Plight of the Oregon Platypus

By Hugh Duvall

Last night the University of Oregon Ducks played the Oregon State University Beavers in a “Civil War” basketball game.  All of these civil war games are deeply meaningful to Oregonians.  This is because fans associated with each school feel strongly, to their very core, to the center of the marrow of their thigh bones, about one thing:  Their school’s players from California are better than the other school’s players from California.  And they are darn serious about it.  If you come across any of them discussing this topic, back away slowly.  If necessary, curl up on the ground and play dead, like wildlife experts tell you to do when confronting a grizzly bear.

I feel pride in the talent of these young men from California too, but sadly, each civil war puts a knot in my stomach.  I am a graduate of each school.  I am a beaver and a duck.  Some say that makes me a platypus.  This, of course, is absurd.  I will share with you this real quote from Yahoo! Answers on the subject of whether a platypus is the offspring of a duck and a beaver:

“There is no possible way a bird and a beaver could interbreed – one’s a bird and one’s mammal.  It’d be like you having a baby with a crow.”

Not so fast, Yahoo! Answer.  What is your Yahoo! Answer to, ‘How do you explain North Korea’s Kim Jong Un?’  Yeah.  I thought so.

The UO ducks refer to themselves as “The Fighting Ducks.”  The OSU beavers lack a formal adjective.  Some people refer to them as “Those Damn Beavers,” but these people are usually members of opposing teams.  As for OSU, they take a more international approach to self-aggrandizement.  They refer to themselves as “Beaver Nation.”  So, an Oregon civil war, in essence, is a contest between a band of warrior ducks and a nation-state of walking incisors.  It’s a real sight.  Nothing you want to miss, that’s for sure.  And I didn’t.

In the end, it was a freakish blowout.  The California Fighting Ducks lambasted the California Beaver Nation 85-43.  So now when I run into any of my duck friends who know I have torn loyalties, there is only one thing for me to do –

curl up on the ground and play dead.

A Summer Camp with all the Safety Features of a Syrian Mine Field

Bull FinalBy Jack Edwards

My kids occasionally ask me questions which cause me to reference my free-range childhood in the rural town of Alsea, Oregon. Population: Highly Suspicious.

“Dad, when you were a kid, did you go to summer camp?” Me: “Yeah, it was called ‘Shovel the Manure Out of the Barn Camp.’”

My summers were exactly like going to camp, with slight variation. The Director of Cleaning the Barn Camp was my dad. If you needed him, you had to run out into the field and yell at him over the roar of the tracker which he was on 23 hours a day.

Going out into the field was not without risk. Joe the Bull lived in the field. Joe was the bovine equivalent of an overheated car crusher, except not quite as gentle. A popular “elective” activity at Cleaning the Barn Camp was called, “Narrowly Escaping Being Killed by Joe the Bull.”

Joe could sense fear, and he generally spotted me when I was merely standing by the fence weighing my odds of survival at sprinting across his territory to avoid the long walk around. The only person Joe gave a wide berth was my dad, who had once introduced Joe’s forehead to a two-by-four. This occurred on the one and only time Joe ever charged at my father, who not so coincidentally happened to be carrying a fresh length of two-by-four.

There was, of course, a physical fitness unit. It was called marching along next to the trailer “bucking” bales of hay twelve hours a day. The good news was that the hay bales only weighed twice our body weight. A special benefit was that it was all the free water we could drink. The Assistant Camp Director, my mom, would freeze gallon jugs of water which would melt throughout the day, thus improving our chances of survival.

Religious training was integral. We even wore special religious garments – long sleeve shirts, jeans, leather gloves and boots. I have rarely prayed as often or as fervently as I did during the mandatory camp activity called, “Clearing the Blackberry Bushes With Machetes While You Prayed You Didn’t Step on a Wasp Nest.” Luckily, each summer this activity only lasted an entire sweltering week. By the end of it, I was qualified to be ordained.

Camp Alsea. Fun and frolic with all the safety features of a Syrian mine field. And, of course, in addition to the frozen water jugs, it was all the Kool Aid we could drink. On the down side, the closest thing we ever got to a s’more was slipping on one of ole Joe’s cow pies.

I’d head back in a New York minute.

I Was Not Advised

Bear Warning

By Jack Edwards

I recently escaped a harrowing near death experience. Luckily, I did not know about the danger at the time. I thought I was just going for a leisurely hike. No one told me I might end up a chew toy for a cougar (not the good kind) or a hungry bear.

Once every ten to fifteen years, someone slips a pill into my coffee that distorts my judgment (at least that’s what I think happens), and I suggest to my family that we go on a nature hike. This is how I found myself hiking to the top of Spencer’s Butte, located in the creatively named, Spencer’s Butte Park. As we were beginning our daring assent up the groomed trail, I looked over and spotted a poster a few yards away. Because I already questioned my stamina to get the top and back, I decided not to expend the precious energy to go over and read the poster.

After a successful trip, we happened to walk by the poster. It warned: “Be Advised,” with a picture of a bear and a cougar. Oddly, the picture of the bear showed the whole bear, while the picture of the cougar was a head shot. This led me to the obvious conclusion. The cougar had a better publicist.

Leave it to the “glass is always half full” park officials. The advisory began on a positive note: “We are fortunate to have these beautiful creatures living in our natural areas. Please respect these animals and their home.” Hello? Is there really a problem with park visitors failing to give these “beautiful creatures” a wide berth? A berth that could dock something like an aircraft carrier or two?

It’s a really good thing I didn’t run into one of these guys on my hike, because I had not read the Be Advised sign which helpfully listed five pieces of advice under the heading, “If you encounter a bear or a cougar.”

First, “Do not run, scream or turn your back.” See, right there, that would have been the end of me. My last earthly act would have been running and screaming in the opposite direction of the “beautiful creature.” (“Mommy, look! That man is giving a cougar a piggy back ride.”)

Second, “Make yourself look as large as possible.” Ironically, after years of trying to get a foothold on my diet and gaining modest success, this achievement could have caused my demise.

Third, “Put children between adults.” This suggestion is no doubt the result of some startled parent using little Johnny as a getaway distraction.

Fourth, “Speak firmly and back away slowly.” Speak firmly? What do you say to a terrifying beast that’s staring at you like you’re a fresh baked Calzone?

And fifth (and I swear to you I am not making this up), the final piece of advice is, “If attacked, fight back.” Uh…, thanks for that gem.

So, as I previously stated, I survived – this time. But from now on, I’m keeping a better eye on my coffee.

Why You Should Own a Dog

Dog FinalBy Jack Edwards

Dog owners say that one of the best reasons to own a dog is that it motivates you to go out and walk. I finally realized why my wife doesn’t want to own a dog. She doesn’t need one. She walks me.

As similar as I may appear to the average labradoodle, there are a few differences. First, I never tug on the leash. I pace myself. In fact, most evenings it’s all my wife can do to pry me off the couch. Second, I never eat food that’s fallen onto the floor. Unless, of course, I do so within the five-second grace period. And finally, I rarely leave a deposit in the backyard that requires any scooping.

But my wife is not alone. Whenever my wife is out walking me, I see other wives walking their husbands. They are everywhere. Wives dutifully marching their husbands up and down the neighborhood. I am aware that my opinion may come off as “traditionalist,” “sexist,” or some other “ist.” But trust me, when the only people you see out marching around aimlessly are: A. Women tugging their men along, and B. Women walking alone, I think I’ve made my point. The ratio of women versus men suggesting an evening stroll to their spouses, and I may be significantly underestimating here, is north of ten billion to one.

Truth be told, I think that most of us husbands agree that once we lift our sorry selves off the sofa, tie on our shoes and feel the fresh air in our faces, we each have to admit that deep down, if we’re honest with ourselves, we are secretly happy to be that many more steps closer to returning to our sofa.

Years ago, we owned a dog for about six nanoseconds. But I embraced those six nanoseconds. I squeezed them for all they were worth. They seemed more like seven, or maybe even eight nanoseconds. I even bought a book: Cesar’s Way: The Natural, Everyday Guide to Understanding and Correcting Common Dog Problems. A guy named Cesar Millan wrote it. You may have heard of him. He is known as “The Dog Whisperer.” His book explains how to address everyday discipline issues. Imagine my concern when I recently discovered Cesar’s book missing from the shelf. Yeah. Somebody’s reading up.

My point is this. My future may not hold owning a dog, but it apparently does hold hearing some whispering.

Smells Like Football

Corpse FlowerBy Jack Edwards

People love to test their limits. Some sky dive. Others run marathons. But the real thrill seekers, the truly adventurous, march willingly into the knee-buckling stench of a blooming corpse flower. This explains why hordes of dare devils are currently lined up in eager anticipation outside the Denver Botanic Gardens.

According to a recent article by New York Times journalist Julie Turkewitz, Denver is currently the Ground Zero of stink. The corpse flower smells like rotting flesh, but only when it’s in bloom. So the clock is ticking. According to Turkewitz, these plants take eight to 20 years to bloom, and when they do, they’re only open for 48 hours.

Sadly, I can’t go to Denver right now, but I am confident I could withstand the smelly blast. You see, I’m an Oregon Duck fan.

Football fans around the country produce their share of pregame vomit, but Oregon Ducks fans consistently find a way to raise the bar. This is why I enjoy watching games on television. It don’t mind the stench, I’m just concerned about slipping. “Slipped on vomit” is the number one cause of game day emergency room visits.

Before I continue, let me assure you every word of this story is true.

A few years ago, my wife arranged for us to enjoy a game from premium seats on Autzen Stadium’s 50 yard line. Naturally, I voiced my vomit concern, but my wife ignored me.

When we reached our row, two young men were sitting on the aisle. One looked up at us sheepishly and said, “Sorry.” His companion was hunched forward over a large circle of vomit. A pleasant looking couple was sitting directly next to them, and the woman was leaning in horror toward her companion.

Always the gentleman, I gestured for my wife to enter first. We stepped over the pile and took our seats on the other side of the couple. My wife, who has the olfactory senses of a champion bloodhound, shoved her scarf into her face and stared blankly toward the field. I spotted a concessionaire and ordered a dish of nachos.

I need to slow things down here like we’re studying Zapruder’s Kennedy assassination film, because this is when things turned surreal. As I’m leaning back munching my nachos, I hear a strange noise to my left. I look over and the vomit guy is sitting ramrod straight spewing a projectile stream of vomit like a fire hose directly onto the back the guy in front of him. I’ve seen some amazing things in my life, but this was truly incredible. It seemed like a gallon of liquid was running down the victim’s back.

Here’s my point. Through it all. Through all the chaos and mayhem that ensued, I polished off my nachos. Every last one. They went down smooth.

This is why I am so disappointed to be missing the Denver corpse flower. Because I am an Oregon Duck fan, and there is no stench I cannot conquer.

East Coast Geography for North Westerners

Sea Monkey Shrimp

By Jack Edwards

I just discovered shocking news. Rhode Island is not an island. It’s just another pedestrian piece of the United States. The contiguous United States. Yeah, the whole island thing is a scam.

Before you East Coast people get started, I would strongly recommend you zip it. If you think that we over here on the west coast aren’t well aware that 99.99% of you regularly mix up whether Oregon or Washington sits directly atop California, you are sadly misinformed. So mind your bees wax. This column is for the edification of my fellow North Westerners who have no idea whether Indiana or Illinois sits father to the east, or whether Vermont shares a border with New York. And, hold on to your hat for this, we don’t really care.

Yes, I am aware (after looking at an elementary school map yesterday) that Rhode Island does have a few islands. Let me point out that Washington has about a thousand islands carpeting a little Pacific inlet known as PUGET SOUND, but you don’t see Washington calling itself Washington Island. Even Hawaii, a state famous for being nothing but islands, didn’t name itself Hawaii Island.

This reminds me of when I was a kid and some cockroach of a company was marketing a miniature species of shrimp as Sea Monkeys. They came in a box with a plastic “tank” where the sea monkeys would live. The colorful box was plastered with illustrations of all these little sea monkeys with happy little human faces frolicking with one another. Except after you finally wore your tired parents down to the point that they actually bought you the box of sea monkeys, and you added water, you realized that you’d been duped. They weren’t the creatures displayed on the box. They didn’t have little human faces. They were shrimp. Insect-like shrimp at that. The whole thing was a sham. You were suddenly the reluctant owner of a bait shop.

What I’m saying is this. Rhode Island should gather what’s left of its dignity and change its name to Rhode. True, the name Rhode looks somewhat naked and insecure, and its director of tourism might collapse under the pressure of trying to convince people to spend their money in a place that sounds more like an industrial equipment manufacturer than a state, but honesty comes with a cost. On the flip side, in the event that Rhode Island chooses to retain its (misleading) name, I have another suggestion. It should change its state motto to, “Rhode Island, The Sea Monkey State.”

My Stupid Column

Micro Final

By Jack Edwards

This week’s column takes on a very sensitive subject. A subject that many readers may lack the emotional fortitude to digest. No, the subject is not obesity. (I felt the need to point this out because I was concerned the word digest might mislead you in a gastrological direction.) This week’s topic is far more serious than obesity. This week’s column takes on a new epidemic that threatens our nation’s security: Stupid people.

Now, before you go getting all Oprah on me, consider this. Formal psychological IQ classifications before 1970 included, in increasing levels of intelligence: idiots, imbeciles and morons (to clarify, prior to 1970, if you called an idiot a moron, you were paying him a compliment). Nowhere on this list was the classification of “stupid.” Anyone can be stupid. You can be a genius and be stupid. Case in point, 43% of all Ivy League professors purchased the “Protection Plan” the last time they bought a television at Best Buy.

To protect you, the reader, from the danger of being traumatized, I have devised a simple test to determine whether you should read this week’s column.

A few months ago, I mentioned that the nutritional wave of the future might be roadkill. This may not have been exactly what I said, but please don’t expect me to keep track of all the intellectual gems I shower on you each week. Anyway, in my roadkill column, I mentioned a bumper sticker I plan to market. (My patent is still pending.) It reads: “I brake for small animals,” and then immediately beneath that line in smaller print it reads, “taller than my bumper.” Here’s the test. Ask yourself this question: If you came across this bumper sticker and considered buying it (not buy – just considered buying it), then you may safely proceed.

[Official beginning of this week’s column – PROCEED WITH CAUTION!]

We have all found ourselves sitting in a classroom or in meeting of some sort when the speaker ends his presentation by asking if anyone has a question. This is immediately followed up with, “Remember, there is no such thing as a stupid question.” And you immediately think, ‘Of course there is. And I think we’re about to hear a few.” This is obviously intended to encourage questions from the audience. Side note: You’d think the speaker would want to discourage questions. Wouldn’t a lack of questions mean that he had given a full and complete presentation? Covered all the bases so to speak? It should be a goal – an aspiration even – to give a presentation where no one in the audience had a single stupid question. But I digress.

My wife will tell you that I have dubbed this portion of any meeting: “Stupid Question Time.” She will say this in a mildly irritated voice. And she might also tell you that if you are unfortunate enough to be sitting next to me, I will feel the need to lean over and whisper, “Stupid Question Time.”

You can only imagine how I then feel when I inevitably ask a question during stupid question time. In my defense, my question is often prompted by a previous stupid question.

This is why I am leading a revolution to ban all meetings. Meetings became obsolete the day they invented the mimeograph machine. Remember mimeographs? Remember strapping the original to the drum and then hand cranking copies while getting high off that chemical it used? (Note to self – look up the name of that chemical and buy a bottle.) Now we have email. We even have group emails allowing people to ask stupid questions to their hearts galore. It’s a regular “reply all” nirvana.

This concludes my presentation for the week. If any of you have a question, I’d be happy to answer it. Just click on the “comment” button and send it to me. Remember, there’s no such thing….

A three minute vacation for your brain.