American Humor: Ott Bartlett and the State of Our Country

article image
Illustration By The MOTHER EARTH NEWS staff
American humor: Ott Bartlett talks about the state of our country.

The Last Laugh shares MOTHER EARTH NEWS reader submitted American humor with other readers. This issue Ott Bartlett talks about the state of our country or lack of it.

Adam was but human . . . this explains it all. He did not want the apple for the apple’s sake, he wanted it only because it was forbidden. The mistake was in not forbidding the serpent . . . then he would have eaten the serpent.

— Mark Twain

Every American boy has a chance to grow up and become President. It’s just one of the risks he has to take.

Well sir, I don’t know how conditions are in your neck of the woods . . . but around my section of the country, folks is had about all they can take of politicians, inflation, confrontations of one sort or another, and other (self) important worldly matters.

And the way I figure it, we probably ain’t exactly alone in our current inclination to “let the rest of the world go by”, so to speak, and spend most of our time tendin’ to things closer to home. Leastwise I was readin’ t’other day that TV viewin’ is fallin’ off at a rapid rate here in the U.S. . . . and I don’t wonder about that, considerin’ the trash that they’re currently fillin’ the airwaves with.

Why it’s jist nothin’ but murders and robberies and rapes and carnage and mayhem on television these days. And that’s the comedies . . . the news programs is even worse! It’s no wonder that hardly any of the loafers here in Barren County will even watch Walter Crankcase on the evenin’ news anymore. Ole Walt, it seems, jist ain’t even in the runnin’ when it comes to a choice between him . . . and slippin’ on down to the Plumtree Crossin’ General Store, puttin’ your feet up on the blazin’ potbelly, pullin’ from time to time on a jug of Purvis Jacobs’s stump blaster, and yarnin’ with the rest of the area’s deadbeats.

“Say, Ott! Where was you last Thursday? I come by your place but you weren’t nowheres around.”

“Oh, I hadda take the old woman inta the Big City. She said she couldn’t find no taffeta around here suitable for the dress she’s makin’ for that church social comin’ up. Said she hadda go shoppin’ in some fancier stores. So I took her to the city and let her out and then went lookin’ for a beer,”

“Find any?”

“Oh, yeah. They’ve got beer there all right. I ordered up a draft . . . and, ya know, I couldn’t hardly believe my eyes when that bartender brought me my stein. But I drunk it . . . then ordered another. Couldn’t hardly believe that one either.

“So I called the bartender over and I asked him, ‘Say, how much beer do you sell here every month anyway?’ And he says, ‘About 50 kegs. Why?’ And I says, ‘How’d you like to sell 100 kegs?’ And he says, ‘ You a country hick-you’re going to tell me how to sell twice as much beer?’ And I says, ‘That’s right.’ And he says, ‘All right. Tell me.’ And I says, ‘Fill the glasses full.”

“Mercy. I’speck that was a mistake.”

‘Well, I didn’t purzackly stick around to see how he was gonna take the remark. Matter of fact, I sorta give it to him as I was makin’ my way out the door. But speakin’ of mistakes . . . I heard Lafe Higgins the other day say that he’d often been mistaken . . . but never for Robert Redford. “

“Wheeehee, I don’t reckon. Lafe’s one of the plainest lookin’ men I know.”

“Yeah, but he’s a comical cuss. He was down to the barbershop t’other day gettin’ a haircut when the barber allowed as how Lafe was turnin’ a mite gray. Well, ole Lafe never cracked a smile. He jist looked up that mournful way he can look and he says, ‘I’m not surprised. Can’t you work a little faster?’ “

“Ya know, ole Lafe is gettin’ a little age on ‘im. I was jest thinkin’ the other day that he wasn’t hearin’ as good as he used to . . . and I mentioned it to Mandy, his wife, when I seed her over to the Hollowells. And Mandy says, ‘Deef? Why, I know Lafe’s gettin’ deef.’ And I says,’How do you know?’ And she says, ”Cause he said his prayers last night kneelin’ on the cat.’ “

“I don’t know whether to believe that or not. It always seemed to me that Lafe tends to be selective about what he hears. If he ain’t interested in what you’re sayin’, he won’t pay you no mind at all. But you start talkin’ about money and I guaran-damn-tee you that ole Lafe’s auditory abilities will’take a sharp turn for the better. “

“Ain’t that a fact! You remember that prize heifer he had a coupla years ago? I was over to Lafe’s place one day when a stranger drivin’ by musta seen her and thought about buyin’ her ’cause here he come drivin’ up to the house and he stops and he says, ‘How much is that heifer of yours down there worth?’ And ole Lafe never even batted an eye. He jist says, ‘That depends. Are you the new tax collector . . . or did you hit her with your car?'”

“Well, Lafe can have all the money he wants. It ain’t worth a whole lot anymore anyway. As a matter of fact, a dollar’s gettin’ to be worth so little that it’s jest openin’ up all kinds of new opportunities to get rich these days.”

“How’s that?”

“Well take the job of redecoratin’ the front bedroom that me and the missus jest went through. Insteada buyin’ real wallpaper, which is gettin’ expensive as blue blazes though, we saved a bundle by paperin’ the walls with dollar bills . . . and then puttin’ the difference in the bank!”

“Yeah, well . . . the way things is goin’ here in Barren County, I doubt that difference is gonna do you much good. If somethin’ don’t happen to raise farm prices pretty soon, we’re all gonna be out of business.”

“Ain’t that the truth. Why I was talkin’ to a businessman and a banker the other day and, somehow, we got into a discussion of what we’d all do iffen we was to inherit a million dollars each.

“Well, the businessman said he’d invest in new equipment and expand his operation and double the million in five years. And the banker said he’d loan his million out at ten or twelve percent and turn it over eight or ten times and double his million in less than two years.”

“And what about you?

” Oh, I said I’d jist keep on a ‘farmin’ for as long as the million lasted! “

Whatever you are by nature, keep to it. Never desert your own line of talent. Be what nature intended you for, and you will succeed. Be anything else and you will be ten thousand times worse than nothing.

— Sydney Smith

Time is the one thing that can never be retrieved. One may lose and regain a friend . . . one may lose and regain money . . . opportunity once spurned may come again . . . but the hours that are lost in idleness can never be brought back to be used in gainful pursuits.

Most careers are made or marred in the hours aftersupper.

— C.R. Lawton