It’s time once again for some old-fashioned laughter

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, April 11, 2007

So, with growing season just around the corner, Calgary coffee companion and avid gardener Jeff Perkins forwarded to me the following rule: When weeding, the best way to make sure you’re removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it’s a valuable plant.

Yup, you guessed it. This is my annual “holy hilarity” column, a post-Easter tradition I adopted five years ago (my May 15, 2002 column).  Many of our readers regularly brighten my day with jokes they’ve come across. Who the original authors are seems lost forever in cyberspace, but the delight of their lines lingers on as good medicine.

Before I share a few of the better ones you’ve e-mailed me in recent months, however, I must issue a caution: I’ve learned how to use the Delete key.

Almost always when I receive a forwarded item – funny story, beautiful story, sad story, or otherwise – the first thing I do is check to see if the letter concludes with an intimidation, such as: “If you really love me (or Jesus, or your great-great-grandmother), you’ll forward this to everyone on your mailing list, with a copy back to me.” DELETE! Or: “85,337 people have been gullible enough to forward this to all their friends. Do you really want to be the first to break the chain?” Yes, I do! DELETE!

The following are from e-mails I didn’t delete.

Cochrane coffee companion Bill McLean, a teacher on the Big Horn Stoney Nakoda Reserve west of Nordegg, revels in classroom humour. He came across the account of a teacher who gave her grade-one students the first half of a common saying and asked them to complete it. Here are four of the student responses: “Don't change horses . . . until they stop running.” “Strike while the . . . bug is close.” “Don't bite the hand that . . . looks dirty.” And “If at first you don't succeed . . . get new batteries.”

Calgary coffee companion Jean Hammer especially enjoys animal humour. With Easter in mind, she sent me a cartoon with a bunny looking out from a refrigerator shelf. Upon opening the fridge door and seeing the bunny, a woman asks, “What are you doing in there?” The bunny replies with the name of a popular brand of appliances, “This is a Westinghouse, isn’t it?” The woman says, “Yes.” And the bunny replies, “Well, I’m westing.”

Sometimes Jean’s forwards are more philosophical, such as this one: “Ham and eggs, a day’s work for a chicken, a lifetime commitment for a pig.”  

Misstatements in church bulletins are a treasure chest of funny lines. Cochrane coffee companion Tom Biberger came across these oldies but goodies:

“Ladies, don't forget the rummage sale. It's a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands.” And this one: “For those of you who have children and don't know it, we have a nursery downstairs.”

While on the subject, Cochrane coffee companion Maida Bush sent me an item about a woman who was mailing an old family Bible to her brother. “Is there anything breakable in here?” asked the postal clerk. “Only the Ten Commandments,” answered the woman.

Many of our readers love witty word play. Lawrence Buehler, also of Cochrane, forwarded these: “Reading whilst sunbathing makes you well-red,” and “When two egotists meet, it's an I for an I.”

Speaking of which, Derek Dunwoody, former Anglican rector in Cochrane, sent me a quotation found in Bentley’s House of Coffee and Tea, in Tucson, Ariz.: “At the feast of ego everyone leaves hungry.”

Some time ago I ran a series of columns on the Burma Shave advertisements that used to appear along highways in the United States. Cochrane coffee companion and popular writer/speaker David Irvine sent me this one recently – and I’m sure he had my beard and thinning hair in mind:

“Within this vale / Of toil and sin, / Your head grows bald, / But not your chin.”

I started out with gardening humour from Jeff Perkins. I’ll give him the final word, as well, with this historical groaner: 

A long, long time ago, Ozymandias, King of Assyria, was running low on cash after years of war with the Hittites. His last great possession was the Star of the Euphrates, the most valuable diamond in the ancient world. Desperate, he went to Croesus, the pawnbroker, to ask for a loan.

“I’ll give you 100,000 dinars for it,” Croesus said.

“But I paid a million dinars for it,” the king protested. “Don’t you know who I am? I’m the king!”

To which Croesus sang in reply: “When you wish to pawn a Star, makes no difference who you are.”

© 2007 Warren Harbeck

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