The ugly wife, smart-alecky duck, and old friends

Published 7:38 pm Monday, March 1, 2021

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What you’re about to read takes us back more than twenty years and to one of the first columns we ever wrote for the paper. The fodder for the story comes when the amazin’ blonde and my family went down to Birmingham back in 1997. We made some good memories that trip, real good memories, but we always do when we get together with two of my best friends and their families — Ryan Howell and Duane Fancher (the one called “Beard” in this piece.)

Today’s column is another tribute to my buddy Ryan who left us on the first day of November last year and would’ve turned 64 this past week. Since that difficult day, we have been blessed to grow close to four of the most important four ladies in Ryan’s life. We tell this funny story with these joyful and lovely-spirited Birmingham ladies in mind.

So, here we go, back to 1997 …

You’d think I wouldn’t have to drive nearly a thousand miles just to hear a couple of awful jokes to write. But that happened this past summer as my family and I left Waco and headed home to LaGrange. Along the way, we stopped in Birmingham to visit some folks we’ve known all of our lives; and we sat around the table for a long time telling some stories, and the stories at some point naturally deteriorated into bad jokes.

You understand.

I’ve always heard that the worse a joke is, the better it is. If that be the case, what we heard that night down South in Birmingham may be the best two jokes ever spoken.

First Ryan stepped up. Ryan — a big fella and a bigger talker — is a gentleman I’ve called a friend a long, long time. That didn’t stop him from punishing me with this one:

“A fella went squirrel hunting way out in the woods one day,” he said, “and he came out with three bags of dead squirrels.  As he was leavin’, he ran into the game warden who looked at him funny and wanted to know what he had in those bags.

“Well, he showed him all the dead squirrels,” Ryan continued,” and the game warden was shocked: ‘How in the world did you kill all those squirrels,’ the warden asked, ‘You don’t even have a gun!’”

Ryan paused and gave one of his trademark chuckles before continuing:

“’Well,’ the man said, ‘you see, I’m so ugly that I jus’ look at ‘em and they fall over dead.’

“The warden gave him another strange look,” Ryan said, “so the man quickly added,

“’Oh, sir, it’s okay. It could be worse. I used to bring my wife out huntin’ with me, but she’d look at the poor creatures and tear ‘em all to shreds.’”

            That, mercifully, was the end of the first joke, and it took us all some time to regain our composure. Not to be outdone, our other buddy, one we call ‘Beard,’ thought he could beat that one. I told him I doubted it was possible but to go ahead and give it a shot.

Beard started up: He said that this duck walked into a drug store and asked the owner if he had any grapes. Of course, the duck has to say “gwapes,” which got us all laughing before Beard got the first sentence out.

“Naw,” said the owner, “You’ll have to go down the street a-ways to the grocery store and get gwapes there.”

“Thanks,” said the duck.

“The next day the duck came back into the drug store and asked the owner again if he had any grapes.

“Naw, I told you yesterday that if you want ‘gwapes’ you’ll have to go down to the grocery store down the road.”

“Thanks,” said the duck and walked out.

The next day the duck came into the drug store again. Before he could say anything, the owner said,

“Duck, you’d best not be in here asking for no gwapes.  If you do, I’m gonna get a hammer and nails and nail your no-good webbed feet to the floor.”

“Oh,” said the duck, “do you have any nails?”

“No I don’t!” said the owner.

“Well, then,” said the duck, “ya got any gwapes?”