “I remember which aisle that’s on,” he replied.

By the time I finished eating three cookies, the phone rang again. A confident man was on the other end. “It took three shoppers and an assistant manager, but I found the pimentos,” he boasted. I’m going for the bread right now.

Enough time lapsed for me to finish my mug of coffee before the phone rang again. “I’ve got the manager, the assistant manager, the deli manager and two customers helping me. We’re looking for the feta cheese. As soon as we find that, I’ll be right home.

“Don’t rush dear, it’s raining, you know.” I hung up the phone, put the cookies away and dumped my coffee mug into the sink. I had work to do. The weatherman was predicting rain for tomorrow.

I grabbed pen and paper. I started the list: Portobello mushrooms, chutney, almond soap, free range eggs and kale.

Now, that should give me time tomorrow to finish up the cookies.

Brenda is a native Tar Heel and a card-carrying member of the UDC. She has written humor pieces for a local tourist publication including one called, You Might Be a Coaster If... Brenda was involved in a partnership-published book called, If Laughter's the Best Medicine, I Can't Be Sick. She also has been published in Women's Glibber and The Best Contemporary Women's Humor.


SECOND PLACE
Fixin’ Things
By Newt Harlan

"Fixin' things”-- That’s the art of making repairs with limited tools and supplies, for those of you who don't talk Southern.

The other day down at the waterin’ hole I was remembering my younger days, back in the 50s and 60s, when just about anything that broke was repaired with balin' wire or barbed wire and a cowhand was judged as much for his ability with wire pliers as his ability to ride, rope or do other cowboy things. We used wire to mend broken handles on shovels and posthole diggers, to patch broken saddle leathers and girths. Wire tied up tail pipes and mufflers that got drug off our trucks crossing ditches and logs. It replaced broken throttle or choke cables and tied tail gates, trailer gates and chute gates open or closed. I bet we found more than a thousand uses for baling wire and barbed wire in addition to its intended use. A hand good with wire could fix anything except the crack of dawn and a broken heart and he'd make a pretty good run at fixin' the broken heart.

The gang listened respectfully while I bragged about everything we did with wire and when I finally shut up long enough take a drink, somebody asked if I'd ever heard of duct tape. I allowed as how I had, but had to admit that I hadn't given much thought to the ways it was put to use fixin' things.

Hogjaw said, hell’s bells, just think of duct tape as high tech balin' wire. He went on to say that duct tape had been used in the space program for fixin' things for as long as there had been a space program…He recalled how duct tape was the main thing besides the astronauts’ ingenuity that allowed that crippled moon mission to return safely to earth when they used it to rig up a CO2 converter from the moon lander so that it would function in their spacecraft.

This got everyone around the table to thinking of ways they'd used duct tape to fix stuff. Muzzy used it to tape the rear view mirror to the handlebars and to fix a broken reflector on his bike. Bubba taped up a leak in the muffler on his truck, which fixed it good enough to pass the state inspection and there were several folks who had temporarily fixed broken truck windows with duct tape and plastic garbage bags.

John Paul used it to mate a “flapping” sole to the uppers on his work boot and managed to walk around on the repair job for almost three more months before he finally had to buy a new pair. Joe Tom said when his jeans were too long and the over length part kept on fraying, he stopped it with duct tape around them. He said that he also had used it to patch his jeans when he busted the rear end out of 'em throwing a calf at the rodeo. Mary Agnes chimed it, saying she had used duct tape to stop runs in her panty hose.

Several of the group allowed that they got extra mileage out of their socks and drawers by patching holes and rips with duct tape--nobody sees 'em anyway. Dogeye’s grandpa used duct tape all the time to fix his eyeglasses when they broke, but finally he had to get new ones when it got to where all he could see was duct tape.

The barmaid, Little Britches had the most unusual use, at least it was unusual to us. She said that whenever she wears a strapless or low cut gown or fancy dress and she doesn't want to wear a bra and have to worry about straps showing, she uses duct tape for lift and separation. I'm not sure we were quite ready for that much information and it pretty much made tips about patching holes in boats and gas tanks, even in emergency situations, seem anticlimactic.

I know one thing for sure, whatever lift and separation means, you sure as hell can't do it with barb wire or balin’ wire.

Newt Harlan has a B.S. From Sam Houston University in Huntsville, Texas. After working as a bartender, locomotive fireman, oilfield roughneck, spending 4 years in the U.S.A.F. during the Vietnam era and 35 years as an itinerant steel salesman, he is now semi-retired, dabbling in steel sales, and writing. His fiction has appeared in USA Deep South, Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal and DeadMule.Com. among others.


Third Place
You Say Tomato, I Say "Mater"
By Ike Martin


I once worked for a Yankee who had lived in the South for 30 years and still criticized it constantly. When he found out I was Catholic — as he was — he told me, “But I’m a <<Yankee>> Catholic," as if there were such a thing as “Rebel Catholics.” Well, actually there are, but they’re called Protestants.

To my boss, nothing in the South was as good as it was in his hometown, Bah-stun. This guy was the poster boy for what we Southerners affectionately call a “damn Yankee” — bless his heart.

There was the time he flew into Memphis to spend the week working my accounts with me. While driving down I-55 to Jackson, we passed a sign, and I said, “That reminds me, on the way back, we need to stop in Grenada to see an account.” My boss asked, “How did you pronounce that?” I said, “Gruh-NAY-duh.” He laughed. “You hillbillies! It’s <<Gray-NOD-duh>>, like the car.”

Well, to my way of thinking, he had just demonstrated he wasn't the brightest bulb in the chandelier. We had driven approximately 100 miles through the Mississippi Delta. Hillbillies? There are no hills in the Delta! This is where area carpenters come to make sure their levels are working.

We argued for three days about the proper pronunciation of the town. As we headed back to Memphis, I decided to prove that we Southerners were good pronouncers. I said, “I’ll tell you what, let's pull off the interstate at Gruh-NAY-duh and ask someone to pronounce the town's name." I whipped into the first place I saw, the Red Monkey Liquor Store. An old man was rocking in a chair outside the door, so I rolled my window down. “Sir, would you tell me where we are? And pronounce it very slowly so there's no chance for misunderstanding.” The old man looked at us for a long minute, then answered, “R-e-d M-o-n-k-e-y.”

After that trip, we became more tolerant of each other’s culture — and lack thereof. But it was a trip to a national sales meeting in Atlanta that led to our most memorable encounter with the idiosyncrasies of the South. After the meetings one day, my boss invited me to have a drink. We drove to place named after a very famous Formula One driver, Taz Fortunato.

When we entered, we saw that it was not only a bar/restaurant, but also a state-of-the-art game center with an indoor go-cart track. We were sitting at the bar discussing the place with the bartender when two young guys sat down and asked the bartender if he could make a Flaming Moe. The bartender proceeded to mix this weird concoction that included cough syrup, and it was, indeed, flaming. The two guys looked at their bonfires and began to chug. "No, put them out first!" the bartender yelled, but it was too late. The two nouveau Flaming Moers stood there dumbfounded, patting their crimson cheeks before running to the men’s room.

The bartender shook his head, explaining that the Flaming Moe was a Homer Simpson creation, currently one of the hottest drinks in America. My boss laughed. “Southerners should never watch something as intelligent as <<The Simpsons>>!”

Then the bartender told us that if we really wanted to really see "some Southern," we should go upstairs. We grabbed our drinks and climbed the stairs to another bar. This one was encircled in glass with a panoramic view of an indoor Grand Prix–style racetrack.

Out on the track was a line of good ol' boys waiting their turn to hop into a Formula One–style go-cart and pretend to be Mario or Danica — a Mario or Danica who had consumed about eight beers chased with a couple of Jåger bombs.

All nine go-carts were filled with Formula One wannabes. Most of the drivers had some “response issues,” a particular challenge on hairpin turns. Half of the drivers went into tailspins through the curves; the other half tried in vain to circumvent the discombobulated masses.

Add to this scene one fellow who had obviously confused Formula One racing with bumper cars. The racing term for giving an adversary a slight nudge is called “swapping paint.” Well, this guy was swapping fenders. He rear-ended, banged into, and sideswiped most of the cars. He then brought everything to a screeching halt when he barreled broadside into a confused driver who was trying to disengage his cart from a hay bale. The attendant quickly introduced the red flag to this madhouse, while track personnel ran to the melee. "Crash," the bumper car driver, was escorted from the track.

As Crash got closer, I turned to my boss and said, “Hey! Isn't that your Northeast rep, Seeley from Bah-stun?"

My boss sat in silence for a moment, then quickly recovered. “Yeah, that's Seeley. But he’s from <<South>> Bah-stun.”

Ike Martin is a freelance writer living in the Memphis area.



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