I feel a little silly writing you. Recently, I wrote a column about how when I was a boy I always wanted you to bring me a cowboy hat. A silver-belly colored Stetson. A few days later, one showed up on my porch from an anonymous person. I almost couldn’t believe it.

I know it was you, Santa.

If only I would have had the foresight to write a column about a summerhouse on the beach with a four-car garage instead.

No. I’m only kidding. Please realize that I am only making a joke, Santa. A three-car garage would be more than plenty.

Anyway, the words “thank you” don’t even begin to cover how I feel. The hat fits perfectly, and I have been wearing it for the last three days. I even wore the hat—this is true—to the grocery store. I almost never wear hats indoors, but I did yesterday.

The cashier referred to me as “Tex.” I asked her to kindly call me “Roy” instead.

She said, “Who’s Roy?”

“Roy Rogers.”

“Wait, does he sing that

song about the Gambler?”

You have to worry about our nation’s youth.

But the truth is I feel so silly, Santa. I didn’t NEED a hat. There are so many other important things happening in the world. Things that are WAY more pressing than my headwear. I feel so ridiculously selfish wearing this beautiful thing.

When I was a boy, I asked you for a hat like this every single year and I never got one. And I was okay with that. Because I knew you had bigger fish to fry. I understood this.

Once, my friend Billy explained it all to me when I was nine. He said that you only had a certain amount of space in your sleigh and you had to pack small gifts. A hat just wasn’t practical. And you’re practical guy.

Looking back, this…

When I was a boy, I used to have immoral thoughts about turkey gravy.

Cars line our street. Everyone’s family is in town. The smells of the Thanksgiving are what get me the most, they are all over the neighborhood. My wife is in the kitchen contributing a few merry aromas of her own.

There is a parade of scents coming from our place. Holiday candles, cinnamon apples, corn casserole. And what to my wondering eyes should appear, but my dogs have escaped from the backyard and are running around playing with what can only be described as a rotting raccoon carcass.

My dog, Thelma Lou (bloodhound), enjoys carcasses of all kinds. She is a carcass connoisseur you could say. She will roll in anything that vaguely smells like decomposing flesh. She will also roll in anything that smells like goat excrement until there are bits of what appear to be squashed brownies embedded within her fur. Which brings up a very good point:


Not in all my life have I ever smelled anything I loved enough to roll in. With the exception of,

perhaps, my mother’s turkey gravy. Which I always think about during Thanksgiving. I love turkey gravy.

When I was a boy, I used to have immoral thoughts about turkey gravy. I would lie in bed and stare at tri-fold photographs of gravy from glossy cooking magazines like “Bon Appétit” or “The Betty Crocker Cookbook.” I don’t know why, but turkey gravy speaks to me.

Turkey gravy isn’t complicated. Once, my mother showed me how she made it. It was painfully simple—basically it was just turkey juices and a few herbs.

Then again, the women in my family were Thanksgiving Day magicians who knew their way around more than just gravy. I can remember when my aunt would take over the kitchen during the holidays. She would make mashed potatoes, cornbread dressing, sweet potato pie, and my mother would be cooking a turkey that was big enough to saddle up…

It’s a few minutes until Thanksgiving. I thought I’d stay up and watch the clock change. I’m sipping tea, listening to gentle music playing in the background.

I think it’s Bing Crosby, or maybe Nat King Cole. The volume is too low to tell. Either way, it sounds like 1948 in this living room.

Yesterday, my wife made a batch of cornbread and biscuits. She left them on top the refrigerator so they’d get good and dry before she crumbled them them into cornbread dressing.

There is a big debate between calling it “dressing” or “stuffing.” And while I am no authority on the matter, I can tell you this:

Once, I spent Thanksgiving at a buddy’s house, his mother was from West Virginia, and she served “stuffing.”

She cooked the entire feast without ever dropping the Winston cigarette that dangled from the corner of her mouth. And she must have had a few too many cups of holiday cheer because she accidentally shoved all her cornbread into a well-known orifice of the turkey’s body. I had never seen

this done.

“What have you done to the dressing?” I asked her.

“Dressing?” she said, laughing, elbow-deep in a turkey’s butt. “This ain’t dressing, kid. It’s stuffing.”

You can imagine my surprise when just before serving the turkey, she rammed an extra-long spoon up the bird’s backend and announced, “This stuffing looks a little undercooked, but oh well.”

It was apple-pecan stuffing. Everybody ate some and a few hours later we all got deathly ill. And I don’t mean to get graphic here, but we were having projectile-like symptoms.

And that was the last time I ever ate salmonella-flavored West Virginia stuffing.

Anyway, I’m sorry I brought that up. Especially on Thanksgiving. What I meant to say was that I hope you have a great day. And I really mean that, I’m not just blowing smoke.

I love this holiday. The…

Also, since we’re talking about trees, my wife needs more lights.

10:03 A.M.—My wife is putting up our Christmas tree. It’s a pencil thin artificial tree we bought when we first got married sixteen years ago. It is filled with memories of yuletide warmth, love, joy, and possibly the devil.

I say this because I am trying to fix the thing so it will at least stand upright. But it won’t. This tree is an outdated antique that can’t stand upright without its medication. Every time I get it in place, the red-and-green Christmas-tree stand—the worst invention of the twentieth century—malfunctions and the tree falls over.

Also, since we’re talking about trees, my wife needs more lights. If there are any young married men reading this, wondering what marriage is like, I can help.

Do you remember that famous scene from “Jaws?” Right after the shark has shown its awesome and frightening head, Roy Scheider takes a step backward and tells the captain, “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

It’s sort of like that. Only in this particular case, you are Roy Scheider, and your wife

is the man-eating shark. Or at least, she will be if her Christmas tree sucks this year.

“We’re gonna need more lights,” you say, taking a step backward toward the door.

This is basically what it means to be in a committed relationship with a woman.

The main issue with these strands of lights is that they are junk and have a lifespan of forty minutes before burning out.

Even worse, news reports are constantly telling us how these lights are unsafe, and how every year they cause electrical house fires. Many families have experienced great losses because of these crummy lights and are left devastated, out in the cold, with no possessions, having no choice but to send Dad back to the store to buy more white lights.

Which is what my wife is asking me to do right now. And believe me, I…


I’m 70, living in Mesquite, Texas (a suburb of Dallas). About 6 months ago, my wife (we’ve been married for 46 years) emailed me one of the articles you write. Liked it. Next day, she emailed another, then another...

One story in particular I appreciated was the one about Kiera Larsen.

Happy Thanksgiving, and I can’t get enough biscuits either.



I had to dig around for this one, and I almost couldn’t find it. But I finally found the story you mentioned. I remember writing it back in 2016 and that already seems like a lifetime ago. Thank you for reminding me about it, even though much of the content is ancient history now, I believe there is good in this world. Though sometimes I forget to see it.

Here it is:

Have you watched the news recently? I don’t mean to complain, but it’s a never-ending circus of sadness and horror. If they’re not reporting on mass shootings, they’re talking about the possibility of mass shootings. And when they’re done, they

discuss mass shootings.

Well, I speak for millions of Americans when I say that I’m disturbed. What about the good stuff this holiday season? In our giant of briar-patch world, there are millions of strawberries that pop up every day. And if you’ll permit me, I’d like to tell you about a few.


I’ll begin with schoolchildren who visited a Missouri Humane Society last Wednesday. The kids are part of a program in which students practice reading storybooks to rescue dogs. The purpose: To calm traumatized animals — and because everyone hates math.

FLORIDA—Ninety-year-old lottery winner, Ruby Sorah, won forty-three million dollars. Let that sink in for a second. This week, Ruby told reporters she’s giving all her money away. Every last cent. Not even a trip to Vegas to see Celine Dion.

And my granny never even gave Christmas…

I’m sitting on the sofa. I turn the television channel to a popular family-friendly cable network. I know I can count on a happily-ever-after story when I watch this channel during the holidays. Which is why I cannot stop watching these sappy movies.


EDITOR: Tiffany, it’s almost Christmas, and I need you to travel to Quaintville to cover an important story!

TIFFANY: Quaintville? Is that a real town?

EDITOR: Who cares? This is a cable movie, and I’m supposed to be your grumpy but lovable editor, sorta like What’s-His-Name from “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

TIFFANY: Ed Asner?

EDITOR: Whatever. All I know is that the script says you’re an independent single woman, but you’re filled with indescribably painful angst and romantic longing.

TIFFANY: I’m on it, Chief.


LEADING MAN: Hi. You must be the leading lady.

TIFFANY: How did you know?

HIM: You’re

holding a paper coffee cup.

TIFFANY: My contract stipulates that I have to drink coffee from a paper cup in every scene. But sometimes I drink Orange Fanta.

HIM: My contract requires me to wear heavy plaid flannel shirts even though we’re obviously filming this in July and I’m sweating my buttcheeks off.

TIFFANY: Is that your daughter?

HIM: Yes, I’m a widower, filled with indescribably painful angst and romantic longing.

TIFFANY: How did your wife die?

HIM: The script never says.


DAUGHTER: Look, Daddy! That lady is drinking coffee in a paper cup again! Just like they always do in the TV show “Gilmore Girls.”

LEADING MAN: Totally different network, sweetie.

TIFFANY: Fancy meeting you…

We have about a month until Christmas, and I’m asking people a simple question on Santa’s behalf. He actually asked me to do this.

Well actually, it was Santa’s secretary who called me ultra-long-distance to ask.

Or, if we’re getting super technical, it was his secretary’s assistant’s intern, Stacy, who called me. Santa has a lot of people on his payroll. But hey, he’s tax exempt so who cares? Stacy tells me the elves get great insurance, with full dental.

But anyway, the question Santa wants to know is: What do you want for Christmas?

There are no limits to how you answer. And nobody will judge you for what you want. Granted, if you ask for something like a 2020 Range Rover Evoque, forest green, with a sunroof, people might snicker at you and call you a shallow, narcissistic, self-important, gas-guzzling pig who is partly responsible for the perpetuation of American greed. But Santa won’t think that.

As it happens, a little boy (Brayden, age 8, Missouri) actually sent me his Christmas list. Which

is what inspired the idea for this column. Along with Santa’s phone call, of course.

Brayden asked for:

—A swingset.
—Bluetooth earbuds.
—A real bunny.
—Red duck tap.
—Checkered Vans.
—6,000 dollars.

So now it’s your turn. Maybe you want something odd, such as a gift certificate to Golden Corral, or a coin-operated pony ride. Maybe you want a ski-resort vacation. A reverse mortgage. A pet alligator.

Maybe you are a kid who is being raised as a Primitive Freewill Fundamentalist against your will and your parents don’t believe in celebrating Christmas because it was originally a Pagan holiday and in your household your parents believe that Santa represents Satan.

If you live in a house like this, listen to me carefully: Your Christmas is probably going to suck. Send me a letter, pronto. I’ll get it to the Big…

One of the best parts about America is that no matter where you visit on the map, American historic music is alive and kicking. And it sounds just as good as it ever did.

LAKE CITY—This is a laid-back city with sleepy streets that are lined with mossy trees and old Victorian houses. In other words, this region of Florida is about as Southern as you get.

A lot of people don’t understand Florida. I have visited several states this year, and every state seems to have its own screwed-up ideas about Florida.

People in the North perceive Florida as a tropical paradise where Cuban girls stand at roadside kiosks selling Navel oranges, cigars, Cape Canaveral trinkets, Key West timeshares, and Mickey Mouse hats.

And I’ve met Southerners in places like Arkansas and Tennessee who think Florida is full of retirees who speak with New York accents and listen to Sinatra while wearing their jogging suits.

A few months ago, a lady from Kentucky told me that she didn’t think Florida qualified as part of the American South. I just smiled and blessed her heart.

If you remember nothing else from this poorly written column, I hope you remember that we who live in North Florida are very different

from people in Orlando, Tampa, or Miami.

We border Georgia, and Alabama. This means we eat okra, pimento cheese. It means we do not pronounce Gs at the ends of our ING words. It means we would not be caught dead wearing nylon workout wear.

Would we wear NASCAR tank tops and cutoff jean shorts? Yes. Jogging suits? I think not.

But getting back to Lake City. I’m in town to do my one-man show tonight. I arrive at the theater. I am running a little late for soundcheck. Already on stage ahead of me is tonight’s band. They are named the SongFarmers. They’re rehearsing.

At most of our little shows we usually have musical groups. Most often it’s a bluegrass band or a traditional Americana band, sometimes Dixieland jazz.

We’ve worked with lots of small-town bands who are ridiculously talented and deserve all the…

Lots of people act like jerks nowadays. It’s become “trendy” and “hip” to be a jerk.

This holiday season has the potential to be a good season as long as you aren’t a total jerk.

The question is, how do you NOT be a jerk when the world is full of jerks? They’re literally everywhere. Waiting on every corner. In fact, it’s almost impossible not to flatten four or five jerks just backing out of your driveway.

Lots of people act like jerks nowadays. It’s become “trendy” and “hip” to be a jerk. Personally, I blame that there newfangled internets.

Yesterday, I was in the grocery store and I saw something very jerkish. Three strangers stood in an aisle, browsing shelves. A man, a college-age girl, and a little old woman.

They were all standing at the shelf of potato chips. You know the aisle. Every store has a potato-chip aisle. In this aisle are roughly 127,024,211 bags of Frito-Lay products.

Which just goes to show you that times have certainly changed. When we were kids there were only three kinds of chips available. Fritos, potato chips, and those stale pretzels your mother used to buy which

tasted like leftover rations from World War II.

But today, thanks to society’s great thinkers and brilliant minds, we have tons of chip-brand choices. They have such weird flavors out now that I cannot imagine normal people actually spending money on these things. Chips such as—these are actual flavors:

—Cinnamon and Sugar Pringles.
—Walker’s Shrimp Cocktail Crisps.
—Flaming Steak Chips.
—Peanut Butter potato chips.
—Lay’s Nori Seaweed Flavored potato chips.

I wish I could have been at the marketing meeting when someone came up with seaweed potato chips.

“Hey, I have an idea, Frank! Let’s make a potato chip that tastes like material scraped from the bottom of the ocean floor!”

“I love it!”

“I second this motion!”

“All in favor, say aye!”

“We’re all gonna lose our jobs for this, aren’t we?”




What is your favorite Christmas movie? Mine is “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” the one with Yukon Cornelius, and my mom says you look like him. Not Rudolph she means, but Yukon Cornelius.



It’s a little early for Christmas movies, but I appreciate the compliment. Sort of. I mean, Yukon Cornelius isn’t a bad-looking guy per se. But he’s a little chunky, and I’ll bet five bucks he has severe sleep apnea.

I’ll be honest, I would much rather look like, for example, James Bond. But then I suppose looking like Yukon Cornelius is better than resembling the Abominable Snowman, or worse, Dudley Moore.

One of my good friends—for privacy reasons let’s call him Randy Hopkins—went white-haired prematurely. Overnight, Randy was transformed into Santa. All of a sudden, kids were approaching him on the street and asking for Barbie dolls, Batman figurines, peace in the Middle East, etc.

My friend would always bend down and smile at them with this wintery magical look on his face and say, “I’m younger

than your mom, you little brat.”

But you asked about my favorite movie. Firstly, you should know that this is a tough question. There are too many good ones to count.

When I was a kid I loved “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964),” just like you do. Especially Yukon Cornelius and the show’s hit song, “Silver and Gold.” Which I will refuse to sing from now on because I am self conscious after receiving your letter.

I also like “Frosty the Snowman (1969).” Whenever I hear Burl Ives sing about Frosty, I am a five-year-old again, drinking turkey gravy directly from my mother’s gravy boat, even though I know that my aunt Eulah will catch me and possibly beat me within an inch of my life using a wet dishrag.

“A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965).” It doesn’t get any better.

“It’s a…