Tommy Watts says, “I’m convinced the computer has been the downfall of the automobile.

“Remember when a mechanic could listen to your engine and say, ‘Yep, sounds like you need a new set of plugs and a clean air filter.’ And you did.

“I recently took my car to a shop and described a recurring problem which had threatened to leave me by the roadside.

“They attached a diagnostic machine, and informed me no code came up.

“When I suggested checking out the several possible causes they had encountered, I was informed they couldn’t do that. Until the car’s problem manifested itself again and stayed manifested, there was no way the machine could tell them which code was in play.

“This led me to consult an expert, my fraternity brother Lance D’Armond, retired general manager of Gerry Lane GMC. Brother Lance pretty much confirmed my suspicion.

“So I told him I was in the market for a 1959 stripped-down (is there any other kind?) Ford pickup, and asked him four questions: ‘Might I find such a vehicle? Is there a mechanic in the area who will work on one? Is there an available manual? Do you think I’m smart enough to use it?’

“His learned response was: ‘Yes, Yes, Yes, No.’ ”

Generous in Jersey

Lt. Chris Owens Sr., of State Police Troop I in Lafayette, says troopers Hershel Smith and Chris Wright were helping at a shelter in New Jersey in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy when they met a family (husband and wife; daughter, 11; son, 9) “who had nothing but the clothes on their back and their car.

“The troopers went to Wal-Mart to buy some items for the family. A woman overheard them talking about this as they were shopping, and followed them through the store.

“When they were checking out, the clerk told them Wal-Mart was giving them a 60 percent discount. Even with the discount, the items were over $200.

“The woman who had followed them then said she was going to pay for it, and pulled out a bunch of gift cards.

“After she paid for the merchandise, she told them she owned five homes, and was going to allow the family to stay in one of the houses until they got back on their feet.

“Word spread quickly, and the troopers had trouble getting out of the parking lot, because people kept knocking on the car windows to thank them.

“When they delivered the merchandise and told the family about the home, they all began crying and hugging the troopers.

“Truth be told, the troopers were crying also …”

Ways to kill

Helpful readers are still offering suggestions to the lady troubled by tiny black ants:

  • C.B. Wiley, of Gonzales, suggests mixing one pound of boric acid with 10 pounds of ant poison:

“I’ve used this mix for years, and it works.”

  • On a less serious note, Doug Johnson, of Watson, says, “I have a solution for getting rid of pesky black ants. Fire ants will chase them away if placed in the same vicinity.

“She is welcome to take all the fire ants she needs from my lawn.”

  • And on an even less serious note than that one, James A. Culotta says, “It is popularly believed that ants have an adhesive substance on the bottom of their feet, allowing them to climb up walls.

“Might I suggest she line her walls with tiny foot baths containing 409 cleaner.

“This will cut the adhesive substance on their tiny feet, causing them to fall and break their little necks as they try to climb the walls.”

James adds, “Through extensive testing and exhaustive scientific experimentation, I have also solved an age-old question regarding fleas, in case anyone is interested.”

(We’ll get back to you on that, James …)

Worthy causes

  • On Thursday the Baton Rouge Children’s Advocacy Center will receive 15 percent of net sales at the Raising Canes restaurant on Highland Road near LSU when a customer mentions the center.
  • Boyce Smith says the Zachary Kiwanis Club will sell pastalaya dinners Friday from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Zachary Wal-Mart to raise funds for the Kiwanis International project to eliminate maternal /neonatal tetanus.

Divine plan

Dan Burkhalter, the Carencro Curmudgeon, says, “If God wanted me to touch my toes, he’d have put them on my knees.”

Starting early

Brenna Allphin-Smith Perez tells this story about her daughter Catherine, 4:

“The boys in preschool class were being scolded for every mother’s nightmare — cutting each other’s hair.

“The teacher carefully explained she would take the scissors away if they could not use them correctly.

“With a look of shock and dismay, Catherine wagged her finger at them and said, ‘I don’t know about you, but I need my scissors, so you boys better get your business straight.’

“Even at 4 she is telling the boys what to do …”

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.