Funny Man

But that is not what I remember most about those camping trips. What I remember was an old man named Brother Willie.

It was summer. I didn’t want to be camping, and neither did my wife, but there are some church obligations you must keep.

We had one job, and that was to prevent the Baptist youth group from committing sin. Teenagers have the natural ability to sin on camping trips. It is in their genes.

Teenagers can commit any one of the top-ten sins before breakfast. I’m talking classic sins like envy, malice, greed, or replacing the cream filling in a Twinkie with Colgate toothpaste.

And if kids can’t commit one of these, they invent new sins.

One such sin would be shining a flashlight into the chaperones’ tents and saying, “Oooooo.” Which is supposed to be frightening, but it isn’t. It’s not even remotely scary to hear a pre-pubescent voice say, “Oooooo” after dark.

If I were a kid, and I really wanted to annoy my youth chaperones—and I’m just thinking out loud here—I would empty a jar of honey into their shoes and let the sugar ants engulf their sneakers like a hellish scene from a B-movie horror film. Not that I’ve ever done that.

When we were kids, my Little League team took lots of camping trips. On one such trip, my cousin brought an entire gym bag full of illicit items.

Because this is a family column, I won’t tell you what he actually brought. So let’s just say he brought cans of A&W root beer and some gospel magazines.

The problem was, my aunt was also on this camping trip. Do you remember the sadistic warden in “Cool Hand Luke” played by Strother Martin, who abused Luke because of a sick, twisted compulsion? My aunt was like him, only she was a Freewill Baptist.

She would make randomized tent visits. And on that particular night, she discovered her son’s tent was filled with the whole team.

She barged into the tent, speaking in tongues, swinging a lantern. She grabbed my cousin by his earlobe, dragged him through the woods, and somewhere in the night we heard what sounded like a baptism.

But that is not what I remember most about those camping trips. What I remember was an old man named Brother Willie.

He had white hair and a reddish complexion. He and his wife would accompany us as chaperones. They had no children, and I don’t even know what their connection was with the team.

I heard once that Brother Willie’s son had died in a car accident, and it left the couple childless.

Brother Willie could do it all. He did elaborate mind-reading magic tricks. He’d tell his wife, Anne, to go stand behind a tree. The boys would pick a card from a deck, and Miss Anne would always know which card it was.

He could make coins come out of our ears, or tell funny stories that would test the limits of the human bladder. And his jokes. Oh, man. I remember all his jokes:

A dog goes to the telegram office and writes: “Woof, woof, woof, woof, woof, woof, woof, woof, woof, woof, woof.”

The clerk says to the dog, “There are eleven words here, we only allow ten words. How about leaving off one of the woofs?”

“But wait,” the dog says, “that wouldn’t make any sense at all.”

And how about these:

A masochist is someone who enjoys a cold shower in the morning, so he takes a hot one.

Verily did the Lord said unto John, “Come forth, and you shall receive eternal life.” But John came fifth and won a toaster.

How many Church of Christ people does it take to screw in a lightbulb? One. They’re efficient and not very funny.

Stupid punchlines, I know. But when I was a kid, I would laugh so hard I couldn’t breathe.

“Tell another one!” we would all shout to Brother Willie. And he would keep going until the sun came up.

So I have fond memories of camping trips. But being a youth group chaperone is a different story. It holds no tender memories for me.

My wife and I saw the flashlight and heard a voice say, “Ooooo.”

My wife finally kicked me out of the tent. So I called a youth group meeting around the campfire. I decided to tell jokes, and try to entertain the kids the way an old man once entertained me.

But the kids didn’t laugh. They didn’t even crack smiles. I guess outdated jokes about dogs must seem kind of corny in today’s world.

Anyway, that was a long time ago. Those kids have families of their own today, and I have a bad back. And I don’t even remember where I was going with this.

Oh, yes. Now I remember.

If by chance any of those children happen to be reading, I want to say something to them from the bottom of my heart.

It was me. I put honey in your shoes you little heathens.


  1. Becky Moon - July 6, 2019 10:32 am

    Brings back memories…

  2. Naomi - July 6, 2019 11:46 am

    Been there, done that. Not only did I take kids to church camp in middle Georgia for several years, I along with three other adults, took a bunch of teenage boys and girls on a mission trip to Honduras. We all had to get a tetanus shot before we left, then drive a van from Atlanta to Miami where we were to catch a plane provided by Mission Aviation Fellowship. We had a girl who played her tambourine all the way to Miami. Then we had to sleep on the floor of the church overnight. We flew on a cargo plan, and had to stop in Mexico to refuel. Most of the kids had never flown before. When we got to the mainland, we had to take a 4-seater to a little island off the coast. All of us couldn’t go at once so we had to break up into small groups. The airport was a wooden sign nailed to a tree on the beach. When our plane landed, the header inside the plane fell; the girl who was sitting behind me let out a “blood-curdling” scream, scaring our pilot half to death. We went there primarily to help rebuild the parsonage that had burned down. We bagged sand, painted the church, conducted church services and Sunday school. However, things went downhill from there. One of the men had to go home because his wife had somehow notified him that she had had a heart attack, which left two adults. There were two girls fighting over one boy; several of us almost got heat stroke and, to top it off, most of us got food poisoning, including me, the night before we were scheduled to come home. I have one more story but I will share it in a separate post. By the was, the boy the two girls were fighting over ended up marrying one of them.

    • Elizabeth - July 6, 2019 12:02 pm

      Omg, the rest of the story, Naomi!!!

  3. Naomi - July 6, 2019 12:18 pm

    This is about my Girls Scout trips to Panama City in the summer. our Scout leader took a station wagon full of teenage girls to Panama City for several summers in a row. That was in the 1950s when Panama city didn’t have any condominiums, hotels or restaurants so we had to shop at the Piggly Wiggly to buy groceries to cook our own meals. We rented a cabin, which was actually a shack, down an unpaved road about 1/4 of a mile from the beach. The girls weren’t crazy but our Scout leader was. One time, as we were driving down the beach road, there was a boy hitch hiking. We dared her to pick him up; she slammed on her brakes, backed up and picked him up. It turned out that he was a college student attending a nearby college where his father was a professor. Some time later he came to Birmingham to live with her and her husband for a while. But, you can imagine what it was like being the only boy in a car full of teenagers. Another time, we were driving down the same road when we saw a traffic stop up ahead; the police were stopping cars to check drivers’ licenses and insurance. Before we got there, our Scout leader told us that her driver’s license had expired a long time ago because she had failed her driver’s test. We didn’t know what we would do because none of us were old enough to drive. When she got to the police stop, she rolled down her window and told the officer that she was a Girl Scout leader and was down there with her girls. He told her, “Ok, lady, you can go on”. He didn’t even ask for her license. I loved her; she rescued me for short periods of times from a very dysfunctional family and she taught us how to be adventurous. She also had us take ballroom dancing and all of us would spend the night with her. She had an enormous Southern mansion in Glen Iris Park that could accommodate all of us. I think that we rescued her too because her husband was an alcoholic and they never did anything together. She died about 10 years ago when she was 100 years old.

  4. Shelton A. - July 6, 2019 1:06 pm

    Hilarious…I bet you had such a good time camping and sharing honey with the kids.

  5. GaryD - July 6, 2019 1:34 pm

    Naomi, loved your stories. Thanks! Sean, loved your story, as always. I feel like I got two for the price of one this morning. A great way to start off the weekend.

  6. Mary T. - July 6, 2019 3:18 pm

    My husband and I chaperoned more youth trips than I can count. Many of our youth group are grandparents today and some are barely out of high school. Believe me, we’ve seen it all. One got her long hair wound up in a fan. Another had an allergic reaction to shaving cream, sand and salt water. That was a sight to behold in the emergency room. I’ve cooked enough spaghetti to feed an army. Some mighty fine adults have come out of those rowdy teenagers.

  7. John Allen Berry - July 6, 2019 3:36 pm

    Dear Sean,

    I’m a member of the Church of Christ and I thought the lightbulb joke was HILARIOUS!

    Yours truly,


    • Linda O'Leary Young - August 6, 2019 9:52 am

      I’m a member of the church of Christ too, and yes it was hilarious, because it was true <3

  8. Linda Moon - July 6, 2019 4:23 pm

    STROTHER MARTIN. Maybe you and most youth group camp counselors with stupid punchlines were just failures to communicate with those little heathens. Again, STROTHER MARTIN, in all caps!

  9. Lisa Perkins - July 6, 2019 5:11 pm

    Funny Sean! ???

  10. Ken Dunn - July 6, 2019 5:29 pm

    Strange this article ran today. Our state church camp is this coming week. 10 from our church are going. I never went to camp as a kid because I worked during the summer, but I’ve heard all these tails plus 100’s more. As an adult my idea of camping is a Holiday Inn. I’ve had too many birthdays to enjoy camping in the heat and fighting all the bugs.

  11. Janet Mary Lee - July 6, 2019 5:45 pm

    Lol!!! Good stuff!! I go to a Church of Christ church but we are a little progressive..It takes a small group to change a bulb..we are into that, and half of us laugh hysterically at jokes!! But dang, we eat well!!!!

  12. Norma - July 6, 2019 7:29 pm

    I am Catholic and my revenge on a mean twisted camp counselor was to make a syrup out of powdered Kool Aid and smear it all over the out house seat of the counselor. I got away with it and 60 years later am still laughing.

  13. Fran Hopkins - July 7, 2019 12:40 pm

    I really enjoy reading your columns! You do remind me of Louis Gizzard-
    But your a good writer, so why do you have to make fun of Baptist? I’m Baptist and not anything like you refer to.

    • Gerald - August 5, 2019 3:01 pm

      Fran, he makes fun and funnies about everyone. Please don’t take offense. 😉

  14. Debbie - August 5, 2019 10:14 am

    How about putting raisins in toothpaste. The recipient was going to write Colgate-Palmolive about the “ants” in their toothpaste until we confessed.

    Fun one!


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