Dear Smiley: Reading in The Advocate about Murphy Neal Jones speaking at a Shriners’ banquet brought back memories of an incident shortly after he was freed from a Vietnamese prison in 1973.

Neal, with his elementary school-aged son, came out to the old Downtown Airport hoping to go for a flight with his former instructor, Eddy Duffard.

Eddy was busy with a student; I was about to go up to practice, so he asked me to take them for a flight in our Piper Cherokee Archer.

They were very gracious, and Neal commented that he had never flown with a woman pilot before. (He couldn’t fly himself with his injured arm.)

I asked his son what school he attended, and before the child could answer, Neal asked, “Where do you go to school?”

It was so sad that he had missed seven years of knowing what was going on in the world and with his family, and suffered so horribly in the “Hanoi Hilton.”

I’m 84 and no longer flying, but I felt honored that day to be able to do a small thing for this brave hero, and meeting him and his son is one of my fond memories.


Baton Rouge

Scottish interlude

Dear Smiley: The bit in your column about the rented church pews reminded me of what happened to me back in 1957.

That year, I was a radar man on the USS Saratoga.

We steamed up the Firth of Clyde in Scotland. On either side of that waterway were low hills dotted with villages, small farms with sheep grazing in the pastures. I have never seen a more beautiful place before or since.

I went ashore that Sunday morning and attended a local church.

Upon entering, I was informed that the church supported itself not by taking up an offering but by renting pews to the individual families.

I was told the two pews down front were reserved for those too poor to be able to afford the rental on a pew.

An elderly gentleman asked me to join him in his family pew.

Afterward, I was invited to lunch at their home. Beautiful country, beautiful people.



Nostalgia Corner

Dear Smiley: Woody Blanchard’s nostalgic piece brought back my very early memories of Bogan’s Pasture.

At the circus is where I saw cotton candy for the first time and wanted to try it. No way — there were too many of us youngins for my folks to pay admissions and then splurge on sweets.

I recall how hot it could get standing in line to get in, and the smell of sawdust and all the strange animals.

We made up at other times for not getting to eat cotton candy. We’d stop at the Blue Bird ice cream parlor on Plank Road and Choctaw, where I’d always get my favorite, a tutti-frutti ice cream cone.

My brother John Mark and I really liked the Speed Derby, as we thought it was the closest thing to vaudeville we’d ever see.

I even got to go onstage and dance with a group one night.

We got to kiss whoever we were holding when the music stopped. My dance partner turned out to be the youngest and prettiest of all the Speed Derby troupe and wasn’t hard to kiss at all.

My bedroom was above our living room where the radio stood, and H.V. Kaltenborn and other news anchors of that time were the voices that floated up the stairwell each morning to awaken me for school.

They weren’t speaking Southern, but it was a pleasure listening to them in their strange accents, whether the news was good or bad.

Yes, those are some good memories.


Santa Maria, California

Birds at war

Dear Smiley: Regarding hostile hummingbirds:

I had one aggressive bird that spent all its energy defending all four spots on the feeder from others.

I put out a second feeder, and then a third, but this only drove him to more frantic, constant vigilance and brutal attacks.

He could barely maintain his stamina and certainly wasn’t storing any energy for migration.

I disliked all that hostility on my patio. I decided I was merely rewarding aggression and supporting a known terrorist.

I told them to move their war elsewhere and took down all the feeders.

Perhaps if everyone did this, we could stop these terrorist attacks.

Surely the more moderate hummers will rise up now and deal with these rogues.


Baton Rouge

Put these dogs to work!

Dear Smiley: I saw a “robo lawnmower” on TV the other day, and it got me to thinking.

I have three male, outside dogs. I am going to start putting a small amount of Round Up in their water, gradually increasing it as they get used to it.

I figure in a few weeks, I won’t have any weeds around the fence in my backyard.

Think I’m on to something?



Write Smiley at He can also be reached by fax at (225) 388-0351 or mail at P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821.