Firewood gave column’s fans something to groan about

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, May 2, 2012

Now that the smoke has cleared after last week’s column on Firewood (“the sparkling candidate voters could really warm up to”), it’s easy to see that many of our readers are gluttons for punishment – at least, if the many groan-worthy responses are any indication.

“As soon as I twigged onto it, I realized it would be a ‘growner,’” wrote former Ghost Lake Village resident/mayor Angus McNee.

From Calgary, Robin Roome sent her thanks for “a bright spot in what has, at times, been a very troubling and worrisome political campaign.”

“Well-done,” replied spirituality author Ron Rolheiser.

“Firewood as a politician: I wooden have thought it possible, but then again, one never knows what someone is smoking. It was a good initial pun, and you kept piling it on. And, unlike a dishonest politician, firewood, once it has been bought, stays bought!”

However, Ron’s brother, longtime Bow Valley personality Pius Rolheiser, felt my column “fell somewhat short in not providing a detailed examination of the planks in Firewood’s campaign platform.”

When I asked Pius whether he minded if I referred to his concern in a follow-up column, he responded: “By all means, feel free to use the sap and the planks, if they work.”

He wondered, though, whether Firewood claimed to speak to and for all types of wood.

About that question, I responded:

“Wood that he could, for he really pines for their concerns, but he’s often felt that many of them were just barking up the wrong tree, especially the members of the dogwood clan, and he doesn’t like being left out on a limb. He does take seriously his time with the elders, however, and often spruces himself up for meetings with them. Yew just can’t be too careful these days – fir what it’s worth.”

Noting Firewood’s pride in his family’s achievements, Edmonton coffee companion Colleen Chapman commented she’d heard that “one son was a branch manager, a daughter became a tree surgeon, another was a physiotherapist specializing in defective limbs. But he did suffer some bitterness from his political losses and eventually just wanted people to ‘leaf me alone!’”

In a shocking twist, Colleen went on to enquire whether I’d ever invented “people” in my youth, as she had.

“We invented Electric Man – favourite city, Washington, DC; favourite soccer team, Milan AC; favourite band, ACDC. He loved his amps and uncles. He went on the racing circuit.”

Unfortunately, “the one uncle he could really count on to keep him grounded accidentally electrocuted himself,” she added. Also, “Electric Man's parents were mortified to hear he was living an alternating life style.”

Admittedly, I did get quite a charge out of her note. When I told her that, she sent me a few puns that she’d received from Indiana, where she spent her youth. “So, what else could I be but corny?” she asked.

Here are a few of the “corny” puns Colleen sent our way:

“I did a theatrical performance about puns. It was a play on words.”

“A cartoonist was found dead in his home. Details are sketchy.”

“I got a job at a bakery because I kneaded dough.”

“Haunted French pancakes give me the crêpes.”

And turning from crêpes to hairier subjects, there’s one line I’m sure Colleen thought fitted me perfectly:

“I didn't like my beard at first. Then it grew on me.”

Speaking about beards, a familiar face around Cochrane – especially recognizable around Christmas time – is that of professional Santa Leo Peters, often seen sitting at a window table at Coffee Traders.

I thought for sure he’d have a whole collection of Santa puns to draw from, so I dropped him a note in preparation for this column. His response reflected on another of his special interests: he’s a serious songwriter.

“I love your puns that you put in your column,” Leo said. “Unfortunately, as a songwriter, they discourage our use of puns and clichés in our songwriting – unless it’s a comedy song.”

Well, thinking of puns and things Santa-ish, I can’t resist closing with one on myself. When folks point out my own resemblance to the jolly Yuletide fellow during the festive season, I sometimes reply by redirecting their attention to my longsuffering wife, Mary Anna.

Yes, I say, I’ve sometimes exploited my hairy chin to do the “Ho, Ho, Ho” thing with my very imaginative grandkids at Christmas time; but my portly profile is looking more and more like Santa’s, because Mary Anna does the hoe, hoe, hoe thing in her garden all summer long.

Groan! (Or is that, “Grown”?)


© 2012 Warren Harbeck

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