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Q. Uh, Assmunch, what do you want for Christmas? I was fixing to bring you some deer meat but it went bad on me and I was about to just throw it out when Grover told me his bunch wouldn’t mind those little crawling things as long as he cooked it well done. So I put a ribbon on it and he went ahead and put it under their tree. I told him he at least ought to keep it in the icebox but he said their place is so drafty and with this cool snap, it would keep just fine. The cats took one sniff of it and ran off so they won’t be bothering it either, Grover said.

That took care of Grover and them, and for $19.95 plus $3.50 shipping and handling I mail-ordered the little woman one of these armadillo purses that are all the rage. It looks just like a real lifesize armadillo, eyes and feet and tail, except for the handle and the zipper down its back and the middle where the innards were hollowed out for the purse part. It’s my all-time greatest Christmas gift, I think you’ll agree, but I still don’t have you anything. You giving out any hints?

A. I borrowed the idea from the Huckabees and set up a phony wedding registry where you can survey my Christmas wish list. My gifters don’t truck in fine china and such, though, so I’m only registered at Fred’s Dollar Store. Fred is no Bill Dillard but you can’t hardly beat him for backscratchers. Also on my list is his special on brand-name 10-W-40 motor oil, T-shirts with clever smutty sayings on them, and several doohickeys that I’m not sure what they’re for, but look like they’d be good stocking-stuffers.

The last few Christmases, when people hinted or came right out and asked, I told them they could get me a goat from the Heifer Project International. This sounded like a heartwarming deal for all concerned, but I never wound up with goat one under my tree. They kept shipping my goat — with my name on it — to some poor family somewhere overseas. The first time they did it, I called the law trying to get my goat back, but they said I was being tacky and uncaring about a mud hut full of hungry children. My retort was, I believe in generosity but there’s such a thing as justice. Their answer to that was, Well, the true meaning of Christmas is that it’s more blessed to give than receive. I could’ve answered that by saying, All right, then, what about the Huckabees, but I didn’t want to be lumped in with such grabbers, so I just let it go.

I let it go several years running and it was especially hard the year when the gift was several goats, enough to make right smart of a herd, each one mistakenly shipped to a different Third World family that admittedly needed the sons-a-bitches worse than I did. My sugarplum visions of a giant goat barbecue came to nothing. Never even got any cheese. So don’t get me a goat.

Another Q from the same moron: Oh, and listen, A.M., I’m trying to decide between a real tree and an artificial tree. What’s your experience and what do you recommend?

A. I had me a nice little evergreen spotted, just the right size, but when I advanced on it the other morning with my chopping axe my neighbor intervened and told me he’d appreciate it if I’d hereafter confine my timber harvesting to areas outside his fenced yard. We didn’t come to blows or anything like we did the time I inadvertantly sold his mineral rights but I was a mite disappointed, yes. It meant I’d have to canvass all the other yards in the neighborhood, or sneak back over to his after nightfall and then have to go through the always-bothersome rigamarole of disguising the pilfered tree with enough aluminum paint and spray-on “snow” so the rightful owner wouldn’t be able to recognize it, or go through the even worse ordeal of digging my old artificial tree out of the attic for one more tour of Yuletide duty.

The old artificial tree looks like a green pole with about 40 toilet brushes attached to it. I mean, it would be a lot prettier, and it would make more sense, if I just decorated a chair. I knew some people who one Christmas draped a sheet over a hatrack and drew ornaments on the thing with a Magic Marker. These weren’t smart people, but then again I bet they hadn’t been screwed out of as many goats as I had, either.

In other words, any old tree or “tree” will get the job done if all the other essential Christmas components are in order. There are exceptions, such as the poor guy I knew who lived in his car and tried without any satisfaction whatsoever to make a Christmas tree out of the six-inch-long cardboard tree-shaped car deodorizer that hung from his rear-view mirror. But you can’t let yourself be thrown off a satisfactory Christmas course by the remembered misfortunes of a ne’er-do-well. It’s the season to be jolly.

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