I wish I knew something new to tell you but all my sources are sullen and flu-wrung here in bleak midwinter. I'm guessing a good half of them have been foreclosed.

Also, as you've surely surmised, the writers who actually write these columns have been on strike, and the longer they're out, the more it shows.

(What? You didn't know?)

There's been too much rain. And it's been a strangely unfriendly variety of rain. It falls from the eaves like it's mad at the ground. Makes hostile puddles.

The wind howls out there almost as if thinking it's nearly March. Wishing it had some premature kites to tear up and sadden daddies.

Skies escaped from El Greco, remembrancing the Inquisition.

It's too early to think about the spring planting. But I'm beginning to resent Oklahoma's wanting to screw us Arkansas farm-and-garden types out of our God-given and constitutional right to use chicken fertilize.

Communists. The order handed down direct from the Trilateral Commission.

I fail to see what's so newsworthy about recalling beef. I can remember meat with the best of them, but why would anybody care?

I wish I thought as highly of myself as some of these politicians do, especially old Huckleberry. A little sad when your life story is so boring that you have to make up phony details like lye soap and dirt floors, and make them up not for yourself but for your mother.

Speaking of chicken fertilize, George Wallace set the modern presidential-candidate standard for pore-me campaign pathos with his account of carrying his new bride Lurleen across the threshold of their first home, which the day before had been an active hen coop.

But he was somebody that you could believe really had nested with poultry. It's an example that authenticity can't be faked and those who try are usually found out because they can't get the nuance.

You'd have to update your deprivations to hoke much stump sympathy these days. Claim you had to live through only vinyl albums and black-and-white TV, and even then you'd have to get the nuance. I slaved on a manual typewriter so don't tell me.

I remember Pap used to treat fishhook wounds with catfish slime. They always healed too, except for the times when they didn't.

I don't see how as pompous and humorless a Clemens as testified in Congress last week could be any kinfolks of Mark Twain.

If He tuned into these TV know-it-alls for just 30 minutes, say, what possible excuse could God have for not just smiting us all? Just starting over as with the Big Water and the wicked cities of the plain? What could we possibly say in defense? And sure as the world we'd seal our doom by getting Chris Matthews or Bill Bennett to argue our case. I mean, Jonah wasn't 10 percent that obnoxious, and God had a fish eat him.

We've got to put an end to this tradition of Valentine candy. Before we're all Jabbas and Jabbesses the Hut.

When they announce that the price of a postage stamp is going down is when you'll know that Hell has frozen over.

I still think Arkansas State ought to be the Peckerwoods, in honor of the ghost-billed Lord God that haints nearby.

Sweetness asks whatever happened to color-coded terrorism alerts. I venture that maybe they went out with Tom Ridge, and happy trails to them both. Anyway, it's been pretty dull around here since the last one. Not once has alarm at the prospect of incoming shoulder-fired germ canister sent us down to bunker hunker.

While I'm at it scrape the worst of the scum off the designated drinking water. I know, I know, sooner or later I'm just going to have to introduce some grass carp into those bigger jugs.

Also, I'm thinking about declaring a moratorium on obituary metaphors. In particular those that go on and on. The new rule will be, all you can say is “So-and-so died.”

Folk wisdom sent along by AARP or some other geezer outfit says sleeping with a bar of soap somewhere in your bedcovers will ease your rheumatiz these cold, dank nights. Supposed to use a floating soap, like Ivory.

Tried it for a week, then another week having taken the wrapper off. Finally took my Barlow and shaved the soap into a pile of between-sheets slivers, and when that didn't work either, took to rubbing the slivers onto the worst-affected joints. Rubbing it in there pretty damn hard. This provided some relief but only when I followed it up by swallowing ibuprofens five or six at a time.

I need some additional folk wisdom to help with my TV set. Picture has a background flicker that after about an hour of agitated viewing gets me thinking about taking my Poulan to it. I've found, though, that while the saw does make an impressive and therapeutic amount of noise, it doesn't terrorize the TV into performing better. If anything, it just makes it worse.

What I gather from this is that the bona fide folk-wisdom people must be on strike too, and these scabs that are substituting for them are either practical jokers of the sorry sort that prey on oldtimers, or imbeciles.


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