A 1952 Buick Rolls In

Last night, at dusk, I saw this beautiful 1952 Buick at a service station in Stratford. I talked briefly with the owner. He took possession of the car two weeks ago and is only the second owner of the vehicle. It was owned since new by one person, from 1952 to 2017, or 65 years. It appears to be in great shape and was a “two-tone” car, red body, white roof, that were common in the fifties. JH

About a Poor Old Lady

By Jim Hagarty
2017

There is a story that has disturbed me my whole life and I feel the need to address it as best I can. It involves the account of an old lady who swallowed a fly. Why anyone thought this was worthy of a news item I will never know but the journalist who brought the incident to light did a very poor job of reporting, in my opinion. And as a lifelong journalist myself, I feel my viewpoint should have some validity.

First off, that an old lady would swallow a fly is not an earth-shattering event so I really think the reporter should have found something more important to examine that day. But then the journalist said he didn’t know why the woman swallowed the fly. Well, a very poor job he did and I think I might have fired him if he brought that story back to the newsroom on my watch. He should have asked the subject of his story why she swallowed the fly. But he never did. And then he made the incredible prediction that because she swallowed a fly, the woman was likely to die. If she did, I believe she would be the first person on record to die from ingesting a fly, but the reporter was an alarmist and ignorant as well.

My fear is he told the old lady she was probably going to die because the first thing she did was chase down a spider somehow and swallowed that, in the hopes it would catch the fly. This could not have been easy for her to do with likely eyesight and mobility problems but she found a spider, opened her gob and popped it in.

Realizing she now had a spider and a fly inside her, she panicked, I think, and chased down a bird which she swallowed to catch the spider. Her alarm must have heightened even more as she then grabbed a cat and swallowed that, in the hope that the cat would catch the bird she had sent down her throat. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to swallow a cat but it is a sign of her distress that she would put herself through that. And I think she did that because that alarmist reporter put the idea into her head that she might die from swallowing the fly which I don’t believe she would have.

The incredible story the reporter ended up with then goes on to detail how the woman swallowed a dog to catch the cat. How much dog could one woman swallow, I wonder. I hope it was not a Great Dane.

In any case, the woman was desperate by then and found herself a cow to swallow to catch the dog. Now, any fifth grader could have told the poor lady that cows do not normally try to catch dogs. I hope it wasn’t the reporter who suggested to her that they do. In any case, she swallowed a cow.

And then, she went just one crazy step too far. She decided she had to do something about the cow and so she found a horse, stuffed the poor creature into her mouth and swallowed it, mane, hooves, tail, the whole shebang. Again, she was obviously starting to lose it because horses never try to catch cows.

And this is where the story took a tragic turn. After swallowing the horse, the old lady died. And all the reporter could say was, “She died, of course.” Of course? The reporter knew the horse would kill the woman but apparently he didn’t think to warn her. I just hope he didn’t encourage her.

So, to wrap up, one life was lost when the woman swallowed the fly. The unfortunate fly died, “of course”! Problem solved. Or at least it should have been. But because the old lady was acting on poor information and probably out of panic, the lives of six other creatures were also lost including that of the old lady herself.

I don’t want to sound mean, but I almost wish the old lady had survived swallowing that last big entree long enough to swallow the damn reporter to catch the horse. It would have served the silly scribe right to have suffered the indignity of slithering down into the old lady’s innards.

“I don’t know why she swallowed the fly,” he had written.

Dude, all you had to do was ask her. So much misery could have been spared.

I call journalistic malfeasance. Maybe an investigation is warranted. We have a dead old woman, and deceased fly, spider, cat, dog, cow and horse. The only one to walk away was the reporter.

Sounds a bit suspicious to me. From my experience as a newspaper editor, I know that some reporters will do anything for a good story.

Anything.

Taking the Dove Test

By Jim Hagarty
2017

As a man gets on in years, he requires a metric or two to measure whether or not he is still on the righteous path he tried to trod so many decades ago. I think I may have discovered just such a marker by which a senior male can chart his progress or lack of it.

The possibility awaiting all men, we may as well be clear, is that he will slowly but surely slip into a state some might describe as grumpy but is better known by its proper name, curmudgeonitis.

Curmudgeonitis is a few steps beyond grumpy. Even kids, teenagers, and middle-agers can have bouts of grumpiness. But only old men can lay claim to the state of grumpy times ten. To be a true curmudgeon, a man has to be able to get mad at things that no one else in the world could possibly get upset with.

So here is my test. You have erected a large plywood platform upon a steel pole in the backyard to serve as a bird feeder. A big tub of feed is dumped in the centre of the feeder each morning, topped off with a small cup of unsalted peanuts.

For a couple of months, the feeder is filled with a wide variety of birds from sparrows and chickadees to grackles, bluejays and cardinals.

Fantastic.

Then a pair of doves show up. Doves as a symbol of peace my ass. These greedy fat brown creatures decide the whole damn feeder is theirs and any other species uses the feeder at the same time at the risk of extreme pecking.

This is an intolerable situation and so you find yourself at your kitchen window, yelling at a pair of doves. The yelling has no effect.

So, I submit that when you reach the stage in life where you are yelling out your window at doves, curmudgeonitis has taken root. However, just to add another layer of complexity: It is not the yelling that is the indicator, it is the idea that a man shouting at doves out his window could conceivably have the effect of causing the doves to rethink their behaviour and to say to themselves, “Well, I guess we better cut that out!”

Next stage: Cursing at the clouds that now and then prevent a perfect view of a full moon.

On Being Called An Anus

By Jim Hagarty
2017

I was very recently, yesterday I think it was, called an anus. I am using the polite form of what I was called, even though it didn’t seem to be very polite at the time I was called it. In fact, the name that was applied to me seemed entirely impolite when I was called it.

Being called an anus had the effect of sending a shock right through me as I have used up a lifetime of effort attempting not to be an anus. In fact, years of churchgoing seemed designed to help me avoid that fate. And yet, there I was, being informed that my character most resembled that part of the body the purpose of which is to extrude human waste. I sensed, right away, that the term that was applied to me was not meant to be complimentary.

To be referred to as an anus upset me so I did what I always do when I am upset and proceeded to cut my lawn. Some weeks, I have the best kept lawn in town. And as I pushed my ancient grass cutter up and down the grounds of my property, running right over the dog’s playthings in my absent-mindedness, a nagging question swept over me. Is it possible, I wondered, that, in fact, I am a genuine anus? I went over and over the evidence which supported that assessment and the few facts I could gather up that would dispute it. And I am sorry to say I had a hard time escaping the conclusion that the person who had so confidently labelled me an anus might just have been onto something.

I have been advised, over the years, when something seemingly unkind has been said about me or to me, to consider the source. And so that is what I did in this case. And that is when my self-doubt really took hold.

You see, my character referencer is a well-known local pharmacist. Not a licensed, registered pharmacist, but one who works out of his home, serving a very select patronage. His medical services are well-known to local authorities and for his efforts, he has attended some government-sponsored sabbaticals in provincially supplied housing facilities during which periods he has chosen to suspend his pharmaceutical outreach to the community but on his return home, he has always been able to resume his healing activities.

So, I am sure you will conclude, as I did myself, that the person who so emphatically referred to me as an anus is no doubt just the right person to be rendering such an assessment of another human being.

I am not sure what brought on yesterday’s conclusion that I am, in fact, a human anus, but I have considered the fact that I have remained loyal to my own pharmaceutical dispensary and have not brought any custom to the pharmacy operated by my recent character referencer.

And so there it is. A bit of a blow but in a strange way, a freeing thing as well. Knowing now that I have been fooling myself these past six decades plus when I have thought myself to be woefully lacking in anus qualities, I can now embrace the reality of what it is I really am and proceed accordingly. I guess what I am saying is, why fight it?

If you feel, after reading this, any desire to acquire an accurate character reference of your own, let me know and I will introduce you to the neighbourhood pharmacist but act quickly as it is possible he has another sabbatical scheduled. If you are lucky enough to meet him, please do not let his somewhat gruff appearance and demeanour and random arrangement of teeth put you off. By his own admission, he has a lot of non-anussial qualities and I think you will, as I did, come away from your encounter with him thinking, “Wow! What a sweetheart!” And if a good character assessment matters to you at all, you might consider purchasing some of his pharmaceuticals. He seems to favour those who do.

Although now that I think of it, that last comment I made is just the sort of thing an genuine anus would say.

If an anus could actually speak, that is.

And lest you think I am over it and not bothered at all by this whole matter now, consider the fact that I have just finished writing this story at 3:50 a.m., a time when all decent anuses are usually sound asleep, if an anus can, in fact, sleep. Only a human anus wouldn’t know the answer to something like that

One Owner Econoline

My friend Bert, with whom I worked for many years at a daily newspaper in my town, owns the greatest old Ford van. In fact, he is still the only owner of this 1974 Ford Econoline 300 which he bought brand new in 1975 for $4,375 Cdn, taxes included. Obviously he has taken great care of it and the inside is lined with shag carpeting. A sign inside says, “Anatomy Lessons Offered. Braille Method Used.” Vans did used to have a reputation as mini pleasure palaces on wheels. Some bumper stickers would read, “If This Van is Rockin’, Don’t Come a Knockin’.” Others were more blunt: “Ass, Grass or Gas – Nobody Rides For Free!”

Keeping It Not Simple

By Jim Hagarty
2017

I am not a big believer in the good old days. I remember childhood diseases that claimed lives, family violence that was tolerated, horrific car and farm accidents and drinking and driving, and how women were second class citizens.

But I will admit that life 50 years ago was somewhat simpler. I was raised on a farm and our choices were not unlimited. Once a week, my mother would drive the five miles into town to the fancy new self-serve grocery store where she bought all the provisions that were needed to keep seven kids and two parents alive for seven more days. There was also a country general store a couple of miles away for emergencies.

Today, my family and I live in a small Canadian city of 35,000 souls. We have a number of lively grocery stores as well as department stores and drug stores that sell groceries. So up and down the streets we drive, going from store to store, and picking up the specials available in each one. One department store has the best price on orange juice and peanut butter as well as some cookies so I go there frequently. But the food store across the street is our main provider. Nevertheless, there are also bargains to be had at its main competitor right around the corner so we go there occasionally. And every Thursday, a big box drug store offers seniors 20 per cent off so that is where we go to get our milk.

And there are several other stores that get a visit from us now and then. One store has insane prices on peanut butter from time to time. And there is a smaller store which has the cheapest chocolate bars in town.

We have two cars and sometimes when I park in a lot, I recognize our other car sitting there and realize my wife is already in the store.

On the farm, we had one car for nine people. Today, in my family, we have two cars for four people and each of those cars makes sometimes several stops a day at the shops. One place has the best prices for meat, another for bread.

My mother knew her window of opportunity for grocery shopping once a week was small. Our car also served as the farm truck and my father would be impatient to see it home again so he could go get something welded or buy a new hammer or some rope.

And another thing, the stores were all closed on Sundays. And those that opened during the week would be closed by six p.m. Now, if I want to buy something in the middle of the night, and I have done it, I can go to several stores in town which are open 24 hours a day.

We have much more choice in our world today compared to the one I grew up in. But we spend a heck of a lot of time chasing after that choice.

I am sure that comes at a cost.