Monday, September 5, 2016

Iambic


Iambic
http://www.gocomics.com/nothing-is-not-something/2016/09/05

Saturday, July 30, 2016

8,566


As I write this, global warming is apparently taking place somewhere in my armpit region because there is a terrifying stench wafting past my nostrils. A smell so bad that I can only compare it to possibly a dead mouse or my wife cooking eggs on Easter morning. I stink. 

The heat is even getting to our dog, Norman. As I glance down from the keyboard, I see him laying on his back napping, with all four legs pointed toward the ceiling like he’s airing out his nether regions. As he pants in his sleep, about a foot and a half of his pink tongue is uncoiled on the floor beside his face. He’s quite the sight. 

Last Sunday, I was at a family picnic. It was so hot and humid that afternoon, the lemon bars with powdered sugar that someone brought kind of melted into a pile of congealed goodness. There was a little bit of a breeze, but it was just hot air blowing on us. It was miserable. 

Just as my brother-in-law and I were discussing our uncomfortable situation, a bright yellow school bus pulled up nearby. We both became a little more comfortable when we saw a group of dirty, sweaty young detasslers come dripping off of that bus. Those poor kids were the definition of hot. 

I don’t do as well in hot, humid weather as I used to. Seeing those young people getting off of that bus got me to thinking about some of the hot, miserable jobs I had as a kid and how there is no possible way I could do those jobs now if I had to. 

I grew up on a farm, and I got to do some pretty nasty things during the dog days of July and August. I remember walking acres and acres of soybeans. I remember painting houses and barns with my dad where the reflection of the sun off of the building practically cooked you. I recall shoveling pig manure in temperatures that had to rival the very bowels of Hell. 

Back in high school, I used to help bale a lot of hay and straw for local farmers. I worked on a crew with two other guys. Kevin owned the tractor, hay baler and racks, and he would hire me and this other guy, Chris, to ride on the rack and stack bales. We’d usually have to put them up in the barn too. It was always a hot, miserable job. But nothing compares to a particular four-day period back in the summer of 1982. 

I don’t remember what the going rate was that farmers were paying us back in those days, but both Chris and I needed money. We both were high-schoolers with cars. I needed cash for sound system improvements to my 1973 bright yellow Volkswagen Beetle, such as the Kraco car stereo from K-Mart. Chris had to make installment payments to the Bondo company so he could keep filling the rusted-out areas of his silver Ford Mustang. 

This one particular field of hay was worse than all of the others put together. I don’t know how many acres it was. (Possibly a million, but that’s just a guess.) It was located in this valley and surrounded by trees so that no breeze could get in there. As thick as the mowed hay was, and the sheer size of the field, Kevin told us we’d be in that field for probably at least a couple of afternoons. Chris and I saw dollar signs. 

That Monday, when we first started, despite the sun-drenched heat, Chis and I were both full of youthful exuberance in the fact that we were both going to make some money. But as the day drug on, we soon realized the dire situation we were in. Due to the humidity in the air, and the amount of damp, heavy hay, the tractor and baler could no more than crawl through the field so that we wouldn’t break down. Sometimes it seemed as though it took five minutes to go 5 feet. And then we’d have breakdowns anyway, mostly because the wet hay would clog up the baler. 

After that first day, we’d barely put a dent in that field. It just got hotter after that. I’ve got to believe it was in the mid- to upper-90s the rest of the week. After Day 2, we weren’t halfway done. I was praying Dad had some hog manure he needed shoveled. 

By the midway point of Day 3, Chris and I were hallucinating while we balanced on that rack, bouncing across that breeze-less field. We would tell each other the stupidest jokes and laugh at the dumbest things just to keep our sanity. More than once, one of us would have to grab the other to keep from falling off the rack due to sweaty exhaustion. 

On Day 4 of this two-day job, the end of the field was finally in our grasp. As we were finishing up that last rack, the farmer that owned the field brought us all out some Pepsi and his checkbook. With the sweat dripping down our dirty faces, I think that we liked the soda better than we did the money. 

Sometimes, I remember some pretty dumb things, so I texted Kevin to see if he had any recollection of this rather ordinary event that happened over 30 years ago. He texted back that yes he did remember. He informed me that we racked 8,566 bales in those four days and 2,257 on our biggest day. 

And I thought I remembered weird stuff. 

You can contact Wallace at gregwallaceink7@gmail.com. You can follow him on his blog at http://gregwallaceink.blogspot.com.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Duck Day Afternoon



It is well-known and indisputable fact that ducks are the fourth most terrifying member of the fowl family, following in order, chickens, turkeys and geese. After reading the column that you are poised on the precipice of, they might move up the pecking order. 

It started out as a regular, normal Friday. The guy I work with had asked me if I would like to each lunch with him over at his parents’ house. Not to be rude or pass up a free meal, I tagged along. The lunch crowd consisted of myself, my buddy, his son, mother and father. 

Toward the end of the meal, people started talking about the ducks that were paddling around out on the pond in front of their house. I was well aware of this flock. My buddy had gotten them when they were mere ducklings. He kept them over by the shop out of which we work. He had to feed and water them, and I can still recall their little fuzzy yellow bodies strutting around under the heat-producing light bulbs. 

Once the young birds got to a certain age, they were transported over to the pond. The plan was to let them live their lives on the water until it was time to round them up and take them to a guy who was going to make them delicious. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten duck, but my buddy’s family says they’re really good. 

The flock started out with 23 young ducks when they came over to the pond. Evidently, coyotes think that ducks are delicious also because in a short amount of time, the group of birds had been thinned down to 17. 

My friend’s family got the idea that they needed to take the 17 remaining birds back to the protection of a fenced-in pasture. They just weren’t sure on the best way to move the ducks. I suggested that my friend’s mom dress up in a duck suit, quack a few times and maybe the birds would follow her. She looked at me, and I could tell I’d better plan on getting my own meals for the near future. 

After several seconds and possibly a few minutes of careful deliberation, they decided to have a good old-fashioned duck roundup. My pal asked me if I wanted to help. Since I’m always looking for goofy material to fill this column with, I smiled and said, “I’m in.” 

So there were the five of us exiting the house to go do battle with the fearsome group of 17 white-feathered ducks. We brought the tools of modern warfare with us. On our side we had a Ford truck, golf cart, one small rowboat, a large portable dog kennel and a good-sized fishing net. 

The entire flock was located floating under the sweeping branches of a willow tree on the northeast side of the pond. The plan was for my buddy to attack the flock from the water in the small rowboat and push them onto the shore where the rest of us would surround the ducks and capture them in a pincer-like movement. My friend’s son was the one with the big net, so he was doing most of the catching. He has youth on his side. 

I must admit while there was a large group of the quacking birds, capturing one or two didn’t seem too hard. As they were detained, it became my job to jail them in the portable dog kennel. I tried to explain to the angry birds that we were doing this for their own good, but they wouldn’t listen. As the imprisoned population grew, they quacked at me with disdain in their voices. They could sense the fear in my eyes. 

The ducks kept doing the same thing. The boat would chase them on shore; they would circle around the willow; and we would pluck one or two out of the crowd. We had fairly good luck until we got to the last duck. Every time we encircled him, he somehow would break through our lines and make it back to the water. He was crafty. 

I originally joined this mission strictly as an observer. As time went on, I found myself becoming more deeply entrenched in the conflict. By the end, I wanted that duck just as bad as the rest. War can play games with one’s psyche. 

During one of our last attempts to capture the beast, I somehow found myself down by the water’s edge as the last line of defense. As I stood on the beach, the bird came rushing at me. 

You don’t know what pure terror feels like until you see white-winged, quacking furry flapping its way directly at you. I swallowed my fear, planted my feet and prepared to catch the duck being chased by the kid with the net. The duck head-faked us to the right and made a quick juke to the left. We both lunged. 

I’d like to say that I caught that duck that day. I’d like to say that I didn’t slip and fall on the feces-slickened shore that day. I’d like to say that my good friend didn’t almost fall out of his stupid little rowboat from laughing at me. There are so many things I’d like to say. 

All of this happened about a month ago. If you drive by that pond today, you’ll still see a single white duck swimming proudly underneath a willow tree. Every time I see him, I swear that he points at me and laughs. 

Oh well. Coyotes gotta eat too. 

You can contact Wallace at gregwallaceink7@gmail.com. You can follow him on his blog at http://gregwallaceink.blogspot.com.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Blah blah blah blah blah


One word. That’s all I’m asking for. Just one lousy word. That’s usually all it takes for me to get inspired to start writing one of these goofy columns. But right now, it’s nine o’clock on the night before my morning deadline, and I can’t figure out what the word is.

Allow me to let you in on the secret of how I’ve been writing one of these dumb things every other week for the past four years. For the most part, I don’t do a darn thing. Normally I rely on my friends, family or pets to do something or for the right circumstances to occur, and I make a mountain out of a molehill about the situation. As my dad once said, “I don’t know how you can write so much without ever really saying anything.” I take it as a compliment.

Granted, many of these columns are pretty weak and don’t have much societal impact. But I don’t care. I’m just shooting for somewhere between 700 to 950 words, and I’m good to go. The little word counter thingy on my computer says I’m only at 196 words right now. That’s very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very disappointing. 210 words.

On Mondays of the weeks when one of these things is due, I start paying attention to my surroundings and hope that a little bit of inspiration takes hold. If nothing happens by Wednesday, I start getting a little nervous. By Thursday, I’m usually begging my friends and family to do something stupid, so I can write about it. I’ve been staring at my wife for about an hour and half now. She hasn’t done anything that can even be labeled “slightly ignorant.” She can’t hold out forever, but I’m running out of time. 305.

This last couple of weeks have been kind of a creative dry spell for me. I haven’t had many good, original ideas about anything. In fact the only halfway decent comic strip idea I’ve had recently has to do with trumpeter swans and Dizzy Gillespie. Unfortunately, that idea came to me while I was listening to the sermon at church last week. I think that I can make it into a fairly funny cartoon, but I don’t know if it’s worth risking eternal damnation. 390.

It’s graduation season, so maybe I could dole out some words of wisdom to the young people who will be getting their diplomas. What should I tell them? The only piece of advice that I wish that someone would have bestowed upon me is that nothing good can happen from wearing really, really white underwear. It can only go downhill after the initial usage. And oh yeah, don’t do drugs. 461.

I could go on and on about our new dog named Norman, but it seems I write way too much about dogs, cats, birds, fish, raccoons, pigs and Japanese Beetles. (Honestly, every now and then, I actually do interact with real live humans.) 506.

My daughter thinks I should talk about how she helped my mom in doing her deaconess job at church. You see, the deaconess at our church is in charge of preparing and cleaning up after communion every week. Our church uses grape juice instead of wine and whatever goes unused during the Sunday morning service, gets dumped down the drain. My daughter thought that was a waste, so she helped my mom out by drinking the excess juice out of the itty bitty glasses. I watched as she drank down at least a dozen of the little cups. From behind, it looked like she was doing shots at the bar. At least I’ll have somebody to enjoy eternal damnation with. No, I don’t think that I should probably write about that. 639.

If I wanted to do something that a real editorial page columnist would do, I would write about the upcoming presidential election. I could pontificate about my feelings about the candidates and who I think would do the very best job in that position. So at this time, I would like to throw all of my undying political support behind ... 701.

I’d better wrap it up now. No need to go nuts. War and Peace has already been written.

Well what do you know? It looks like Dad is right.

You can contact Greg Wallace at gregwallaceink7@gmail.com. You can follow him on his blog at http://gregwallaceink.blogspot.com.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Crazy lady


Crayons sure are pretty. In fact, I struggle to think of anything more vibrant and beautiful than a full box of crayons standing proudly at attention in their cardboard home, showing off every hue and value under the rainbow.

Every August, at the beginning of the school year, my mom would purchase me a brand new box of Crayolas — the box of 64 with built-in crayon sharpener. Their waxy visage was a sight to behold. Every year, I would go all year trying to not use my crayons as much as humanly possible. I always liked my crayons to look new and unused. Having a good-looking box of crayons was just one of the ways I used to impress the ladies.

Due in large part to this unhealthy compulsion I had for pristine crayons, I never really liked coloring books when I was a kid. Mom always bought them for me, but I just never liked to color them that much. I would usually end up tracing the figures on the page or I would get out a Bic pen and start adding my own touches to the black-outlined artwork. Sometimes I was known to add significant bodily appendages to the likes of Goofy or Daffy Duck. This was yet another method that I utilized to impress the ladies.

But that did not stop my mom from getting me those darn coloring books. She thought that anybody who liked to draw as much as I did, ought to like to color with crayons. Crazy lady.

All my life, she made me do stuff that I didn’t want to do. For one, she made me wear clean clothes (that she had purchased, washed, ironed and folded) everyday.

She made me eat meals. Every day. Three times a day. That she had prepared. Every day. Three times a day.

She made me try new foods. I’m now 50 years old and just last week, she tried to make me eat rhubarb pie. When I told her that I don’t like the idea of putting pink celery into a pie, she rolled her eyes.

She tried to make me bathe on a semi-regular basis. (She was much more successful with the meals.)

She forced me to live in a clean house, with electricity, heat and indoor plumbing.

She would get the baseball out and play catch with me while Dad was out working in the field. To this day, she still throws like a dumb girl.

She made me go to Sunday school where she was a teacher. She made me go to Cub Scout meetings where she was a den mother. She made me go to school where she was a room mother.

She drove me to swimming lessons, baseball, basketball and football practices and then home again after those practices were over.

At football and basketball games, she cheered for me by ringing cowbells and calling me “Gregor.” (To this day, except for sometimes my sister, she is the only one allowed to do this.)

Along with my dad, she attended just about every sporting event that I ever took part in up to and including old-man, beer-league, slow-pitch softball when I was in my early- to mid-30s. A buddy of mine always thought that we should have “Greg Wallace Fan Appreciation Night” to honor them.

After I was done with sports, she started attending my children’s school and sporting events. And I mean all of them. Try as I might, I could not shake the lady.

It’s harder for my parents to get out as much as they used to, but they still try. Do you know what my mom is into these days? Ironically, she just loves those adult coloring books that are all the rage right now. She will get her markers out and spend hour after hour sitting in her favorite chair, painstakingly coloring in every last detail on every last page, experimenting with various color options. All the while, not adding any significant bodily appendages. I guess she’s not trying to impress anybody.

She produces some really beautiful pieces of art. We should probably get some of it framed considering the awful stuff of mine that she used to hang on the refrigerator. Maybe she’ll turn into Grandma Moses and hit it big. You just never know.

So I hope that you have a happy Mother’s Day mom. After all that stuff that you “forced” me and my siblings to do, you certainly deserve it.

But don’t even think about touching my crayons.

You can contact Wallace at gregwallaceink7@gmail.com. You can follow him on his blog at http://gregwallaceink.blogspot.com.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Things are finally getting back to Norman ... I mean normal



For those of you who follow this silly little newspaper column, you might recall that I recently had to bury Fireball, the old family dog. He just happened to pass away on the same day that I celebrated my 50th birthday. That was on Feb. 10, and I vehemently declared I was completely out of the world of dog ownership. I didn’t want anything more to do with it. I was absolutely, undoubtedly, done with dogs.

Exactly 64 days later, we traveled to Cordova, Ill., and picked up Norman, a little black and white puppy. (That’s 448 in dog days. Which in human days, is close to a year and a half. And if you round up from that, I almost made it two full years.) He sat on my daughter’s lap on the way home and with every pathetic little whimper he made, I cussed myself out for being weak and possibly soft-hearted.

Allow me to describe Norman to you. His mother is a smart and beautiful Chocolate Lab that goes by the name “Majestic.” The father is a Siberian Husky who lives a couple of houses up the street, and I’m guessing that his name is “That Darn Neighbor Dog Who Needs A Much Stronger Chain.” In doing a vast amount of research for this column, I read on the Internet somewhere the gestation period for dogs is in the area of 58-68 days. That means Norman’s parents “got together” sometime during the holiday season. I like to think the moment of conception occurred on an unseasonably balmy, late-December day with a chorus of “Afternoon Delight” by the Starland Vocal Band playing softly in the background.

As for the name Norman, that was my daughter’s idea. She had list after list of possible names up for consideration. I kept trying to sneak in Chicago Cub-related names like Rizzo, Schwarber and Ernie. She kind of liked Schwarber but I pointed out I might look like an idiot calling out “Here Schwarber!” if he ever got lost. I’ve seen “Homeward Bound” enough times to know that can happen.

Nope, she liked the name Norman. Now I’d like to tell you she gave him that moniker because of someone in our family’s lineage. Or that maybe she likes the famous American illustrator Norman Rockwell. Or that she’s a big fan of the prestigious author Norman Mailer. Or maybe even after Norman Fell who played the part of Mr. Roper on “Three’s Company.” Alas, none of those are true. The dog got his name from actor Norman Reedus who plays the scuzzy, redneck guy on “The Walking Dead.”

I have never had a puppy before, so this is kind of a whole new deal for me. I didn’t realize how sharp their little teeth are. Neither did the power cord to my daughter’s iPad. Or my daughter’s T-shirt. Or any of my sweatshirts, socks, pants, underwear, shoes, etc. Or the cats. Or the dandelions. Or the grass. Or the atmosphere in general. Biting and chewing are his hobbies I guess.

“No” is the main word used around the dog. When he chews on stuff, we say “no.” When he nips at your fingers, we say “no.” When he jumps uncontrollably, we say “no.” When he gets under your feet and trips you, we say “no.” When he whines at 3:30 in the morning, I pretend to be sound asleep and my wife mumbles “no.” As she creatively pointed out, “Norman” is just “No!” With an -rman on the end.

I was worried about how my wife would handle the whole situation. She has admittedly never been much of a dog person during her lifetime. It has something to do with when she was a kid and a neighbor’s slobbery, huge Saint Bernard named Bruno that traumatized her against canines. I figured out of all of us, she would experience the roughest period of adjustment.

She was put to the test last Sunday night when in the excitement of his new surroundings, Norman decided to stop in the middle of the living room and leave us a little present. I looked at my wife with trepidation as she raced to the kitchen to get the paper towels and the Resolve carpet cleaner. “Uh-oh Norman. You’re going to get it now,” I remembered thinking to myself.

When she returned, she cheerily picked up the “deposit,” spritzed some stuff on the floor and happily said something to the effect of, “Oh Norman, you silly little puppy! We’re going to have to work on your bathroom habits.”

I looked over at Chubby the cat, and we blinked at each other in wide-eyed astonishment. Neither one us could get away with that. In fact, not that long ago, I left a sock on the floor by the bed, and she wanted me court-martialed and dishonorably-discharged from our marriage vows. I can only imagine the extent of her disgruntlement if I were to leave anything even close to what that dog left lying on the floor. Norman must hold some sort of magical powers.

For a guy who vowed to never own a dog just over two short months ago, I sure do like having Norman around. He keeps me company; he listens to me jabber all day long; and he takes me out in the yard when I need a little exercise.

And as an added plus, when I experience those rare occurrences of odoriferous flatulence after a particularly spicy chili night, I’ve got somebody to blame it on. Good boy, Norman, good boy!

You can contact Wallace at gregwallaceink7@gmail.com. You can follow him on his blog at http://gregwallaceink.blogspot.com.