It’s still summer in New Zealand.
Every now and again, when I have a wander into the primordial jungle out back, I find a locust husk (or shell… what do you call those things they hatch from?).
And every time, my childhood memories come pouring back.
We had a mimosa tree in the front yard, and half a dozen in the back.
Every summer, the locusts would try to suck them dry and, boy, would they sing loud and long while slurping up the sap.
It has to be said that, as young rascals, my neighbor Eddie and I were not especially kind to the *locusts.
There was probably nothing wrong with collecting their old husks from the trees, and feeding them to Lady Dog, our beagle.
She thought they were better’n pork rinds.
But the other uses we had for locusts were not something that make for particularly sanctifying stories during Lent.
Eddie and I became experts at sneaking up on the locusts.
We were like Ninjas, stopping dead in our tracks if they quit singing.
Then slowly, silently, moving in.
Eddie would creep me out every time by just grabbing them like he was picking an apple.
I fully expected one day for a locust to jam that sucker spike thing directing into one of Eddie’s major arteries and bleed him dry.
It never happened, but it sure could’ve.
My approach to locust hunting was to sneak up from behind, then pinch both of their wings together as they SCREAMED like crazy.
After we had captured them, they were normally used for one of two things:
- As airplanes — you could tie thread around a few of their legs and then fly them around like tiny planes until their “landing gear” would snap off;
- As bombs — during countless epic battles in BUG WARS
I preferred flying the locusts, but that required being able to sneak into Mom’s sewing room and escape with a spool of thread. (Getting caught in the act could ruin your whole day.)
So we probably had more BUG WARS than locust flying lessons.
To prepare for battle, you had to capture as many locusts as you could over, say, two or three days.
You’d store them in a small glass jar, hopefully, out of direct sunlight, we learned pretty quickly.
During early summer in Norman, the locusts would all be small and green.
Come August, if they were tough enough to have survived a brutal Oklahoma summer, they’d creepy red eyes and dark crusty skin.
Then, on the appointed day, and at the agreed time, Eddie and I would face each other on the field of battle (my front yard).
And stare each other down.
Then, at the agreed signal, we’d race crazily at each other, hurling one or more unhappy locusts as we galloped by.
It was sort of like jousting, but with locusts instead of lances.
Normally, the locusts would bounce right off your opponent’s head and fly away. No points for that.
If the locust got caught in the other guy’s hair, and somewhat freaked him out, that was good for five points.
You got 10 points, and pretty much won the war, if you chucked one or more locusts down the other guy’s T-shirt collar, and they started crawling and flying and screaming up and down the opposition guy’s T-shirt.
Trying to jam the **sucker-spike right into their human heart. To suck it dry.
I don’t recall that ever happening, but it could have.
We were pretty resilient kids, so nobody would have been dead very long.
When we got tired of BUG WARS, if there was any locust ammo left, we’d just open the jars and let them happily fly away.
Sure we did.
Actually, we’d hurl them with all our might either at trees or the side of my brick house or right in the middle of Nebraska Street.
If you chucked them down just exactly right, they made a very distinct thud/squish.
And Lady Dog thought they were better’n Milk Duds.
As I mentioned, this was not the best Lenten story. Sorry, Lord.
But I suppose it’s a good enough Okie boy story.
*Yes, I know Yankees and Scientists call them cicadas. Okies do not care. We call them locusts.
**The technical name “stylet” does not do that scary sucker-thing justice.
Click HERE for more Oklahoma Memories.
(Republishing this vintage blog because it’s Lent, ya’ll!)
In New Zealand, we’ve already begun Lent — 40 days of prayer, fasting and penance leading up to Easter.
Since this is mainly a humor blog, we will begin our Lent by republishing a favorite about two great priests who were incredibly funny in very different ways.
Archimandrite Stephen was bigger than life and perfect for his ministry in media and evangelization. He could PREACH UP A STORM. And he so loved to laugh. Heeheeheehee.
On his generous girth:
“I’m an Archimandrite in the Melkite Greek Catholic tradition. As you can see, we’re rather fluffy. Hahahaha.”
“As you know, your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. So why would you want a little ol’ prayer chapel when you could have a Grand Basilica with a Rotunda? Hohohoho.”
On being the only Catholic in a Louisiana family renown for producing more than 50 Assembly of God preachers:
“I’m the family black sheep. And I love to tell my cousins that I’m the favorite of our departed relatives because I’m the only one praying to get them out of Purgatory. Heeheeheehee.”
On Catholic teachings (when a New Zealand TV interviewer was beating him up because the Church won’t recognize gay marriages):
“I’ll tell you something even crazier. We won’t marry a man and a woman who are living together in sin unless the stop and go to confession. Can you believe THAT? Heh heh heh heh.”
On being a tad theatrical when speaking to our annual Auckland Eucharistic Convention:
“I need one of those lapel mikes. I want to be able to walk around the stage and show off for your Bishop.”
And then, there was Father Angland, 75, my first Parish Priest in Auckland.
He was half the size of Father Stephen, but equally hilarious in his no-nonsense, Kiwi way.
Once, when he asked me to distribute holy communion at Mass, I declined.
For you see, Catholics believe Jesus wasn’t kidding when he said His Flesh was true food, and His Blood true drink.
“I can’t. I’m not worthy,” I said, prompting Father Angland to respond with his wonderful dry wit:
“Don’t be stupid.
“Of course you’re not worthy.
“But somebody’s got to do it.”
Rest in Peace, Archimandrite Stephen and Father Angland.
And as for ya’ll?
Here’s wishing you the best Lent, ever.
My niece in OKC frequently takes her chillens and their cousins to Lincoln Park Zoo.
Even though they were raised on Harry Potter and Disney World, they love going to the zoo.
I think that’s great, but, really, there is no way a zoo trip can be as awesome to them as it was to us in the Sixties.
I was probably nine years old when we made our first “expedition” all the way from Norman to Lincoln Park Zoo. If memory serves, it was a 9,000 mile journey that took about three months.
I was either with my best friend Steve, or my cousins, or all of them, and possibly a sister or two.
What’s clear is that we were all psyched.
For years, we had been watching *Bob Jenni doing guest spots on Foreman Scotty.
He was always handling snakes and gila monsters and other animals that would kill you dead if you messed up.
We boys were GLUED to the television when Bob was on, quietly rooting for the snake to get lose and maybe bite somebody, just a little bit.
So when we went to the zoo, we were hoping to see some seriously dangerous critters, running wild and eating kids, if we were lucky.
My memories of the zoo are a bit faded and may not live up to the **99.99% accuracy that that blog has maintained for the last five years, but here we go.
I recall the Mothers or Aunties were dead keen on this being an EDUCATIONAL trip, so we were all armed with our Friends of the Zoo Key.
I was not much of a joiner at Norman High School.
I played football, and that was about it.
But I was a proud member of two organisations that will go down in infamy: the Grandstand Boozers and Alvan’s Army.
Both involved massive amounts of basketball, testosterone and adult beverages.
Not necessarily in that order.
(Yes, I know there are formatting problems. I’m almost 60. I’m allowed.)
- You never pull anything out of your pocket without Panadol falling out
- You try to use the same *cup all day so that you don’t have to reach up into the cabinet and feel that hot-10-penny-nail-jabbing-into-your-shoulder-socket feeling
- You become the ultimate Christian hypocrite when you start wildly boogeying to the Stones, but then you think about what their lyrics actually say
- You know there are not many better things on Earth than watching a 2-year-old chase a pigeon in the park
- You find one day that you are wearing a shirt, at work, around important people. that has the kind of wide stripes that went out with the Rat Pack
- You had at least one “hippyish” item destroyed by a parent who went completely mental
- You realize that, right now, your kids or nieces and nephews have jobs that are way more important than yours
- You much prefer Facebooking about Shih-Tzus and cats than talking about work or politics
- You don’t go a day without praying for someone’s intentions, solicited or not
- When you wake up in the morning, it is a miracle if you can get to the bathroom without a cramp or stabbing pain or brain aneurysm
- When you were little, you and your cousins got up to mischief that no one, to this day, knows about
- When a Facebook friend mentions watching Johnny Carson reruns. for the next 10 minutes, you are laughing about the Carson clips airing in your head
- You have not bothered to properly get the last few back-up ‘dings’ in your car repaired because, really, what’s the point
- The most analytical you get these days is when you and your child watch the latest Star Wars or Avengers movie, and you really zoom in looking for plot holes
- Every time you see a Facebook mention of a soldier who has died or a child undergoing chemo, you pray for them; you really pray
- You get up from your computer and start walking down the hall, and everything looks blurry, so you wonder if you are having a heart attack, but then you realize you’re still wearing your computer glasses
- When you want to put on old Norman TBT photo on Facebook, and you realize there aren’t many in your family because film was expensive
- You remember the story about Narcissus, and you wonder whether this ‘selfie’ thing is a very bad deal
- You hear an old song by the Stones or Hendrix or Led Zep, so you CRANK IT UP, and then you wonder how you ever made it home alive from **parties
- The thought of winning the billion-dollar lottery scares you to death because you have personally seen how love of money truly is the root of all evil
- You have recently opened a kitchen drawer, removed a utensil, and scratched an area of your old body that you don’t talk about
- When you see young lovers out in public, and your mind wanders, it usually grabs hold of a memory from a time when you were below the age of consent
- Pretty much every major new invention or government policy that you read about reminds you of George Orwell’s ‘1984’
- You still have a phone/fax machine on your desk even though the last fax you received was during the Bush Administration
- You see a guy driving down the road in a mint condition 1966 G.T.O. and you immediately want to be his best friend or kill him and steal his car.
- You need to hear a baby laugh every day, just to get you through the stuff, so you’ve watched this clip of Laughing Quadruplets about a hundred times
- You have figured out that vinegar and baking soda will clean or cure pretty much anything, and you wonder why you need all the crap in your cabinets
- You also wonder why stores don’t carry ‘fat guy’/’fat gal’ pants like they used to, back when you didn’t need them
- Other than your kids being born, your best memories are simple, and almost always involve laughing with old friends
- You realize that you are way closer to your death than your birth, and that’s OK
- Most of the major dental work you had in your 30’s is now falling to bits
- You realize that a John Wayne cowboy movie and a stiff drink with a really old Norman High School friend will fix any damn thing
- There are at least three times that you could have gotten really rich if you’d taken a moderate financial gamble, and that really annoys you
- Your new laptop comes with built-in software capable of landing a man on Mars, but you mainly use it to search for stuff that’s lost in your computer
- When you go to the mall, you always park in the same area. Always. Because, otherwise, you would never find your car. Never.
- The Groucho Marx glasses that you bought for 79 cents were the best single investment you ever made
37. You have OU jerseys that predate Barry Switzer.
38. If you had a dollar for every time someone in your family said, “if I had a dollar for every time…” you’d be rich
39. You are very clear about Saturday Night Live: there’s Belushi, Aykroyd, Murray, Gilda and Lilly, then a lump of ***everybody else
40. The only way you are ever going to lose 10 pounds is if tacos or DQ Blizzards somehow metabolize fat and scar tissue
41. About 20 years ago, you realized that elected officials in Washington, D.C. were not smarter than you, they were jut less ethical
42. You are pretty sure that if a man, or woman, cannot ride a horse, they should not be President
43. You or your spouse have had at least one operation that cost more than the house you grew up in
44. You know that Robin Williams and Jonathan Winters were really great at ad-libbing, but, truly, nobody was as good as KOCO’s Ho-Ho and Pokey
45. And, speaking of brilliant children’s programming, WKY TV’s Foreman Scotty and Xavier T. Willard were the best rootin-tootin’ cowboys of ****all time
46. You would love to go into the garage, find an old tire tool, and then wrap it around the head of the guy who said “60 is the new 40”
47. You’d then bend it over Jerry Jones’ big, fat head, just because
48. You are almost 60 if you’re a man who has at least one scar from the time:
… you pushed the neighbors normally good-natured dog too far, like maybe hitting her repeatedly with a rope because you were trying to be a cowboy and she simply refused to stampede
… opening a can of beans with your Dad’s U.S. Military issue can opener (just to see if you could do it which, turns out, you could but not without serious blood loss)
… pinched the fire out of your leg, arm or belly when you put the end stretcher board onto your Dad’s U.S. Navy issue cot
49. You are a woman who has at least one scar from:
… touching the metal ends of the electric hair curlers of death
… breathing in infinite clouds of Aqua-Net hairspray (active ingredient: DDT)
… saying once to often to your little brother, “I daaaaare you to throw that fork a me.””
50. You want to throw your computer RIGHT INTO THE DUCK POND when you write something on your blog late at night, and technology and formatting get all bitchy
51. You have come to accept that you will never be able to properly back a trailer or use Excel
52. You remember baby chicks at Easter that were dyed all different colors, and they were cute, not something you feel compelled to report to the FBI
53. At least once a month, you would give just about anything to have a little more time with your Mom
54. You wonder whether your kids would have benefited from having their mouths washed out with soap, at least once
55. You spent hours and hours looking through the glass viewfinder of your Dad’s Brownie Instamatic camera, and taking thousands of no-film photos of your pets and siblings (extra points if they were in the bathroom)
56. Your wife or husband is right this minute wearing the exact same glasses that your aunt/uncle wore in 1966
57. Your chest constricts and you can’t breath properly when you hear the theme from the *****The Twilight Zone
58. You frequently watched black-and-white TV shows in the bedroom, and at least one brother or sister had to hold the rabbit ears wrapped with aluminum foil just so
59. You believe that 70- or 80- or 90-year-old people must be tough as a boot full of barb wire, because their bodies must hurt like crap, since yours sure does
60. And, finally, you know you are almost 60 when you’re no longer embarrassed by those times when you open your mouth and your Mom comes out; in fact, those moments really make you smile.
*Yes, you’ve been known to drink wine out of a coffee cup
** Don’t ask, don’t tell
*** OK, Wayne and Garth are close
**** Sorry Duke
“My leg, my leg!”
Poor Meadowlark Lemon would hold his leg and wail in agony.
So loud that everybody in the huge basketball arena could hear him.
And, somehow, as his teammates helped him limp around the court, in comedic agony, the magic would happen.