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Let’s all try to laugh a little today

“Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.” — Mark Twain, “The Mysterious Stranger”

I’ve never been able to write funny.

Something in my bones always turns me dark or sappy when I get at the keyboard.

Which I find shameful, because plenty of funny things have happened to me over the years, and my family likes to trade in those memories every time we get together.

Feeling like we need a bit of humor in these anxious times, I wanted to take a stab at a laughing column.

Here we go:

My brother was a scrappy kid and gave my mother a lot of grief.

As a toddler, he figured out how to unbuckle himself from his car seat and climb around the floor of our car while Mom drove.

Then he figured out how to open the car door (before child safety locks became standard).

Once, he climbed out of his seat and pulled the door handle just as Mom took a turn, and he tumbled right out of the car and bounced down the road.

That wasn’t funny.

His reaction was.

It was Easter Sunday, and his basket and all its candy had tumbled out of the car with him. When my mother slammed the car into park and ran back to my brother, all he said was, “Mama, my Easter basket!” I don’t think he even cried.

My brother loved the mud as a boy. When I was 8 and he about 5, we lived in a trailer park and our trailer sat kitty-corner from a big, empty dirt lot. On more than one occasion, after a heavy rain, my brother would romp around that field and come back so covered in mud and gunk, you could only see his eyes.

He got to know the routine: Strip down to nothing on the porch so Mom could fill up the big pan with water to dump over him and rinse away the mud before he came inside.

As a kindergartner, I fell in love with the girl next door and we married with dandelion stems tied around our fingers.

But, later, she fell in love with a first-grader who wore one of those plastic-leather jackets with the Harley Davidson logo emblazoned on the back, and she broke up with me. I went crying to my mother, saying, “Mama, she broke my little heart!” (That was not the last time that happened).

In the same trailer park where my brother swam in the mud and around the same time, my cousin and I saw some teenagers making out in a car. We knocked on the hood of the car and made fun of them and then ran off laughing. The guy got out of the car and chased us across that dirt field.

About halfway across, I decided to turn and make a stand. I waited for the much-older kid to catch up and, then, little 8-year-old me said, “Touch me and I’ll sue.” Not sure where I heard that.

A couple years after that, in a different neighborhood, that same cousin (she must’ve been a bad influence) and I picked a fight with some other teenagers. They were gang members. You could tell by the colors they wore. It was the kind of neighborhood where even 10-year-olds knew how to tell.

My cousin and I ticked off those teens bad enough they chased after us, five or six of them, throwing stones at us as we ran to my house.

My mother, 5-foot-3 and weighing nothing, stormed out of the house and cussed out those teenagers until her voice went hoarse. Each of those toughie gangsters sheepishly apologized and called my mother “ma’am” and walked home with their tails between their legs.

A year or so after that, we lived in an apartment complex that had a big pond and a big lake on the property connected to several acres of wetlands. Me, my brother, my cousin, and my friends would spend hours romping through those mucky acres, catching frogs and turtles.

One day, my friend, Johnny, and I caught a big snapping turtle. Thing had to measure about two feet long from nose to tail.

We dropped it into one of those orange, curbside recycling bins and carried it home to my apartment, where we dropped it in my bathtub, threw in a little water and some lettuce from the fridge. We looked at it awhile and then went back out to play, forgetting all about the beast until later that night, when Mom came home from work and went in to use the bathroom and let out a horrid scream.

After that, I wasn’t allowed to play with Johnny for a while.

Justin A. Hinkley can be reached at 989-354-3112 or jhinkley@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinHinkley.

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