My Lousy World

The new and improved columnist

Posted 12/17/19

I recently read Madisynn Valdez’s prize-winning guest column, and I must say it left me feeling a little unsatisfied and empty. Oh, not because of the quality — quite the contrary; I …

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My Lousy World

The new and improved columnist

Posted

I recently read Madisynn Valdez’s prize-winning guest column, and I must say it left me feeling a little unsatisfied and empty. Oh, not because of the quality — quite the contrary; I sensed a literary gift far beyond her years. That’s precisely the problem.

When I was a fifth-grader like her, the only thing I wrote was my name in the snow with a steady stream. I’m still writing drivel and my stream has been reduced to an unsteady dribble. Oh, but I’m sure nobody wants to read about enlarged prostates and other non-profound facts of life.

In fairness to myself, I shouldn’t compare, because our individual writing styles are fine, but just different, I guess. Her parents probably encourage her to explore her journalistic flair and pursue higher education journalism. Fine, but we didn’t have any creative writing classes when I was in school, and my dad encouraged me to forget about college and go into TV repair. “That’s where the big money is gonna be,” he said.

I’m sure I get my share of laughs with my shallow pieces about sneezing in church, stepping in dog doo and forgetting to zip my fly, but look what young Madisynn writes about. How can my fairly predictable anecdotes compete with a tribute to a beloved, war-veteran grandfather?

Nobody in my family ever fought in a war.

I joined the Boy Scouts in fifth grade. The only reason the scoutmasters let me go to winter camp was because my friends begged them to pass me anyway — in spite of demonstrating the proper way to carry an ax by slinging it over my shoulder like a shovel.

Well, winter camp was traumatic for reasons I won’t get into, and I was kicked out of the Boy Scouts that same year when I talked Dennis Hall and Eddie Mishler into running away from school with me the day after Principal Thomas made me stand in the hall during recess. We didn’t get far — in fact, we went back within the hour when it got cold — but I guess everyone was looking for us and as a result, my tenderfoot badge was taken. No honorable discharge and no severance.

Another point where Madisynn plays on my masculine insecurity is where she writes, “One of the many reasons he [grandfather] inspires me is that even though everyone tries to talk him out of it, he still works on things like building barns, fixing cars, fences, and fixing anything needed, really …”

Why would that not leave me feeling inadequate? Not so long ago after a blowout near Bridger I realized my truck I’d had less than a year had no spare and called my go-to nephew Rusty. You coulda knocked me over with a feather to learn spares are stored deep in the bowels of the truck-bed undercarriage, and Rusty walked me through how to lower it to the ground.

He stayed on the phone, telling me where the jack components would be, etc. It was a long, hit-and-miss conversation that further eroded my self-confidence, but I’m sure Grandpa Valdez woulda had it changed and back on the road in a matter of minutes. Once you’ve built a few barns, a flat tire is probably a yawner.

I don’t blame Madisynn for this dark place I find myself, but that glowing tribute to a real man sure didn’t help. Were there no less-glowing stories about grandpa she could have included, like absent-mindedly leaving his coffee cup on the tool box while driving off? Or how about driving away from a pay-inside gas pump after forgetting to pump the gas? Yes, it happened to me a few years ago. Forgive me for being human!

I’ll tell you one thing: starting next week, I’m writing about things cerebral, like the merits of NAFTA or the complicated Middle East situation. And I’ll resist the urge to add something like, “What do you call a jolly middle-East aethiest? A grinning, Darwinian Palestinian.”

That’s just not me anymore. The clown is dead; sweet little Madisynn unwittingly killed him.

My Lousy World

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