Please click on Posts by Topic in navigation to read postings and columns about the many humorous (in retrospect) events encountered by my family, friends and me. The above drawings by son Greg (way over qualified for that task) illustrated a couple of my books. You may click on each to enlarge if you wish to see more detail. And, yes, I really did hit an owl on the highway and unknowingly drive all over town with him hanging from the grille.
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Mowin' has me moanin'
Ray loved to mow with the riding lawn mower and now that I am doing it, I wonder why. It is a very bumpy ride probably because when we built our home on a high hill in the country, we didn’t consider having ground leveled that had once been plowed. It looks level but it doesn’t feel level. No siree! I’m just grateful I’m not pregnant.
Ray used to mow our entire acreage in one fell swoop and it took most of the day. I can’t do that so I mow an hour or so every day until it is done. Problem is that by the time I get the entire lawn mowed and trimmed it is time to do it again. And before I mow each time, I must check the oil, add gas and make sure the tires do not require air. Then I have to pick up sticks and put them in the cart so I don’t mow over them and mess up the blades. What I have decided I need is a strong 6 foot 4 inch girl like Lea Thomas to help me truck the sticks down to the burn pile.
So far, I have killed four solar lights by running over them with the mower. Sure the front part of the mower went between them just fine but the 54-inch deck did not. It took me mowing down two lights twice before I decided it would be prudent to use the self-propelled mower to mow the front lawn with all its trees, flowers and solar lights. However, I am proud to say that I didn’t hit the house when I took out the second two solar lights. For the record, riding lawn mowers do not have a brake. Stomping on the accelerator mistaking it for the nonexistent brake only makes the mower go faster. I remembered to take my foot off the accelerator just in time to avoid crashing into the house where I might have been injured because riding lawn mowers do not have seatbelts.
When I mowed today, I started in the east side yard and proceeded mowing north down the hill thinking I wouldn’t mow far because our sons believe that me mowing down the steep hill is a bad idea. It really was a bad idea because the many trees plus the burning bushes Ray planted on the hillside in the form of a big G make for a tight maze. I was much farther down the hill than I intended when I finally found a place I could swing wide enough to turn around.
If I were designing a riding lawn mower, it would have cruise control, power steering and a cushioned ride. Oh, and also an auto pilot or a remote control.
What a day I had when I decided to go to KC and try to find a dress for granddaughter Zoe’s wedding. You should know this: I don’t want to spend a lot for a dress I will likely wear once so no Nordstrom’s for me. I went to JC PeNAY and found a dress I liked in short order for only 130 bucks but oh no, THE CHECKOUT LINE.
Let’s say this: the woman behind me in line grew old with me and we had time to become good friends. She said she lived an hour south of KC and that her husband was waiting for her in the car. I showed her the dress I was waiting to pay for and said I was too cheap to buy an expensive dress but just hoped eight other women didn't show up in one just like it. I told her and the two women in front of me that the line moving at the speed of a glacier reminded me of Walmart where you’re always next in line and they intend to keep you there.
When I finally got to the car with my dress in a bag, I noticed that it needed gas so I stopped at Costco to fuel up. Then I decided to get some snacks. On my way into the store, I found that someone had apparently welded the carts together and I couldn’t extract one. A big guy did it for me and I said thanks and told him I loved toxic masculinity! He looked confused and it dawned on me that lots of good guys I know are worried about offending women by word or deed and I realized this guy wasn’t sure whether I was being sincere or dissing him.
Once in the store I loaded my cart with vitamins, a package of Pop-Tarts, spicy pork rinds, peanut butter pretzels, Drumsticks (the ice-cream kind) and cashews (my diet is why I need vitamins). As I headed toward checkout, I passed a scene that reminded me of Walmartians’ photos I have seen. A woman was changing a baby’s poopy diaper right in the nut aisle (good place for it) in front of God and everybody. It was a real Costconian moment!
One of the most rewarding things I do is to write about interesting people and I am fortunate that the world is full of interesting people. I have always said that writers do not write for money alone . . . at least I don't. Recently I was surprised to get three delayed-by-Covid awards: one is for the best feature story, Honoring America's Fallen, in Topeka Magazine in 2019, another for the best feature story, Very Cordially Yours, Forrest C. Allen, in Lawrence Magazine in 2020, and yet another which is the Editors' Choice for the best feature story in the many magazines published in 2019 by Sunflower Publishing.
That last one is a biggie to me and while I am tooting my own horn (sorry about that) I might as well show you my colorful certificates. I only wish that Ray, who accompanied me on interviews once he retired, could see them. He contributed a lot during many of those interviews because he became so interested in what we were talking about that he often asked a question I didn't think of asking.
I wrote many columns about Christmas during the 15 years I wrote Jest for Grins for the Journal-World so I've decided to post a few of them before Christmas. My favorite part of this particular column is that I described the time Ray was cutting down a cedar for our Christmas tree on his parents' farm where he grew up and was the victim of a couple of shotgun-toting rabbit hunters who mistook his gray hoodie-covered head for a rabbit. It wouldn't have been funny if he'd been hurt but he wasn't and we laughed about it many times once he got over being mad at me for laughing when I realized he wasn't hurt. you may read "I'm Dreaming of a Charlie Brown Christmas" by clicking here.
At a recent high school reunion, I gave a short talk titled “An Interactive Walk Down Memory Lane” which was meant to get my classmates involved and encourage them to share their own memories. It didn’t work, causing me at one point to ask, “Are you sure you went to Lawrence High School?”
How could they forget Mr. Wherry, our frugal principal, having the FFA boys sod the grass around our newly built school? Not even the guy who was in FFA remembered it although he agreed if I remembered it, it probably happened. You bet it did! Mr. Wherry forgot that the May weather was uncustomarily hot and the FFA boys were farmers accustomed to working without shirts in the summer. It was the first time I saw Ray, my future husband, shirtless. But not for long, As soon as Mr. Wherry got word of the half-naked boys, he personally went outside and told them to put their shirts back on and do it in a hurry!
Every Christmas, Mr. Wherry walked through each classroom and personally presented each student with a pencil. I still have one of mine, unused and unsharpened, printed with a Santa, a scripture and Merry Christmas from Mr. & Mrs. Neal M. Wherry. Not a single classmate remembered that but I had my pencil with me so they couldn’t deny it. Of course, no principal could do that now. Imagine the outcry if a principal gave out pencils emblazoned with a scripture and the words Merry Christmas. I think that is sad!
One of the guys on the Budget (our school newspaper) staff remembered, as did I, that we had no freedom of the press. On more than one occasion, a meeting with Mr. Wherry cancelled a story before the ink on the galley sheet was dry. Any principal who tried that today would be hauled into court and fired. All it took to fire the organic chemistry professor (he wrote the 1,300 page textbook on the subject) was for the medical students at NYU who complained it was too hard, to start a petition to remove him which the university did. Don’t blame the students; blame the feckless leaders of the university who bent to their will.
How could they forget the time that we decided we weren’t getting our 35 cents worth of food in the cafeteria? Not only did we not like the food, we never knew what was on the menu until Mr. Wherry broadcast it over the speaker each morning along with other announcements. Hopefully, they remembered that he ended his remarks each morning with “It’s a great day to be a Lion!” Anyway, we devised a plan where we would all bring bag lunches on a certain day so they would have to throw away all that icky food. I personally liked the goulash and even the creamed chipped beef on mashed potatoes but I went along with the plan because we didn’t have those two items often enough. Our brilliant plan was for naught though because someone squealed and Mr. Wherry ordered us to pay a day in advance if we planned to eat in the cafeteria.
I regret I didn’t think to ask if anyone remembered a book titled Senior Spring that was in our school library. I know one girl other than I who remembers it because she checked it out and — although the term hadn’t been coined and doesn’t apply to books — it went viral and was handed from girl to girl until it was way overdue and the wait list was so long that when it finally came back to the library, Miss Curry, a sweet, older unmarried lady, read it and it was never again seen on the library shelves.
I just did a little research and found the book was published in 1954 under that title but published in paperback in 1955 under the title Kiss the Night Away with a salacious picture on the front and the words “Too young for Marriage — but not for love.” I’m sure you get the idea of the type of book it was. I can’t remember who passed the book on to me or to whom I gave it once I read it. I remember it being racy but the only words I remember is that the girl decided to wear her sweater that was “yellow like chicken feathers.” Incidentally, that used paperback is available on Amazon for $4.95.
Perhaps I should buy that book and reread it and see exactly how bad it actually was. I am pretty sure it had S*X in it and wonder how horrified Miss Curry was to read it and realize she had purchased it for the library and corrupted so many girls. Perhaps it is just as well I didn’t mention it in my speech. They probably wouldn’t have remembered it and the one who checked it out, but tells me she didn’t pay the staggering fine, wasn’t at the reunion. Too bad. Had I mentioned this memory without her to back me up, my classmates would have been sure I was making it up!
I hope Ray wouldn't be embarrassed because I remember taking this photo at our home in Nieder Acres. It was a scorcher of a day and Ray had just mowed our entire acre-plus. He came in, took a shower and came out in his skivvies to curl up in a chair and cool off with a bowl of ice cream (he earned it) while watching TV.
He loved to mow even when we built our home on seven and a half acres; he just bought a 54-inch cut lawn tractor. He made mowing hard on himself because his love of trees and flowers made it difficult to dodge the lower branches (I bought him leather gauntlets for his forearms to protect them from the bruises he got trying to knock the branches out of the way). The mower has to mow an erratic path around the many flower gardens (little islands of beauty) that he created.
I have learned how to mow the lawn with the riding mower but I can't do it presently because it is being repaired after I left it outside and rodents chewed up the wiring. Ray sure wouldn't be happy with how tall the grass is now. When I mow, I wear the big, white Raiders of the Lost Arc hat I bought for Ray to wear while mowing. He wore it a few times but much preferred his ballcap as shown below.
Life with Ray has always been a wonderful adventure. In 1970, his parents retired from active farming. Ray didn't like seeing the barn go to waste so, with their permission, he ran electric wiring and water piping to the barn, bought five bred gilts and we became pig farmers. Our timing was off as that was right before the Big Pig Market Crash.
Chet, the little runt pig pictured with Ray became a family pet and quite a show pig, traveling to elementary classrooms in a gold foil-covered box with his name emblazoned in blue glitter on the side. We were only pig farmers for one year but I journaled that experience in Pig Journal which is one of many articles published in my book Human Nature Calls ... Jest for Grins. The book is available on Amazon but you may read Pig Journal free of charge by clicking here.
I have always loved this picture of Ray because he is so identifiable: same muscled calves, same cute face, same little posterior. Not every year, but most, I suggested to him that he recreate this pose on his birthday and let me take a picture. The glass table on the deck would work perfectly, I said, but he was having none of that idea so one year I made the little sign above and used toothpicks to stick it on his cake. That didn't persuade him either although the guests at his party thought it was a good idea. I could talk him into a lot of things he was reluctant to do, but never that.
We didn't realize the Halloween and pig roast event we were invited to was a costume party until a couple of hours before we had to leave. It was probably a cockamamie idea that I had to go as Brenda Starr and her Mystery Man but Ray went along with it. While he drew on a mascara mustache, I drove to the drug store and bought an eye patch for him and some red powder haircolor for me. I thought Ray looked handsome and fit the bill as the star reporter's gorgeous mystery man. It was my first and last time as a redhead because a couple of guys stared at me most of the evening and I was sure it was because they thought that was the most fake red hair they had ever seen.
OK, that is me bending over and clutching the chain while talking to a man descending Chichen Itza. That is Ray beside me (Look, Ma, no hands!) who jogged up and down the steep narrow steps except for this pause to encourage me or try to hurry me up. I would have spent the night at the top of Chichen Itza if there had been a bed because coming down was much scarier.
Ray was absolutely fearless when it came to heights, caves, roller coasters or white water. Me, not so much. You can see how high and nearly straight down it looks from the camera's vantage point and from the top until you are at the very edge, it looks like there are no steps, just a very long leap to the ground. In a cave, when someone yelled "Bat!" I hit the ground and stayed there. "Get up," Ray said, "You are holding people up!" and I asked in a quavering voice, "is the bat gone?" Turned out there was no bat at all, just someone's idea of a sick joke.
I have spent hours in various amusement parks in many states watching Ray ride roller coasters. Every once in a while, he would coax me onto one but I'm sure he always regretted it. One in Kansas City did a loop-de-loop taking riders upside down twice. And when the ride was finally over, the guy running it said, "Because there's no one waiting [it was beginning to rain], I'll let you ride again. Raise your hand if you want to get off." My hands were wrapped so tight around the bar, I couldn't pry them off so, in spite of Ray later admitting that I was saying, "Want off! Want off!" I rode it a second time. I can't imagine what it must have been like for him to be married to such a scaredy cat but he was sweet about it. See why this is titled "It is a wonder that Ray put up with me!"? Still, I am so glad he did.
In 1998, I wrote a column titled "A few crumbs short of a Smart Cookie" about those scary adventures I let Ray talk me into. If you'd like to read it, click here.
For 15 years, I wrote a humor column titled Jest for Grins for my local Lawrence, Kansas Journal-World
newspaper.While I stay busy with speaking engagements, writing articles and books and serving as editor and primary writer of a newspaper for a non-profit agency, I really miss writing about the funny things life throws my way. This website allows me to do that.
I freely admit to being a control freak who wants to do things on my own, but my good friend Ruth has been a tremendous help to me. I kept trying to make this website perfect before publishing, but finally decided that was like waiting to have children until you can afford them: it will never happen. So here it is; you'll get to watch it improve.
If you develop into a frequent Jest for Grins visitor, you'll quickly become familiar with my usual cast of characters: husband Ray, sons Ray, Jr. (aka Butch) and Greg, daughters-in-law Linda and Valerie, grandchildren B.J., Gabe, Sammi and Zoe, sisters Lesta, Bette and Vicki, as well as a host of family and friends (not one of whom is boring). If the topic has the potential to be embarrassing to them, be assured that they read it and gave it their OK (otherwise, sister Lesta has threatened to sue me).