Dear Smiley: I read with heavy heart about the death of former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson, one of my favorite political figures.

I once had the distinct honor to introduce him at a conference where he was keynote speaker.

In his speech, he mentioned that some of his counterparts had chided him for being too hard on his adversaries during the Watergate hearings.

He told them, “I came here to drain the swamp, not to make friends with the alligators!”


New Roads

Dad’s lesson

Dear Smiley: Your story by Keith Horcasitas, about starting a car-parking business at 14, brought this one back from the deep dark past, when I too was 14:

My Boy Scout troop was washing cars at a St. Albans, West Virginia, shopping center to raise money. My main job was to walk the parking lot, recruiting customers.

A man getting out of a big, big Cadillac said we could wash his car while he was shopping, but I had to drive it to where the car-washing was going on.

Did I mention this was a big 1950s-style Cadillac? Did I mention I was a wee lad of 14, and had never driven before? No matter. Off I went, and everything was fine until I reached the light post at the end of the row.

When I got home, I eventually worked up the courage to tell my dad I had creased a Cadillac’s door, and give him the owner’s phone number. The bill came to a whopping $300 or so, which I had to repay by getting a job. It took about two years — and I was an adult before Dad told me that his insurance had actually covered the damage.

I never did get that money back.



The great cover-up

Dear Smiley: I’m a product of the “no pants” era at LSU, in the College of Education. I went to LSU for many years, and by the time I left girls were wearing Daisy Dukes.

I don’t know if this outfit helped these girls’ grades, but I remember one long-legged blonde in Daisy Dukes sitting on the front row in class, and the professor married her for a short time.

When the East Baton Rouge Parish school system allowed us to wear pants in the classroom, it had to be a pants suit and the top had to cover our behind. My first teaching job in Baton Rouge was at St. Agnes, teaching second grade. We were not allowed to wear anything sleeveless. They didn’t want the eighth-grade boys to be distracted.

All of these seemed so silly then, but we turned out okay.



Lighter sentence

Dear Smiley: Reading in the paper about Vincent Asaro, the mobster involved in the famous Lufthansa heist being brought to trial, reminded me of the sentencing of the infamous New Jersey mafia capo named Carmine “Gaspipe” Contralto.

Convicted under the RICO statute, he got two life terms and one 80-year stint, to run concurrently.

After the judge told him how the cow was going to eat the cabbage, Carmine asked, “Judge, which one do I serve first?”

The judge said, “Take your pick.”

After a pregnant pause, Carmine said, “I believe I’ll do the 80 years first.”

And the judge said, “Let the record so reflect.”



A pressing matter

Dear Smiley: My wife is an iPhone junkie, and is accustomed to pressing the “more” link on online news stories to garner more information. This past summer we were to attend a wedding in a small Texas town and needed some information on hotels.

I consulted the web and found a few places where we could stay.

I printed the information on our laser printer and gave the sheets of paper to my wife so that she could choose a hotel.

A short while later I heard her shriek with laughter. She had caught herself pressing the “more” link — on the printed page.



Missing the ring

Dear Smiley: Mom told me this story about my granddaddy:

Partway through his career, Granddaddy moved his family to Ithaca, New York, so he could return to Cornell for advanced studies. He wanted to specialize in surgery. In school he spent a lot of time with cadavers.

One day he came home with a small, blue box bearing the coveted Tiffany name, and handed it to Grandmommy.

“Brought you a little something,” he said.

Anticipating perhaps a bracelet, Grandmommy eagerly opened the box, and found...a finger!

Granddaddy was a big man, so Grandmommy, at 4 feet 11 inches, probably didn’t inflict much damage as she tried to beat him up.



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.