Last Word

Well, they did it to me again.

It’s not their fault. If I didn’t walk around with my mind on a trout stream somewhere, it would have occurred to me that since we had two editorial pages in a row for Christmas week, we’d have two for New Year’s week. The fish, however, were biting really good, and I caught some big, nice browns!

“Why don’t you just run something else?” someone in the newsroom commented when I complained that I had to write a column two days in a row, for two weeks in a row. I was aghast with horror.

“Give my space to someone like Bill Steigerwald? Over my dead body!” I proclaimed.

In my mind, the only one worthy of taking my place would be the Great One, the one and only Dave Barry, and then I’d probably grumble about it anyway.

It’s dreary and raining, cold. I’m in a foul mood, so what can I say that’ll be cheerful? Not much. I am, after all, eyeing that long dark tunnel and the light at the end is spring.

What the devil is the use of living in the Deep South if you get weather . . . → Read More: Last Word

Cusp of the New Year

Well, here we sit on the brink of yet another new year, and the end of a decade.

2010. How do you say that? Is it “oh-ten” or “ought-ten?” “Twenty-ten?” Guess it doesn’t really matter, everybody’s going to know what you mean. I do wonder if they had this same discussion in 1909…

Wow, 1909. A century ago. In 1909, Robert Peary found the North Pole; the NAACP was formed; Taft was inaugurated President; the Lincoln penny was introduced; and the Army Air Corps was created as the Wright Brothers delivered the first military aircraft to the United States.

Just half a century ago, Alaska became a state; Castro took over Cuba; Barbie makes her debut; Hawaii becomes a state; “Bonanza” premieres on television; and Buddy Holly died.

So we’re approaching 2010, and who knows what’s in store for us?

I’ve got plans, of course. Most of them involve mountains and clear, fast streams. I don’t make new year resolutions, because the surest way for me to not accomplish something is to make a resolution. I do far better working haphazardly, as I always have.

This time of year usually gets me down. Holidays and all, and missing the . . . → Read More: Cusp of the New Year


Well, I thought yesterday’s column would be my last before Christmas, but here I am again.

I wasn’t thinking clearly, though that’s not a rare occasion. Moreso lately, with lots of my mental resources askew, and I didn’t have that many to spare to begin with.

Resources, you understand, deteriorate with the accumulation of years. Notice I did not say “age” because soon as I do, some old curmudgeon invariably chastises me as being a wet behind the ears young whippersnapper. I look forward to the day when I can be an old curmudgeon myself, rather than just an old character.

My family has been replete with old characters. My father was quite a famous old character, so much so in fact that people came from all over world to experience and revel in his abundance of character. My grandfather, Emile Stouff, was quite the character before him, and from what I understand, I am descended from an unbroken pedigree of old characters.

I had to take on the job early, at age 35, when my dad passed away. Now, my cousin Jim Ray, as the elder male Stouff is a certifiable character as well, and were he a . . . → Read More: Characters

Super Saver Christmas

You don’t really realize how addicted you have become to the electronic age until you detach from it.

We are so accustomed to sending e-mails, text messages and such and receiving instant replies, we are spoiled. All our news is but a mouse click away, as well as our communities of friends and like-minded persons.

But as I was searching for a design for a suitable wooden skiff to build this winter, I came across a Web site with several that I was very interested in.

Turns out, the designer is in Oregon and only lists a few boats, but he did have a brochure or catalogue of his entire portfolio.

Trouble is, you can only get it by regular mail, what is ungraciously called “snail mail” today.

Since I was interested enough in his work, I made out a check for twelve bucks and put it in the mail.

First of all, I was not thinking correctly. After three days, I started checking the mailbox. No catalogue. A week passed, still nothing.

Finally, it was one of those forehead-slapping moments: Well, of course, dummy…you sent it snail mail.

I find the term distasteful and impolite to postal employees, . . . → Read More: Super Saver Christmas

Bad Info

Add to the long list of maladies in our electronic age the magnitude of bad information.

It’s appalling, really. It makes no difference which side of politics you’re on, the amount of bad information disseminated by national media and the Internet is mind-boggling.

Like most of the rest of you, I probably get dozens of political e-mails a day, and when I take the time to check them, I find that most are just flat wrong. It doesn’t matter what side you’re on: The vast majority of stuff you receive in your mailbox is incorrect, fully or partially.

I don’t know how these things get started, but the effect is devastating. Just a little Google research will reveal thousands of links to a particular piece of e-mail. If you wade through the many, many repeats of the e-mail you got by people who didn’t bother to check the facts either, you’ll eventually find evidence of the truth.

People seem to just get something in their e-mail, say, “Oh, my goodness, that’s terrible!” And they promptly forward it to a hundred more people who do the same thing, thus spreading the untruths in a compounded manner.

I kid you not, . . . → Read More: Bad Info


I checked in the woodshed. I do not have enough lumber to build an ark.

Besides, what I have left – which isn’t much – I am saving for a skiff I want to build before spring. A skiff will float as well as any ark.

But an ark would be better. I could take two of every species that way, and make sure Louisiana is repopulated. No, I’m not getting divine instructions. I’m just soggy.

Good grief, this has got to stop. It isn’t fishing season (for me, anyway) yet, that’s when I usually complain about the rain. But enough is enough! My brain is soggy. I’m so soggy, when I clench my fist water drips out. I’m so soggy, I squoosh when I walk even if I have not been outside. I’m so soggy, I don’t even bother putting milk in my cereal.

Last week’s rain caused some people some distress and damage, and I certainly send my heart out to them. I don’t mean to make light of anybody’s misfortune, but sometimes I feel like I just gotta laugh to keep from crying.

Were I to possess an ark, I’d let all the chicken trees, nutria, . . . → Read More: Soggy


Of late, I’ve developed a craving for fruits.

I don’t know why. Part of it may be this cyclically expanding-shrinking midsection of mine, and the fact that I have too great a love for rice and gravy. I also inherited my father’s sweet tooth, for which he was famous. Many men in south Louisiana can’t pass up a beer cooler. My father, while he enjoyed his beer, couldn’t pass up the cookie jar in the kitchen and Lord forbid my mom make chocolate cake or lemon icebox pie. My mom’s lemon icebox pie would make you shoot yourself at her feet in adoration.

But I picked up a pack of pineapple hearts the other day. I don’t know why, I guess that despite my whining and complaining about the sad state of commercialism and consumerism today, I was in the end too exhausted from the effort of griping about it to buy a whole pineapple.

These pineapple spears are the most wonderful things I have ever tasted. I’ve always loved pineapple, but this was the cat’s meow. I have pledged to go back and buy out their entire supply, even if I have to knock over a liquor . . . → Read More: Fruit

Remember My Father

December, and my thought as always turns to my father.

It was this week, a decade ago, that he left this world to join his ancestors and sing songs silenced long before he was born. In some hereafter which I cannot imagine, there are drums thrumming notes and rhythms older than the oldest European hymns.

Sometimes, father, you and I

Are like a three-legged horse

That can’t get across the finish line

No matter how hard he tries and tries and tries

The years of adolescence and a decade beyond still haunt me. I realize now that it was partially both our faults, but we are all blameless. I was raised entangled in confusion. On the one hand, I was beseeched to learn and remember and preserve many, many things about who I was…and yet in the next breath told to be careful of it, that I had to “fit in” and that, outside the reservation, I had to be able to survive.

Eventually the agony became too much, and I turned my back on the drums, deafened to them, and threw myself into this world, your world. It would be a scant few years before my father died . . . → Read More: Remember My Father

A Slice of Heaven

There’s a dream that’s been expanding exponentially in my head these days. A dream of my own little piece of heaven.

Twenty-nine years ago I worked to buy beer and impress the girls with a nice car and stereo system; twenty years ago I was just trying my damnedest to scrape by and make ends meet; ten years ago, I bragged on this very page that all I cared about was living life to the fullest, swearing not to, “when I came to die, discover that I had not lived,” as Thoreau said.

Things change.

Now I dream of a little piece of heaven; a sliver of land, a bit of structure to keep the rain off and the wind out, and other people at the margin of my ever-expanding personal bubble.

Perhaps I’m immersed in that over-40 experience of becoming acutely aware of my own mortality. Maybe I am simply growing less and less content with the life I’ve lived thus far.

Maybe, I just need a little slice of heaven.

I can see it in my head, though its characteristics twist and churn and its contents rattle and jumble. But it is a sweet tract of land, . . . → Read More: A Slice of Heaven