There’s something about puppy breath, too. I’ll bet the smell of it could cure cancer, if scientists ever found a way to bottle it.

[dropcap]I[/dropcap] know it's ridiculous, but I wish I could buy you a puppy. If you've got one already, how about two? See, I have this ludicrous idea that dogs could put an end to worldwide hatred, and perhaps even eradicate pissy attitudes.

Take my pissy fifth-grade teacher, for instance. If I could've forced her to wrestle a puppy, it might've cured the old battle-ax. Because whenever you wrestle a puppy, you start saying things in a high-pitched voice, like, "He's a good boy. Yes he is."

And that changes you.

There's something about puppy breath, too. I'll bet the smell of it could cure cancer, if scientists ever found a way to bottle it. And puppy bites. Even though they hurt like hell, they're worth more than real estate, or an all-inclusive cruise to Europe.

Well. Maybe not a cruise.

I wish someone would have the good sense to set up a booth on the street corner and sell puppy love. For five bucks a pop, customers could

wrestle the bejeezus out of a happy Labrador. There'd be a single-file line winding clear down the street. I'd be in it.

I once had a dog who demanded to wrestle after supper, every night. The old girl was persistent, too. She'd bark and carry on, then pin me down and sentence me to death by licking.

When she became arthritic, she still wanted to rough-house. But she was fragile. I'd let her pin me down, and lick the hell out of my face. Then, she'd collapse and fall asleep with her head on my chest.

I don't know why, but she trusted me, even though I'm proud, and self-centered. Those black eyes seemed to understand almost everything there was to know about me.

Then one day, she closed those eyes for good, while I cried mine out.

I hope God likes to wrestle.

In this part of the world, social awkwardness is a sin. It's even written in the Bible somewhere. Which is why we find it easy to converse with Southern females.

Boys, the first thing you should know about a Southern woman, is that she is never awkward.

In this part of the world, social awkwardness is a sin. It's even written in the Bible somewhere. Which is why we find it easy to converse with Southern females.

You know what else a Southern lady does? She eats. Seldom will you find her drinking kale smoothies for supper. Thank Jesus. She was born with an appetite that only banana pudding and Sunday-night Bible study can satisfy.

Moving right along. If you're interested in a Southern girl, you'd better care about family. Because if you don't, she'll tell you to go straight to Hell. Which is probably where you're already headed. In fact, speaking of family, you should call your mother right now.

Go on, I'll wait.

Right beneath family is football. Your Southern woman knows how this sport works, thank you very much. If you try to explain an onside kick to her, she'll smile and spray Raid on your popcorn.

While

watching football, you'll also learn Southern belles can cuss. They're good at it. And it's not fair, because they hardly ever practice.

My wife, Jamie, once stubbed her toe on a brick. She uttered things that made birds fall out of trees.

Along with cussing, Southern gals love the Bible. They quote Proverbs from time to time. But watch out. If she ever combines cussing with Scripture, you're finished.

My cousin sassed his mother once. My aunt grit her teeth and said, “God sayeth, 'spare the rod and spoil the #@*&$! child.'” My cousin's visitation was closed-casket.

The truth is boys, a Southern woman is a product of generations of potlucks, homecomings, and SEC championships. She is strong, and sweet as honey butter. She dresses to the nines, prepares covered dishes of fried chicken, and arrives early to fellowship. She can fix your messy hair with her own spit,…

Barbecue. There will be a ton of that, with Jamie's own sauce, which is a three-generation-old secret. I'll miss that stuff. Eat your fill, then force yourself to eat more. That's what I'd do.

If you're reading this, I want you to attend my funeral — whenever that tragic day occurs. Please come. I'll pay your travel expenses. It won't hurt my wallet. Hell, I'll be dead.

I promise, it'll be a fan-damn-tastic beach party. Willie Nelson will be there, since he'll outlive us all. Oh sure, Willie charges a lot for this sort of thing, but my wife, Jamie, will work it all out.

Let's see, what else.

Ah yes, I want you to play baseball before the sun goes down. Let Jamie play first base, Willie can be catcher. Make my mother-in-law pitcher. Don't worry, she'll know how. She knows everything, just ask her.

Barbecue. There will be a ton of that, with Jamie's own sauce, which is a three-generation-old secret. I'll miss that stuff. Eat your fill, then force yourself to eat more. That's what I'd do.

At the proper time, I want you to lay me out on a pinelog raft, with

flowers. Not fancy ones, but wildflowers from the pastures of my childhood. I'll be wearing Daddy's wristwatch, covered in Mother's quilt. And I'll have my wife's wedding ring in my pocket; I intend on returning it when I see her again.

Then, push me into the surf and light me on fire. Willie can play "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys," because as it turns out, I never did.

Afterward, resume eating and dancing like idiots. I want you to have so much damned fun you regret it come morning. Because on that day, life won't be about me anymore. In fact, it never was. It was about friends, baseball, dogs, music, fishing, and women who loved you enough to make barbecue sauce. I was just too self-absorbed to notice that.

Bring your own bottle.

That means you, Willie.

Mother's contractions got worse. "I felt like a washing machine," she said. "Crammed with a bean bag chair — set on spin cycle."

I'm about to break my own rule and write about something I swore I never would. Not since Chad Talbot read a five-page essay on Joe Namath in the fifth grade and put the class to sleep.

May God have mercy on my soul.

It was late December. Cold as hell. My mother went into labor during the first quarter of the Liberty Bowl. Bama versus Illinois.

She huffed like a freight train, while my father sat on a vinyl chair watching the black and white television. When the doctor came to visit Mother, he too made a beeline toward the TV. Daddy cranked up the volume.

The voice of announcer, Joe Kapp, called a four-yard touchdown, drowning out Mother's panting.

"Touchdown!" Daddy and the doctor yelled in unison. Then, Mother says they did some happy-cussing.

During bowl games, there are two kinds of cussing. Happy-cussing: reserved for touchdowns. And dog-cussing: when fans instruct opposing coaches or referees to eat a substance commonly found in barnyards and cow pastures.

By the third quarter the

delivery room was full; two custodians, four doctors, a handful of lab techs, and one maintenance man, each with his back facing Mother.

Illinois scored. A river of dog-cussing followed.

Mother's contractions got worse. "I felt like a washing machine," she said. "Crammed with a bean bag chair — set on spin cycle."

Fourth quarter: Mother was already baying like a coonhound. The doctor asked if she wouldn't mind keeping her voice down.

And then it happened.

As fate would have it, during Bama's winning touchdown, a long-legged, big-toed, redheaded bullfrog entered this world, covered in crimson slime.

My daddy snatched the toad up and brought it near the television set. He tapped the screen. “You see that man, son? That's Bear Bryant, the best coach of all time."

"Yep," said the doctor to the frog. "This was Coach Bryant's very last game tonight. History in…