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Southern Humorists Present ...

December is Happy Holler-Days Month!

December is here! It's wrestlin' season, basketball season, football play-off time, and we finally get to turn on our Christmas lights! Sho-nuff, the Southern Humorists have tons of holiday humor and advice to get y'all through. Thanks for readin', y'all!

The Southern Humorists Write to Santa | Trimming the Tree | Action Figures AHOY! | Cletus on Gifting... | The Engagement | Practically Christmas | Holiday Gift Giving Guide | Grandmaw's Christmas Lights | Karaoke Pizza Rabbit | Gertie's Got Gift Giving Advice | A Well Intentioned Christmas | We three Kings in bathrobes are... | The Dark Night of The Claus |

By: Southern Humorists © 2004 All Rights Reserved ben's thang

Dear Big Elf, this here picture to the left is what you will bring me for Christmas. If you could put Reba McEntyre on it, so much the better, but if you can't that is OK too. I'll be expecting to see this Christmas Day and if I don't, well, reindeer are deer after all. Ben Baker

Dear Santa, All I want for Christmas is a country ham and some peppermints. The kids want CD's and a portable player. They are on sale at Wal-Mart, aisle 3. Please do not let the reindeer graze on my poinsettias or throw up on my roof this year. Love, Sheila

Dear Santa, This year I was hoping you could spring for a vasectomy for Ken. He and Barbie have been WAY too busy this year- if you know what I mean. Little dolls are popping up everywhere around here. Oh, and some Prozac would be nice as well. Respectfully, Carrie

Dear Santa, Please order Osama Bin Laden to the PMS counseling center in Texarkana for the rest of his natural life. Allow the Yankees in the world a glimpse of heaven: being southern. And grant me one small wish: get my book published early 2005, preferably with a fat advance. Thanks, Tish

Dere Santa, Pleez brang me a nuw dikshunairy that spells werds tha way I sae theum. It wood b a lot eezeur than me lurnin ta spell theum rite. Beesidz, that un yew brout me lass yeer aint no good. I caint find nuthin n it. Thaink yew, Mark Berryman

Dear Santa, Please come this year, I've been very good. I was hurt last year that you passed me by. Please bring me race cars and train sets and candy and video games just like everyone else on my block. If you do I promise to go pray at the temple of Wal-Mart just like them. I will be greedy and self-centered and know the glory of manufactured goods is the greatest gift of all. And please give a sack of dreidels to everyone else on my block so the pig-eating bastards will know the joys of Channukah. Sincerely, Shmuel Goldberg

Dear Santa: I want, no need, a new 12-gauge double barrel Remington shotgun to protect my homestead this holiday season. Someone keeps breaking into my house by crawling through the chimney at the same time every year and my family needs to fell safe. This year, I'm looking to teach the varmit a lesson he'll never forget when he's picking buckshot out of his backside. Danny

Dear Santa-All I want is ten strokes off my golf score. Forty years and I still can't drive, chip or putt. I've bought new clubs, balls, and obnoxious pants; tried lessons, gadgets, ad noisome. It only gets worse! Oh hell, forget it. Bring world peace, that's easier. John Brazell

Dear Santa, I've been good. I didn't wince when writing checks for gifts. I didn't cry when I had to stand in line three times to return Christmas lights that wouldn't light. Today I found out my mother-in-law is coming for Christmas. Could you just pour me a good stiff drink? Marta

Too busy to figure out what I want this year, except maybe some extra inspiration, etc., which I didn't get last year. But I found this the other day.
Dear Santa, I have been very good; I even taught one of my humans to kill a toy mouse although they still won't learn to let me claw the big cat toy they sit on. I've heard about "remote controls." I really need more control here. Please bring me two. Love, Donna -Shelley

Dear Santa: Bring me some things that I want, and not what I need. Instead of a hot shaver I want a shaved hottie, instead of a new coat, I want a coat of arms. Instead of bottle of Jack Daniels, I want a case of Jack Daniels...and so on. -Mark Motz


Trimming the Tree
By Sheila Moss © 2004 All Rights Reserved

At my house, my grandson always wants to be included in anything to do with Christmas. One of his favorite activities is helping to trim the Christmas tree.

Including children in holiday festivities helps to create tradition and gives them childhood memories. Here are some helpful suggestions on how to trim a Christmas tree so that children can be a part of your Christmas celebration.

Bring the artificial tree down from the attic.

Remove the child from the top of the box and warn him about the dangers of climbing.

Take out the limbs and place them in piles according to their size.

Remove the limbs that the child puts in the wrong piles.

Let the child hand you the branches as you insert them into the tree trunk.

Remove the limbs that the child inserted in the wrong place while you were busy.

Warn the child that the tree may turn over if the branches are not evenly placed.

Stand the tree back up and be certain that the child was not injured.

String colorful lights around the tree, starting at the top and winding down around the tree.

Remove the lights that are wound around the child.

Drape a garland or some bright ribbon around the tree before adding the ornaments.

Plug in the lights.

Plug in the lights again and warn the child about the dangers of pulling electric plugs out.

Show the child how to hang ornaments on the tree.

Carefully re-hang any ornaments that fall off. This will be most of them.

All the ornaments will be placed on the bottom branches by the child.

Resist the urge to move them.

Lift the child up and allow him to place the angel at the top of the tree.

Have the child check the ornament boxes to see if they are empty while you fix the lopsided angel.

Remove the child from the empty Christmas tree box.

Return the empty boxes to the attic.

Re-plug the lights.

Look for the missing child until you realize there is only one place left.

Go to attic and remove the child from the empty Christmas tree box.

Sweep up the glass from the antique ornaments that were broken during decorating.

Warn the child about the dangers of handling broken glass.

Put a band-aid on your injured finger.

Re-plug the lights again and remind the child that Santa is watching.

Admire the tree, even though all the ornaments are on the bottom branches, the lights are unplugged, and the angel is slightly lopsided.

Copyright 2002-2004 Sheila Moss

Sheila Moss is a humor columnist who celebrates Christmas in Nashville, Tennessee. For more of her funny stuff, visit her website at For advice on managing children, you are on your own.


Action Figures AHOY!
By Ben Baker © 2004 All Rights Reserved

Action figures like GI Joe with the Kung Fu Grip, Barbie, KISS, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Star Wars and so forth are now a red-hot industry for adults.

No longer Christmas and birthday kids toys, these toys are fetching huge prices, especially for the very old action figures. Even some of the new ones are commanding a serious piece of change. Adults are buying these things, sticking 'em in a closet and leaving them to collect dust in hopes of one day selling 'em at a huge profit.

Yeah. Right. Anybody want to buy a comic book collection?

Anyway, while the market is hot and money is to be made, I have decided to launch a series of action figures based on my life and this column. Any giant toy conglomerate or fast food place interested in making and selling these toys and giving me huge royalties should call me immediately.

Here's the Action Figures and Accessories (sold separately. Did you think you were gonna get the whole bunch at once?):

  • Shari Baker with the Sarcastic Look - Realistic looking spouse for the Ben Baker figure. This action figure speaks with a Central Mississippi accent and knows everything. Ask it anything and it has the correct answer.
  • Ben Baker with Notepad - Short, round with a bad attitude, this character carries a note pad, which is actually a secret recording device. It records embarrassing information and replays it later.
  • Larry "Hawgin'" Fishbreath with Working Bass Rod - This action figure actually casts a bass plug into other characters, hooking them and reeling them in. Safety warning - Small parts not suitable for small children and males over age 19. Can be paired with the Ben figure to transform into the Jerry-Rigged Thingamabob that Falls Apart in 3 Minutes.
  • Sally Jane Fishbreath with Sarcastic Look - Realistic looking spouse for the Hawgin' character. Also knows everything. When paired with Shari, the two transform into the Wrath of God Dynamo of Destruction capable of destroying large continents with a single look.
  • Micropterus "Mike" Salamoides Fishbreath with Hammer - The son of Hawgin' and Sally Jane, Mike comes with a permanently mounted real hammer in his right hand. He is capable of breaking anything except his mother and the Shari figure.
  • Jesse "JR" Baker with the Spaghetti Bowl (spaghetti included) - This action figure, child of Ben and Shari, takes a bowl of spaghetti and runs to the most expensive piece of furniture in the house. It dumps the spaghetti and rubs it into the fabric while the Shari figure yells for the Ben figure to do something about it.
  • Susan Louise "SuLu" Baker with Crying Action - Every 3.5 minutes this action figure, child of Ben and Shari, screams for about 30 seconds. Every hour, this action figure screams for 5 solid minutes. The lifetime battery insures years and years of screaming. Also chases after the figure and screams when it catches the JR figure. It also screams if the JR figure leaves.
  • Game Warden with Citation Book - This figure in green clothes comes with the Game Warden Truck. The Game Warden chases the Ben and Hawgin' figures. If it catches them, it gives the two tickets which must be paid before the two figures can be used again.

Action Figure Accessories

  • The Moose - Jacked up, beat up, rusted up truck for the Ben Baker figure. Will go anywhere and get back most of the time. Open the hood, pour in any liquid and watch in amazement as the fluid leaks out from various places.
  • The Stumpjumper - Another jacked up, but new, truck for the Hawgin' figure. Hawgin' cannot, however, get in because the keys are permanently locked inside the truck.
  • The Jon Boat - This boat fits any three figures, but immediately sinks if the Hawgin' or the Ben figure is placed in the boat. Floats with any of the other figures or by itself.
  • Peach Tree - Provides an inexhaustible supply of peach tree switches for the Shari and Sally Jane figures, which they use on all the other figures, invading armies, aliens, etc.
  • Fishbreath Home - Giant mobile home. Roof blows off in strong wind. Trailer hinged in the middle for easy access to the inside. Also makes it easier to move the home from place to place.
  • Baker Home - Large house complete with yard and large pecan trees. Fallen tree limbs permanently mounted in the grass, which needs mowing.
  • Kitchen - Help Sally Jane and Shari in the kitchen as they attempt to cook whatever the Ben and Hawgin' figures found in the woods and brought home for supper.
  • The Water - Pool of water (water not included) for the action figures to fish, swim, and almost drown in. Real "Working Marina" overcharges the figures for gas and oil for the Jon Boat and ice for the cooler.
  • The Woods - Giant playground area complete with action figure animals which are pursued and rarely caught by the Ben and Hawgin¹ figures. May be placed next to The Water for an even larger play area. Note - Both Water and Woods may or may not have the Game Warden figure included. You won't find out if you have the Game Warden until the play areas have been set up for a while.

Ben Baker is the world's Redneck Guru and eventually will get around to publishing a book to that effect. Contact him at [email protected]


Cletus on Gifting
By: © 2004 All Rights Reserved

cletus on gifting


The Engagement
By: Barbara Madden © 2004 All Rights Reserved

Beth was tired, and rightly so.

At an age when most of her friends were enjoying grandchildren or delighting in the peace of newfound empty nests, she was barely three months away from the birth of her first child, a baby boy.

A few months ago, when she had suddenly begun feeling unusually lethargic and nauseous, she incorrectly assumed it was a case of the flu or maybe even "the change." Fully prepared for a lecture on hormone replacement therapy and hot flashes, she was pleasantly surprised when her doctor had said, "Congratulations."

Beth's husband was genuinely pleased, as well. After years of hoping and praying for children, the couple had pretty much concluded it wasn't meant to be.

In order to make it through the day, Beth tried to rest every afternoon. She had just dozed off when the phone on her bedside table rang.

"Sara," she whispered aloud as she sat up.

She knew it was her best friend and cousin, and she knew something was wrong.

"Are you ok?" said Beth as she put the phone to her ear.

"Oh, Beth," sobbed Sara in a barely audible voice.

"Calm down, dear," comforted Beth. "What's wrong?"

Less than a year a part in age, Sara and Beth were cousins who had always been closer than most sisters. They had grown up together in a small town where everyone was either a friend or a relative.

The girls had married their high school sweethearts. Beth's Zach was a pastor, and Sara's David worked in the family carpentry business.

Now as adults, circumstances had placed a day's travel between them, but the bond of their friendship was stronger than ever.

"It's Mary," said Sara referring to her youngest child and only daughter, the apple of her father's eye. "We just found out she's going to have a baby."

"What? When? Oh, my goodness." Beth was taken aback. "How is she? How's Dave? What about Joe?"

Joe was Mary's fiancé.

He and Mary had met on a mission trip a little over a year ago. They had kept in touch by writing long letters detailing their daily lives.

Soon true love blossomed.

It was during a visit with Mary and her family that Joe had asked Mary's father for her hand in marriage.

Dave was pleased. Through the years, he had diligently prayed for each of his children, but as his only daughter, Mary held a special place in his heart.

"Joe," Dave asked after granting his approval for the nuptials. "Carpentry work won't make you a rich man, but would you consider coming into business with me?"

They shook hands in agreement and then embraced.

That evening during a family dinner attended by Mary and Joe with their parents, Joe knelt before the love of his life. While gazing into the most beautiful brown eyes he had ever seen and with tears in his own, he proposed.

What are you going to do?" asked Beth.

"We're not sure, but one thing is certain," said Sara.

"What's that?"



"Yes, he refuses to call off the engagement, even though he's not the father," explained Sara.

"Somehow that doesn't surprise me," said Beth. "Look, why don't you see if Mary would like to come here and live with us until things settle down a bit."

"Oh, that would be wonderful," responded Sara with a sigh of relief. "But, are you sure?"

"Yes, of course, we love Mary as our own child, and she is always welcome here," answered Beth, as she felt her unborn baby boy kick harder than he had ever kicked before.

Based on Luke 1:5-56. For the rest of the story, read Luke 1:5-2:19.

- Barbara lives in the Missouri Ozarks with her family and big, black Labrador, Susie Belle. Barbara may be reached via her Web site at


Practically Christmas!
By: Angela Gillaspie © 2004 All Rights Reserved

Every year at Christmas time, we ceremoniously pull on our comfortable shoes, grab our sale papers, and head for the nearest store claiming to have the best sale. When we arrive, we stand in the aisle staring blankly at the filled shelves holding our three-foot long list hoping for one of the many items to leap up and shout, "ME ME ME!" for our beloved Aunt Mary Jo. But we know that Aunt Mary Jo already has a mini crock-pot combination nut chopper, so we must keep looking.

Santa forgot to de-stink his costume in this photo from the early eighties.

When I was young, Christmas was magical. I got a couple of weeks off from school, and gift shopping was a thrill. Momma would go through the racks of clothes at JC Penney while I would hide in the middle of the rack and make rooster noises. Yes, those were the days.

Later, when I was old enough to go on my own shopping excursions, purchasing gifts was fun. As I stood in the check out lane, I would smile as I imagined the look of surprise / disgust when my sister Traci would open the large pair of monster feet house shoes I got her. The expression of sheer joy on Sherri's (my other sister) face would inevitably appear when she tried on her hamburger earrings.

Nowadays, I don't know if I am running out of creative ideas or what, but I have a heck of a time shopping for my family. I reckon when you get older, you already HAVE everything, so what is left to buy for gifts? Novelty gifts are good when you are younger, but when you get older, you need practical gifts. I've never been practical, unless you call being a practical joker being practical. So what do I do?

I tried making whimsical articles of clothing for my family, for example, I painted "WARNING! Gas leaks!" on my Daddy's underwear. I also put smiling cow appliques on Traci's shirt; gemstone worms on Momma's shirt, and winged pigs on Sherri's shirt, but for some reason, my gifts weren't appreciated. Of course, my family doesn't have quite the same taste in apparel (and humor, for that matter) that I do.

I realize now that I must be practical and purchase gifts that will be useful and durable for my loving family. The new "practical me" decided that camping out in department store parking lots with a packed breakfast, lunch, and supper isn't really practical. Shopping for worthy gifts through catalogs and through the Internet is much more efficient. Now I'm going to put those management and logic courses I had in college to work. Mission: 'practical gift' is now enabled.

The first people on my list are my neighbors who like to lend me things I didn't ask for, like the recipe book titled 1001 Ways to Serve Boiled Eggs. Yuck, I can't stand boiled eggs, but that is beside point. For these people, I will wrap this same recipe book, enclose a recycled Christmas card (from last year, oh, I'm so practical) signed by me, and top this package with a festive bow. If I have time, I may hot glue some elbow macaroni (that I spray painted gold) on top of the Santa wrapping paper (watch out, Martha Stewart).

For my Momma, I ordered one of those gold-finished toilet paper racks with a built-in AM/FM radio. I also placed an order for one of those big faux leather saddle bag purses that was conveniently on the same page of my Corn Pops coupon. Yes, my Momma will get years and years of use from the rack and purse. The new disco station will come in nicely there in her bathroom for her listening pleasure. She will sway to Stayin' Alive as she pops those big rollers in her hair and fills her shiny new purse with Kleenex and dental floss. She will probably brag to her friends at the Chamber of Commerce at her middle daughter's ingenious practicality.

For my older sister, Sherri, I found the original Toilet Paper Tina! This artfully crocheted burnt orange colored device will tastefully hide her extra rolls of toilet paper. Her friends from church will definitely covet her Toilet Paper Tina. Also, I'm going to take photos of Sherri and her Toilet Paper Tina so that I can make a web page for Sherri to show off her new gift. For Sherri's husband, I ordered a handcrafted and personalized leather gum case, and nose hair clippers. Perhaps he will be inclined to demonstrate the clippers usage to my husband. There is no end to my practical sense.

For my younger sister, Traci, I found a set of those really cool make-up glasses that flip down so that she can apply her make-up and not have to wear her contacts. In addition to this great gift, I ordered her a bug zapper and a birdsong watch. Traci has never cared for flying critters and now she can take great delight in watching those bugs get zapped. Also, can you imagine the amazement of Traci's co-workers when her birdsong watch marks every hour with quaint little birdies chirping loudly?

For my Daddy, I ordered a silver-plated toothpick holder with several refills because he takes great pleasure in picking his teeth every chance he gets. I thought of some silver-plated car keys for him to clean his ears with, but I couldn't find any. My Daddy is constantly losing his toenail clippers, so I found some personalized "clapper" toenail clippers. So the next time he loses his clippers and needs his toenails shortened all he has to do is clap. I just hope the lights stay on for him.

There are some of my relatives (who SHOULD remain nameless -- everybody wave at Aunt Betsy) that don't believe in personal hygiene. When you work with cows and pigs all day, why bother with soap? For her, I ordered a year's supply of those under arm pads that stop sweat for up to thirty days. I also ordered her a personalized blackhead popper thingy to help cleanse the dirt and grass out of her pores. Yes, these are the gifts that keep on giving.

Since poor old Aunt Bertha lost her husband Walter, she's been awfully lonely (if she wasn't so daggum mean, she'd have more friends, but that's beside the point). I thought she'd fare well with a Chia pet and some sea monkeys. Now, she'll have low-maintenance 'friends' to listen to her complain about Aunt Betsy and Aunt Mary Jo. I'm also going to include one of those pretty bright pink yard flamingos that she can set next to the couch on her porch. The colors should match nicely and Aunt Bertha will have a friend outside to also hear the latest gossip about Aunt Bobbie Jo's 'so-called' hip replacement surgery and liposuction.

The rest of my aunts and uncles will get magazine racks for their bathrooms, bunion scrapers, and a good supply of corn pads. When you get to be their ages, your dawgs can really start to pain you and you spend more and more time in the lavatory.

Last on my list is my dear sweet husband. We usually just get each other a card for Christmas, but this year I thought I'd get him a practical gift for once. For the father of my children, I ordered tags that I could put on his clothing that would describe the color of the garment and what other colors would match the garment. Why? He's colorblind, and he needs to start learning to pick out his own clothes. The poor guy, I don't have the heart to tell him that the Christmas lights on front of the house are dark pink-purple (instead of blue) and the burgundy door and shutters are really purple and that his tan bathroom is really sea foam green.

My family will be thrilled at my applied thought to their practical gifts. I can't wait until Christmas Eve for everyone's excitement and wonder at my thoughtful and sensible gifts. Yes, this Christmas will be one everyone will remember.

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Holiday Gift Giving Guide
By: Carrie Metz English © 2004 All Rights Reserved

Forget the long lines and shopping cart bang-ups. Put on your imagination caps and get the gift that leaves an impression. Offer no returns and gleam in your glory of satisfied giving.

-Give recipients a baby hamster from the litter of babies your hamsters produced, the ones you were assured when you bought them that they were both females. If your list of gift recipients is small, double up and give them two hamsters, both assuredly the same sex. This is the gift that keeps on giving.

-For the person that has a habit of saying that they would rather have a root canal, a gift certificate for a $10 root canal provided by budding middle-schoolers toying with the idea of becoming dentists can fit the bill. The experience will be extremely beneficial to both the recipient and the wantabe dentist. This is a wonderful way for the young children to try their hats on with new career experiences. If your gift recipient wants a root canal, give them what their heart desires. Give them a certificate to DentistsRUs.

-Instead of an E-Bay certificate, give them a ride to the local dump and watch as their eyes light up while scouring through the vast wasteland in search of that perfect gift. As an added bow to the gift, bring some Band-Aids and a shovel, and preferably a certificate for a tetanus shot.

-For the relatives in your life who when they say, "We have some exciting news for you," it sends spasms up your spine as you realize they are having yet another baby, bar giving them the old standby of a romantic evening out. Instead, consider starting a vasectomy fund, a fund that will surely grow in worth as other family members contribute to the endowment, as they too will realize the value of this gift. Label the certificate Weasel Control.

-A voice recorder for those hectic mothers you know will make their days a bit easier. Instead of manually having to say "Pick up your room," "No I don't know what stinks," and "Get that finger out of your nose," thousands of times a day, show her how she can record these sayings and leave the recorder to do the preaching. Soon, her weariless voice and potholder-making capabilities will soon appear, as her days will suddenly gain three hours.

-For that hunter in your life who just cannot seem to nab that deer that got away, consider giving him the deer. Alongside the South Dakota highways, hundreds of deer can be found, albeit not breathing, but a deer nonetheless. For a nominal fee, purchase some cotton balls and lacquer, stuff and spray the head, and mount it to some plywood found in any garage near you. Engrave the title "The Buck Stops Here" on a spent Buick fender and watch with delight, as your hunter is amazed with your ingenuity.

-A shirt saying, "I just haven't been the same since that house fell on my sister," for your intolerable boss will satisfy your wish to get her something nasty without her being suspicious. If the rarity occurs that you can actually find the ruby red slippers, deem it a reasonable business expense and purchase to complete the outfit.

With a little help from this guide and a lot of help from the inner voice in your head, your Christmas is sure to be a pleasure.


Grandmaw's Christmas Lights
By: Leon Stewart © 2004 All Rights Reserved

Over the past few decades I have been led to believe that there are at least three major man- made objects that can be observed from outer space. The great wall of China, the pyramids of Egypt, and the spot light on top of the Lexor Hotel in Las Vegas. Wherever I obtained this bit of trivia I now know that there is one more object that can be observed from deep space.

Now Grandma never intended to light up our little part of the world, it just happened over the years. When our children were young we had a small Christmas tree. We would put lights in our window and all was well. Each year we decorated more and more until we evolved into a half time commercial for the Super Bowl.

It takes a crew of several volunteers all day to string the porch the columns, the trees and now we have a chain link fence that is draped with lighted candy canes. We have blinking sleighs and round lights that look like snow. The front side of our roof has glowing ice sickles and the yard, at night, is brighter than the noonday sun.

I reckon that I never really saw the seriousness of Grandma's lighting fever until last year. In our neighborhood we have a wild turkey that trots through our yard frequently. Grandma was decorating the yard with the frenzy of an after Thanksgiving sale at Wall Mart. The Wild Turkey was watching intently as Grandma put lights on everything in sight. The Turkey lingered too long and got a string of lights draped over her body.

It took three volunteers ten minutes to rid the bird of her unwanted lights. The trauma left the bird in a couple of days but she is still laying eggs that glow in the dark. The grand kids love the eggs but her nest is hard to find.

This year, just after Thanksgiving, Grandma got her work crew in sink and the light stringing was under way. I had decided to slow down her desire to light the world. I am a convinced that a face to face confrontation is the best way to settle an issue. I explained to her that not only are we spending a fortune on lights but also the power bill is astronomical. I told her that we are in the flight path of the Asheville Airport and we are endangering folk's lives if they mistake our lights as the airport runway.

I remember that day well because I was late for work. After I had given my best talk to Grandma about the foolishness of all those lights, I went into the house and got ready for work. When I returned I could not find my truck. It was covered up with lights. I finally got the truck out from under the lights. On the way to work I decided to let Grandma alone and learn to live with all of those lights. After all, for Papaw, tis the season to be jolly!


Karaoke Pizza Rabbit
By: S.D. Youngren © 2004 All Rights Reserved

Magic comes in different forms. I've never had a Christmas in which anybody was miraculously rescued from a blizzard, or found a long-lost relative or a pile of mysterious packages not even Santa could account for. But I can't complain.

Twelve years ago I was trying to plan my January wedding. My beloved pet rabbit, Minnie, had died in October, just after my boyfriend and I became engaged, and despite the marriage paperwork and the increasingly-frantic reception-planning phone calls from my mother the apartment had been too quiet since. Various of my coworkers kept pestering me to get a new pet, in particular a new rabbit, but I didn't feel I was ready. I missed Minnie.

In the midst of all this the managers at my then-job announced that we would have, for the first time, a Christmas party, with presents, no less. We would each draw a coworker's name and buy that person a gift. Most amazingly, the party would be held at a local pizza joint, and at the boss' expense. We worked in a pet shop, and had never had an official party before, anywhere, with or without gifts, for Christmas or any other occasion. Actually the boss, who required all or most of us to work Christmas eve until 8:30, liked to think of himself as Scrooge. Every year he had us line up to be called forward, one at a time, and handed a Christmas card with a small bonus, each in its own sealed envelope. "Bah humbug," he'd say, holding the envelope out. "Bah humbug," we were expected to respond. Those of us who didn't--generally out of embarrassment--were embarrassed further by having the envelope withdrawn until they managed, somehow, to comply. And the new guy who had announced an expectation, inexplicable to us old-timers, that we would find a few hundred dollars in our cards was embarrassed further.

I could only presume that the party wasn't the boss' idea; I still think it wasn't, even though he promptly enrolled his entire family, small children included. I spent much of the next day or so worrying about drawing the name of the store pest, or vice versa, and listening to male coworkers worrying about drawing one of the boss' children. When the manager brought the box of slips to me, she explained that I was to spend ten or twenty dollars on my recipient, that I could not draw my own name, as she had been careful to remove it first, and that I was not to tell anybody--anybody!--whose slip I had drawn. I believe she made me swear to this. Then I selected a slip, drew it out, unfolded it, and read the boss' name.

I don't believe the possibility that I would draw Mr. Scrooge had ever occurred to me. I'm not sure I had even believed he might have entered himself along with his wife and kids. I went about, not exactly in a panic, but in, shall we say, a state of some concern. I didn't believe my job was at stake or anything, but what do you get the Scrooge who has everything? I went home and complained to a few people, including of course my fiancé. I would have complained to my timid-but-sweet rabbit, but as she was no longer with me I had to settle for the kind of listener who, well, might possibly laugh at one's difficulties.

Or say, "You'll think of something," which is only slightly helpful.

But it was true: I did think of something, or possibly my fiancé did; we don't remember who or how. But we thought of something; something specifically for Mr. Scrooge. Something I was pretty sure he didn't have. I couldn't find exactly what I was looking for all made and ready, so I went to a custom T-shirt place and had it printed up: A T-shirt that said, "Bah Humbug."

It actually wasn't quite what I had pictured, which involved Christmas red and green on white, accented with a few holly leaves and berries. The T-shirt place didn't have green letters and the green shirts weren't the right shade, and of course the holly bits were unobtainable. But I got a greenish shirt in what I hoped was the right size, with "Bah" in white and "Humbug" in red below it, and I amused the T-shirt people in the bargain. I left in good spirits, hoping that Mr. Scrooge would be amused as well.

My fiancé and I didn't have a car at the time, and so one of the managers gave us and the festively-wrapped shirt a lift to the pizza place, stopping on the way to pick up another carless employee who was, we were told, having trouble wrapping his gift. The manager went in to help him, leaving us in the car. We sat there waiting for a surprisingly long interval, speculating on the holdup, the party, and whatever else. At last they emerged with a large wrapped box, which they put in the hatchback behind us, and we were once again on our way.

But as the car negotiated the starts, stops, and turns, my fiancé and I, who had the back seat to ourselves, began to hear little noises. Little scratching scuffling noises, coming from the box behind us. My fiancé looked worried.

"It's a rabbit," he whispered. "It's a rabbit for you."

It certainly did seem to be something alive. And the scufflings didn't have the light dry sound of a lizard's claws . . . not that our store sold very many ten-to-twenty-dollar lizards big enough to warrant a box, or noises, of that size. But a rabbit would have been just in that price range, and a small young rabbit would have made just such a noise. And a rabbit, in that crowd, would almost certainly be intended for me.

And now it was gift-wrapped, with no air holes we'd noticed, and heading for the party.

It didn't take long to get there, or for everyone to arrive and assemble. The pizza arrived, and we began to eat. I kept eyeing the now-silent package; all I needed was a suffocated bunny. We began opening the presents; one package after another, and I kept on looking over at the big one that had been making noises on the way over. Baby bunnies are quiet by nature; in the wild they have to stay quite still in hiding for most of the day while their mothers forage. There wasn't necessarily a problem . . . yet. But eventually I couldn't stand it any more and made some sort of comment to the manager who'd driven us about how maybe that particular gift shouldn't wait much longer. She hesitated, seemed to decide not to say anything (such as, I suppose, "Oh, really? Why that one?"), and I shortly found myself with that very package on my lap. I didn't check first to see whether there were air holes hiding under the bow, or in the folds of paper at the ends. I removed the paper and opened the box--which did contain air holes--to find a small bit of grey-and-white fluff with very long back legs at one end and an enormous pair of ears at the other. The bit of fluff regarded me calmly, very much alive, as everyone clamored to see it. I made some lame comment about being afraid we'd get thrown out of the restaurant, but lifted the rabbit out.

"Is that from the store?" asked Mr. Scrooge, meaning his store. He did not seem to approve, even when assured that it was . . . as if any of us would bother to go out of our way to shop, at Christmas time, at another pet shop and pay a higher price. It is in fact not always a good idea to give a live animal for a gift, even if it isn't giftwrapped. This rabbit was going home with a Bunny Lady, which of course was good. But this was a Bunny Lady who was still thinking about a different bunny. I kept looking at the almost unbearably innocent little animal--it was too young yet for any of us to be confident of its sex--and wondering if I could give it all the love it deserved. I held the bunny for a while, then passed it to my fiancé as the pizza-parlor people threw sidelong looks at "this fat bearded guy," as my husband says now, "cuddling and petting this little fuzzy thing that looked like a rabbit, but was just sitting there not moving. And rabbits that young," he points out, "look just like plush toys. Only there was this fat bearded guy petting it." They never did challenge us; perhaps they felt too foolish, or perhaps they were enjoying the spectacle. In any case, we got to stay to see the remaining gifts opened, and to see the boss' daughter, among others, try to sing karaoke (and learned that if she had a hidden talent, it must have been for something else). We no longer remember most of the non-rabbit gifts, except for the joke sex pills given one of the (female) managers by the boss' wife, who seemed to be having a wonderful time, and the cheap bag of aquarium gravel that Mr. Scrooge had used to camouflage a gift certificate for another manager (was this a coincidence, that Mr. and Mrs. Scrooge both ended up buying for managers?). And, of course, the T-shirt I gave to the boss.

"Bah Humbug!" he said, "Bah Humbug!" And, "How did you know?" He had to be kidding. But he loved the shirt, and wore it the next day. The manager who'd given my bunny, my fiancé and me the ride to the party told me that Mr. Scrooge had told her that it was "very intelligent" of me to have given it to him. "Very intelligent" was his highest praise.

"I told him," she went on, "`I'd have probably just given you a box of chocolates,' and he said, `That would have been very intelligent too.'"

"The two biggest hits of the party," my husband says, "were the gift you got and the gift you gave."

"Especially the gift I got," I said. A fluffy little bunny in the pizza parlor! That rabbit may have received more attention that night than in all the time spent in the pet shop. Star quality, all the way. And then home from the party, and back to our attempts to arrange a life--slightly different now, with our fuzzy dependent.

The wedding was fine, the reception was fine, and the bunny was a girl. Wentworth, who pretty much had free run of the apartment as long as we were home and awake, took, in her youth anyway, to following me around like a puppy. When I knelt before her cage (which sat on the floor) to put food into her bowl, she ran over and threw herself into my lap. In the morning I had to stay in bed while my husband opened her cage door so she could run in and "wake me up." It didn't matter if I'd been talking a minute before; I had to have my eyes near-enough closed when she dashed in or she'd stop in consternation. I'd have to "fall asleep" quickly so that she, after a moment's reflection, could "surprise" me by leaping onto the bed for her special morning two-handed petting . . . covering my arm with earnest, enthusiastic bunny kisses the whole time.

Neither of us humans had much trouble loving her. Nor did our friends, one of whom described her as "appallingly adorable." We watched as she grew into her back feet, though her ears remained a bit outsized and her tail somehow went from barely-noticeable tuft to something surprisingly long, for a rabbit. As an adult she weighed over ten pounds, but she was ten pounds of pure enthusiasm, and love. In her eight and a half years she taught us, and gave us, a lot.

I had two more Christmases at Mr. Scrooge's pet shop, but there weren't any more parties. We couldn't have pulled off another like that first one anyway. But that's okay, because one was enough.

At least that's what we thought--Wentworth, my husband, and I.

S. D. Youngren is the author of the fiction Web site "Rowena's Page,", and of the paperback Rowena Gets a Life, which is comprised of stories from the site. She was born and raised in San Jose, California, and now lives with her husband and cat in Los Angeles. She has never had a white Christmas, but the overwintering robins in both cities have done their best to compensate her.


Gertie's Got Gift Idears
By: Gertrude Butterbean © 2004 All Rights Reserved

Christmas is around the corner, and the wallet is thin. See what idears I got for y'all!

Dear Gertie, I've decided to make me some wind chimes this year for Christmas presents. I've been saving all those toilet paper rolls for a long time now and I'm just about done stringin' them little buggers. I just have one problem...they don't make them pretty sounds like the ones in those fancy stores do ... what could I be doing wrong?
Signed, Klueless in Kentucky

Dear Klueless, first, apply shellac/varnish to your toilet paper rolls to get them water-proofed. Next, get some of that pretty gilding stuff in the craft section at Wal-mart and apply it to your rolls for that golden look. I'll warn you though, you won't get that light tinkling sound, but more of a deep clunking/thumping sound. If you just have to have that tinkling sound, use Mr. Klueless' empty rootbeer cans instead of toilet paper rolls, and use your toilet paper rolls for rattles for the kids. Just paint the roll your favorite color, staple one end shut, fill with pebbles or beans, and then staple the other end shut! This makes a fine gift too.

Dear Gertie, I never know what to get my husband. He loves whatever I get him, just because it's from me, but I like to get him things he will use, not that will just sit there and collect dust. He likes cars, and power tools, of course, what man doesn't? But, unfortunately, he doesn't do a lot of fishing, hunting, etc. you know, outdoor stuff that guys are supposed to do. He's always too busy working, either at the job site, or at the house.
Disa in Delray

Dear Disa, your dear husband needs The Cat Buddha. It will give calm repose and tranquility a place in his stressful life. It is 5 and a quarter inches of faux-stone essence. Your dear one will experience the inner peace that comes from the Cat Buddha. Combine it with the Dog Buddha for enlightening bookends.

Dear Gertie, I usually make a pretty wreath from my holly and boxwood bushes, but after this awful summer, all of my bushes died! What can I do about a wreath? I can't afford those nice ones at K-mart. Help!
Bobbie Jo in Shelbyville

Poor Bobbie Jo, I have the same problem. Here are some ideas:

  • You can use plastic holly and some gold bows leftover from last Christmas to spruce up those used toilet seats. They are the perfect shape and size to hang on your door. Pictured here on the right is my "Western-look" potty seat wreath.
  • Save up the recycled tin foil that you wrapped the stove eyes with, and use floral wire to wire them together. A strategically placed candy cane will look REAL nice.
  • Leftover peanut shells can be hot glued in a circle for that woodsy L.L. Bean look.
  • Take a paper plate, cut out the center, hot glue macaroni and bow tie pasta around the edges, and then spray paint it gold. Gorgeous.

Hi Gert, I am trying to think of some new ideas for my goodie bags for this Christmas. I always make the chocolate covered pretzels, Ritz crackers w/peanut butter, haystacks, and peppermint bark. Can you think of anything that else that I might could make to put in my goodie bags that would not go bad? I made those chocolate balls last year with Eagle Brand Milk® and chocolate. I wanted to go ahead and start getting my stuff because just about all of Dalton sold out of chocolate candy making supplies last year.
Traci in Cohutta, GA

Hey Traci, oh yum! You make the best goodies south of Knoxville! Try to think of whom you are making the goodies for. If they are for family, then make chocolate covered bourbon balls. If they are for old boyfriends, substitute Ex-Lax® for the chocolate bark. If they are for co-workers, you could put chocolate over week-old weiners because they will eat anything!

Dear Gertie, my husband loves soda and my yard and basement are just full-up with soda cans. I don't want to recycle them since I don't like that feller Fred that runs the recycle plant. Have any ideas on what I can do with em?
Marge in Memphis

Hiya Marge! Nail together two pieces of wood to make a cross, next smash the cans flat, and then either nail or glue them to the cross. Next, weave a strand of outdoor lights around them and badda bing! You got yard art! Another idea would be to smash the cans flat, hammer a nail through them to make a hole and create a whimsical wind chime. You can also use the hedge clippers and cut the cans in half (round the middle, not through the ends), and then use some wire cutters to cut strips. Peel these back and you have pretty flowers! Just don't cut yourself on the edges, though.

Dear Gertie, do you have any suggestions for recycling those beer bottles 'sides lining then up on fence posts for target practice or throwing them at the dawgs when they get to gnawing at them fleas (that lady from the human so-siyuttey says that's against the law, dawgs have rights)? Shame to just throw away such good empties. I save the cans for my husband's relatives when they come to visit. Some of them are pretty talented with crushing the cans. We sometimes play a game trying to guess what the shape is. My second cousin (once removed), Roy Don, is the best. He can crush one in 'tween two of his chins.
Lullabell from Shelby County

Dear Lullabell, get some glass cutters, and cut off the top of the bottles (the neck part). Next, sand down the edges (you don't want anyone to get cut, now), then hot glue acorns, moss, and pennies all around. Now you can give these as fancy vases! Your friends and family will be really impressed. Another idea would be to hot glue a strap to the bottle (after you cut off the neck and sand it down), and give it as a mini spittoon.

Dear Gertie, my sister has everything! Last year I got her a cat clock, and the year before that I got her the singing bird clock. I'm totally out of ideas! What can I do? She's one of those creepy programmer-types too. Help!
Sherri in Trussville, AL

Dear Sherri, since you seem to be stuck on this "singing" craze, I would like to suggest The Singing Toilet. Plays the Macarena -- just what I want to hear when you're meditating on the porcelain throne; you can get them at K-Bee toys. It sings and talks when you pull the handle down. There's also the Barry Manilow bust! She can proudly display it on her fire place mantle next to the porcelain praying Elvis. Or if she's the creative type, you can get the Bonsai Potato Kit so she can carve a potato into soothing mystical shapes while she listens to her singing toilet.

Dear Gertie, my Uncle Horace loves to collect Chia pets. Last year he was blessed with three Chia porcupines, two Chia dogs, and four Chia elephants. I was thinking this year about giving him some Sea Monkeys®. Do you have any ideas how I can combine the two to create a sure-fire wonderful hubbub around the Christmas tree?

Sincerely, Betty Jo from Beaufort

Dear Betty Jo, Sea Monkeys® are a treasure to own, but they cause many folks to sink into a depression because the monkeys' life spans are so short. What you can do is buy a goldfish bowl, and a couple of Chia pets - flat ones are best, either Elmer Fudd heads or elephants are perfect! Break the Chia pets into one-inch pieces and hot glue these pieces randomly over the surface of the bowl making sure you leave windows to view your monkeys through. Instead of watering, you'll have to mist your Chia pet shards. I also suggest that you give Uncle Horace some grief support, like the Sea Monkey Wall of Grieffor starters and the Songs of Experience: Bad Sea Monkey Poetry. Mention to him that after the Sea Monkeys® die, he could use the Chia bowl for a planter.


A Well Intentioned Christmas
By: Marta Martin © 2004 All Rights Reserved

Each year starts out the very same. I resolve to be better prepared. I plan to begin Christmas shopping just as soon as the stores open on New Years Day toting along a handy little notebook where I will note each gift purchase and the intended recipient, spending only a fraction of the cost I would in December. It is my intention to shop sales circulars getting outlandish deals on games and electronics in the heat of summer, to stash them away carefully and then bring them out in the late autumn chill when winter is a mere whisper away to wrap in gaily colored wrappers and bows. People will be envious and say that I am clever and so well organized. Sigh. In my dreams. New Years Day usually finds me up to my elbows in a big pot of pork, sauerkraut and depression.

I know women who keep Christmas notebooks to prepare for the holidays. In their little books is a list of everyone from whom they received Christmas cards the prior year and their addresses. In the next section the cherished cookie recipes reside, with little notes documenting which family member likes which cookie best. Then comes the list of family members with gift ideas, their sizes and color preferences. Every December I vow to start one myself. It's part of my big Christmas plan, you see. Sigh. Somehow the cookies wind up being slice and bake, cards barely make it into the mail and if I don't have to see you on Christmas Day, you're probably not getting a gift.

One way to keep gift giving costs down is to make them yourself. Kids love crafts and most relatives love receiving homemade gifts, (you're supposed to act like it anyway). There have been a number of craft ideas that have caught my eye over the last year. Take, for example, the Journal in a Jar. Buy some of those inexpensive bound journals, some mason jars, pens and ribbon. Into the jar go tiny slivers of paper, each with a fascinating and provocative journal topic. Then there's the decorative candy tin. Save the little tins that popular candies come in and when you are ready to make, simply sand them and repaint in colors of your choice, decoupage some trim or other item and varnish-voila! A very pretty personalized item. Don't you think so? Great. You can have this bag of 89 Altoid tins at my feet. You should see my cavities!

Someday I'm going to enter one of those neighborhood house-decorating contests. I'm going to string lights galore on this old place. It is my secret desire to own one of those tacky reindeers that actually moves its head, giving the appearance of "grazing". However, I don't even know the location of the family Christmas tree at this point.

You're probably thinking my kids are in for a terrible holiday. It is at this point every year that they fear such a fate as well. What can I tell you? It's a miracle. Despite my protestations and shortcomings something just short of a miracle happens every December. A lot of it has to do with Wal-Mart being open twenty-four hours. I do Christmas. Not many have witnessed me moving at such high speeds and a few have not lived to tell, but for a very short period of time I possess sheer holiday magic. The exhilaration leaves me just about the time the living floor is covered in tinsel and wrappings on Christmas morning and I spend most of the next twelve months recovering; but I do Christmas, dammit.

Well, I have just a few short weeks of denial left. At a specially appointed time following Thanksgiving leftovers my head drops into my hands and I realize that despite being on the calendar every December of my life, Christmas has crept up on me once again! Hey. Maybe I'll send you a card. Yeah & go ahead, put your address in here. That? Oh, it's my Christmas notebook. I'm going to keep one this year.


We three Kings in bathrobes are...
By: W. Mark Berryman © 2004 All Rights Reserved

The Christmas nativity scene is one that evokes great emotion in many. Most of us will never forget either participating in or watching the children perform it each year at Christmas.

The lowly manger, the stuffed animals, the plastic doll wrapped in a scarf, the three wise men dressed in their parents bath robes wearing Burger King crowns singing loudly We Three Kings With Oreos Are.

Let us not forget the shepherds. More bathrobe donned youngsters with flip-flops on their feet, but instead of cardboard crowns they wear towels wrapped around their heads. They herd children with socks on their feet and hands wearing a inside out sweat suit who crawl around bleating, "baaaa baaaaaa baaoowwww! Hey, watch it, you poked me with that stick!"

And Lo, the angel wearing a sheet appeared before them with her shiny gold garland halo made from a coathanger and wings of poster board, glitter and more shiny garland atached with Elmer's school glue around the edges. The angel triumphantly proclaims, "Fear not and be old, for I bring to you good news of Almond Joy."

There is always the one child who no one is quite sure about because of her refusal to wear anything that resembles a costume who wanders on and off the set randomly.

Then the children's choir rises to the occasion and sings, "Away in the manger no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus lays down on his head."

The children's play director sits on the front row sweating profusely as each line, which had been performed perfectly in practice the last six weeks, is either forgotten, mangled or misquoted.

When the author wrote God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, I have to think they were merry because they had just watched a live children's nativity performance. It's all different now. People want to see Charlton Heston-like actors and realistic period costumes with huge working sets. They yearn for Matrix-styled special effects with angels flying in on tightwires to a league of heavenly host trumpeters. They insist on a real live baby Jesus. Don't forget live animals. We have to have live animals.

It must be held outdoors (think live animals) in the freezing cold where God meant for it to be instead of a warm sanctuary on a somewhat comfy pew.

How did we ever really understand the nativity the way it used to be done? I'm not sure, but I can tell you one thing. I miss the laughs, the smiles and the warm fuzzy feeling I got from watching it.


The Dark Night of The Claus
By: Jason Offutt © 2004 All Rights Reserved

Author's note: The following column may be disturbing to young children. A moral may be in there somewhere, but since I think that moral has something to do with spanking your kids if they need it, I had to be subtle.

The house was warm and dark and smelled of cinnamon.

A figure walked here, in this sleeping house. It walked under mistletoe and past a Christmas tree decorated with tinsel and popcorn, before stopping at the coffee table to read a note pinned beneath a glass of milk and a plate of Hydrox cookies.

"Dear Santa," the note read. "How are Rudolf and Mrs. Claus? Thank you for our presents. I hope you brought me a BB gun and Sara a Barbie doll. We've been really good this year. Love, Timmy."

The figure stared at the cookies for a moment.

"I've had enough," the figure said.

The note was from Timmy, and it said he'd been good.

"What about the busted window?" The figure mumbled. "The F in English? The car you keyed? The bubble gum you stole from the Piggly Wiggly? The Nair you put on Mr. Fluffy?

"Just what part of 'I know if you've been bad or good' don't you understand, Timmy?"

Santa Claus dropped the cookies on the floor and crushed them into the carpet.

"I'm tired of the lies, Timmy," he continued. "You're not any good, you're becoming a hood, your homework's not read, and you still wet the bed!

"And I'm tired of the promises. 'Oh, Santa, I'll be extra special good next year if you just bring me a bicycle and a Sega Genesis, and please, please, oh please, Santa, suffer a pox upon my history teacher,'" he mocked.

"Well, I'm through," Santa said, wadding up the note. "And you misspelled Rudolph."

The once-jolly fat elf, now angered and sad, pulled Timmy's present from his sack and broke it over his knee.

"People are no longer nice. They no longer care. My blood's now like ice, so they'd better beware. I'm going to houses, of all the bad little tykes. I'll bust up their snow sleds, Nintendos and bikes. I'll ...

Santa paused for a moment.

"OK, so I really won't do any of that. But there must be some good kids out there, somewhere. Kids who mind their parents and do their chores. And, by golly, I'm going to find them," Santa said as he opened the front door and stepped out into the snowy streets.


On Christmas morning, Timmy's parents walked into the living room and saw the destruction. All of Timmy's presents were smashed. Timmy's father walked to the open front door. A small drift had blown in during the night.

"My God," said Timmy's mom. "Who could have done this?"

"Kris Kringle," said Timmy's dad, pointing outside.

"And just how do you know?"

"Because he wrote his name, right here in the snow."



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