Dear Smiley: The live camel (in a Nativity scene) mentioned earlier reminded me of a family story.

A cousin, who shall remain nameless, in another state, had a camel and several sheep that he loaned out to a church for the Christmas musical one year.

(He also raised buffalo, but that’s a story for another day.)

At the dress rehearsal the night before the performance, the wise men were leading/dragging the camel down the aisle toward baby Jesus, located up on stage.

The camel got up the ramp all right, but turned too sharp, lost its rear footing, and crashed down on top of the new sound equipment the musical director had just bought.

As the camel was trying to get back on its feet, it was kicking anything and anyone in the way.

They had videotaped the performance, but for some unknown reason it was never shown.

I suppose the music director’s verbal reaction didn’t come up to church standards.

I think the performance went off all right the next night, minus new amplifiers.

And I suspect they never used live animals again … indoors, anyhow.


Denham Springs

Jumping the gun

Dear Smiley: “Christmas Eve gift!”

Those were the first words I heard from Mama when I got up on Christmas Eve.

Her eyes would twinkle and she would laugh as she sat at the kitchen table with her morning cup of coffee.

I would always say, “You got me again!” and she would say, “You owe me a gift!”

That always made her happy.

She often told me that when she was growing up she and her sisters each tried to be the first one to shout those words before the others did.

It was a tradition in her family.

Today my sister Carol and I do the same thing each Christmas.

Sometimes she’s first and sometimes I am.

We laugh and enjoy the exchange.

Last year I woke up on Christmas Eve, checked my email, and there it was in capital letters in the subject line: “CHRISTMAS EVE GIFT.”

Of course I mumbled, “You got me again!”

I called her later and we laughed together.

Sweet memories!


Colorado Springs, Colo.

Unpicky eater

Dear Smiley: Our one-fourth Norwegian grandson has developed quite a liking for Mr. Graves’ fried chicken, Mr. Boutin’s thin-sliced fried catfish, beignets from Coffee Call and most anything chocolate.

Concerned that Anderson may not be getting the right amounts of protein, vitamins and bran, his mother baked recently some “super” cupcakes. A clever strategy, right?

After viewing them suspiciously, he took a tentative bite. Daughter Sarah had trouble keeping a straight face when her son asked: “Mama, is this poison?”

We can’t wait until he travels to his maternal grandmother’s home in Wisconsin, where he’ll be introduced to lutefisk (lye-soaked baked fish) and lefse (a pastry that bears scant resemblance to beignets).


Baton Rouge

Playing with pain

Dear Smiley: We were sitting around the dinner table in Carriere, Miss., and Gregg Natal mentioned that he did not know if he could report to his part-time job because of a slight accident on the lake, twisting his wrist.

I mentioned that it should be no problem, because I had on occasion reported to my full-time job with a broken heart.



Hunting what?

Dear Smiley: I read The Advocate’s article about the Wildlife & Fisheries project of releasing 14 whooping cranes in south Louisiana marshes, “to establish a self-sustaining population of the birds.”

Sounds great in principle, but the fundraising method seems unusually counterproductive: “A $5,000-a-person hunt to help support the project is planned for next month.”

They must know that Cajuns are good shots — and even better at $5,000 a pop.

But, maybe “self-sustaining” is a complex oxymoron, known only to Wildlife & Fisheries?

Anyhow, it still sounds to me like they’d better send for more birds.


New Iberia

Time out

Dear Smiley: I am befuddled. You responded to Emily Patterson’s request that you not leave on vacation again with the comment that management makes you stay away so that you use up all of your vacation days.

Since readers write your column for you, vacation differs from work … how?


Baton Rouge

Dear Deborah: On vacation I’m doing nothing somewhere else …

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.