Some kids did math homework, others were talented athletes. I memorized the one about the farmer’s daughter and the preacher.

A little restaurant. The men in the booth behind me are old. They are telling jokes to one another. They are loud men. They have white hair, mugs of coffee, hearing aids.

One man wears overalls. Another wears suspenders with bass fish on them. Welcome to Rural America.

Whenever one man finishes a joke, the others slap their knees and say, “Hooooo boy!”

My waitress tries to take my order, but she can’t concentrate, we’re both eavesdropping on the old men.

An elderly man says:

“So a fella and wife go to Heaven. There’s a BIG CROWD, standing around. And Saint Pete says to everybody:

“‘Men, listen up! Whichever men wore the pants in their household, form a single-file line over HERE! And all men who were henpecked by their wives, stand over THERE!

“And almost every man went to the henpecked line. Except ONE guy, who stood alone in the other line. So Saint Pete shook the man’s hand and said, ‘Sir, I just wanna congratulate you.’

“‘For what?’ the guy said. ‘I’m only here because my wife told me to stand here.’”

The punchline hits like an atom bomb. One man laughs so hard he almost ruptures his gallbladder.

“Hoooooo boy!”

When I was a boy, my father had hundreds of jokes like this. I would overhear him tell these anecdotes to his roughneck friends and I wished I were like him.

The men I come from speak the language of humor. They gathered on the courthouse steps, or at barbershops, not to discuss feelings or family issues, but to tell funny stories.

As a boy, I wanted to be my father. I wanted to know his stories and tell his jokes. Some kids did math homework, others went to football practice. I memorized the one about the farmer’s daughter and the preacher.

My father would place me on a fencepost for the pleasure his pals, and I would recite all the one-liners he taught me, and I believe he was genuinely proud of me.

There’s the one about the man and the doctor.

Doctor says: “Sir, I got some good news and bad news.”

“Gimme the bad news first, Doc.”

“Okay. During your operation, we amputated the wrong leg.”

“What?” they guy shouts. “What’s the good news?”

“Well,” the doc says. “Turns out your other leg won’t need to be amputated after all.”

Yeah, I know. It’s not exactly the best joke you’ll ever hear, but when told by a six-year-old, it’s not bad. At least, that’s what my father thought.

My Sunday school teacher, however, felt otherwise. My elderly teacher, Miss Jordan, did not care for my jokes. She was especially irritated by the joke about Adam and Eve and Mick Jagger.

It’s a classic.

Anyway, on the day of my father’s funeral, my uncle John arrived driving his beat-up Chevette. He was wearing overalls, a necktie, and a sportcoat.

He found me on the front steps, dressed in church clothes. I was a mute that day.

He asked me to go for a walk with him while we waited on my mother to get ready. We strolled through a big field and didn’t speak for a long time. Only the sounds of our footsteps could be heard.

Finally he broke the silence. “Did you hear the one about the Pentecostals who formed a bowling team?” he said.

No answer.

“Yeah,” he said. “They called themselves the Holy Rollers.”

I didn’t laugh. I wanted to, but I couldn’t. Even so, old men do worry about what’s appropriate and what’s not. They move with the wind. They do things nobody understands.

“Hey,” my uncle went on. “I bought the world’s worst thesaurus the other day. Not only was it terrible, it was terrible.”

More silence.

And I started crying. He held me. I let out a low-pitched howl. And he told more jokes while I sobbed. One joke after another. Stupid stories. Ridiculous tales about when he was growing up. And I was grateful for this.

I finished crying. He straightened my jacket. He tousled my hair. He said, “I love you, buddy.”

The old men in the restaurant are like him. Good men, who forget to shave sometimes. They are our history books, and our poetry, and our joke-smiths. They are everything I want to be one day.

When the group in this restaurant stands to leave, they place cash on the table. The man in overalls walks past me. I get a good look at him and he reminds me of someone I once knew.

The waitress refills my coffee and says, “Those men are a something else, I’m sorry they were so loud.”

If you ask me, they weren’t nearly loud enough.

Hoooo boy.

17 comments

  1. Nancy Rogers - November 4, 2018 11:26 am

    I think he reminded you of someone you are beconing…

    Reply
  2. Leatha Bates - November 4, 2018 11:36 am

    My dad used to be part of a group of men… they are irreplaceable. I miss him daily. Thanks for the memory.

    Reply
  3. Carol - November 4, 2018 12:34 pm

    You are everything your daddy wanted you to be and more!
    Keep on being you and taking us along with you !
    Love ya!

    Reply
  4. Lydia - November 4, 2018 12:53 pm

    OK,great one- now tell us the one about Adam and Eve and Mick Jagger!

    Reply
  5. Sandra Smith - November 4, 2018 12:53 pm

    I too, come from a long line of men like them. Oh yeah, they discussed crops, and huntin’ & fishin’, but then they took to joke tellin’ …
    My Daddy always told this one.
    It’s a soldier story…WWll.
    “One night we were all in our bunks, and Joe So & so, was writin’ his girl back home. He hollered at me, “Hey Dee, How you spell quiet”?
    I told him, “Quee-u-I-e-t.
    Few minutes later, he hollered at me again…
    “Hey Dee….How you make a Quee”?
    😂😂😂

    He told that true story every time.

    Reply
  6. Amanda Allen - November 4, 2018 1:49 pm

    Write more about your dear Uncle John!

    Reply
  7. Debbie - November 4, 2018 2:22 pm

    Thanks! You made my heart smile and tear up at the same time!

    Reply
  8. Edna B. - November 4, 2018 4:44 pm

    Oh my, you’ve made my day! I absolutely love this story. Actually, I’m going to have to borrow the first joke to share on my blog tomorrow (with a link to you, of course). No doubt about it, your Daddy is very proud of the man you’ve become. Bless you, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  9. Bill T. - November 4, 2018 6:32 pm

    Before the big war, before I started school, my Dad would go into town (2 stores, drug store and a theater) several evenings a week. One day I asked Mom why he went to the store so much. She told he he just went to “hang out”. I never did find out what Dad hung onto and why. After he retired my three brothers and I bought him an old 1946 Ford pickup. This was early 1970’s. Closest I ever saw him ito tears. He drove that old truck over to Bud’s Store nearly every day until he died. Just “Hanging out” with the old guys.

    Reply
  10. Betty - November 4, 2018 6:47 pm

    I want to hear the one about Adam and Eve and Mike Jagger!

    Reply
  11. Jack Darnell - November 4, 2018 6:57 pm

    Well, I am coming up on 80 and trying to learn to be old. To be honest today is the first time in my life I feel old. Most men never feel old when they are cussing and discussin’.

    I enjoyed the read, and I hope I learn to be old, like I remember my great grandpa.
    Thanks dude!

    Reply
  12. james leischner - November 4, 2018 8:15 pm

    Hi Sean, New reader and one of your old men, Retired sailor, truck driver, preacher and 83 years young. Great piece and I am one of those old dinosaurs. Keep em comin. Pastor Jim

    Reply
  13. Shelton Armour - November 4, 2018 11:10 pm

    I went with my Dad to the Barbershop sometimes. One of the best places to get an education. Then I had to get a crew cut.

    Reply
  14. Phillip Saunders - November 4, 2018 11:20 pm

    sean, as an old man who loves a good story, i truly appreciate that one.

    Reply
  15. Jacque Avant - November 4, 2018 11:52 pm

    Why in the world have just now heard about you? I just saw a mention of you the other day on a friend’s post and said I had to check you out. So glad I did. You are indeed a hoot. Thanks for the laughter you provide. It also makes me remember the people like these old men. They gathered here in Gray, Ga at the local feed store, Jackson Bros garage and Kitchen’s Barber Shop. Loved hearing the jokes when our men folk came home for lunch telling the jokes. Always harmless and never vulgar. The good old days when things could be funny but not nasty. Thank you again for your posts.

    Reply
  16. Martin Bauguess - November 5, 2018 12:45 am

    Kind of sad that these men and their places to go “hang out” are becoming more scarce every day. Thanks for the story and the humor.

    Reply
  17. Capt. Bill Evans - November 5, 2018 5:37 pm

    Are you from Clinton La.?

    Reply

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