Dear Smiley: A few weeks ago you mentioned in your esteemed column a parent who used monetary means to bring out the best in his son in a sporting event.

That reminded me of a similar situation I had with son Ryan, now 27 and a civil engineer.

He started youth football about the age of 7 or 8. The first year he didn’t know if he was on offense or defense. That changed, and he found himself well suited for a middle linebacker position.

About his fourth year, the dads were offering their sons money for good plays. So as an incentive to Ryan, I offered $2 for a solid lone tackle and $5 for a quarterback sack. As a bonus I offered $20 for a touchdown — knowing he was on defense, I thought I was safe on that bet.

Well, after an 0 and 4 start in his fifth season, the coaches tried him out as a running back during a losing game. He scored four touchdowns and we won the game. The team ended up with a winning season. He then continued as running back throughout his high school career.

That was the best $80 I ever spent.

P.S.: We renegotiated his contract after that year.

BERT BROUSSARD

Anacortes, Washington

Living dangerously

Dear Smiley: One last ferry story:

In the late 1960s, a church counselor took eight of us mid-teenagers on a trip to the French Quarter. One part of the excursion was a trip on the Canal Street ferry.

The ferry at that time had a separate second-deck entrance to the pedestrian deck, which had a snack bar/cigarette vendor.

While we were on the Algiers side, the attendant asked if we would like to see the wheelhouse. We climbed a stairway between the dock and the bulkhead and rode back on top with the pilot.

However, upon tying up again, we learned that there was no such stairway on the other side of the ferry. We had to climb back down the same stairway as before, only this time it was on the open river side. And the attendant hadn’t unlocked the pedestrian doorway on that side.

Picture a mid-20s young man with eight teenagers, standing on a 3-foot-wide walkway with no railing between us and the river, banging on the door to get the attendant to unlock it.

I can only imagine the prayers he must have been saying, as thoughts of disaster raced through his head. We, of course, thought it a great adventure.

GLENN GIRO

Denham Springs

Whistle stop

Dear Smiley: A reader mentioned hearing Metropolitan Opera star Giuseppe di Stefano at a concert in Bogalusa in the 1940s.

This was not a one-time event: Bogalusa in the ’40s and ’50s was a member city of the Community Concert series, which brought good music to small towns (although in those days Bogalusa was relatively not so small — its 25,000 or so population put it in the top 10 Louisiana cities).

I remember the Vienna Boys’ Choir, and I heard Jerome Hines, also appearing at the Met.

During the program, Hines sang the “whistle” aria from Boito’s “Mephistopheles.”

My grandmother, from New Orleans, was an opera fan, and I especially remember that she warned me beforehand that I was not to applaud when he whistled, but only when the aria ended.

CAROLYN KOLB

New Orleans

Early Willie

Dear Smiley: When one of your readers mentioned seeing Garth Brooks at Bear Creek, it reminded me of my early days as assistant sports editor of the Odessa, Texas, American almost 50 years ago.

One of my first assignments was covering the National Junior Finals Rodeo. When it came time for entertainment at the rodeo, a flatbed trailer entered the arena bearing a singer and a three-piece band.

The singer was Willie Nelson.

He quickly became a national icon, and I doubt he ever played a junior rodeo gig again.

ROY PITCHFORD

Monroe

Protective headgear

Dear Smiley: Recently, having nothing to read and feeling rather desperate, I found myself paging through one of those high-end food/cooking magazines, where I came across an article on colanders.

Many kinds: copper-plated, stoneware, enamelware, stainless steel, porcelain, with prices from $25 to over $300.

But nowhere did I find mention of the kind we’re all familiar with: the shiny aluminum ones that you can wear on your head to keep the NSA, CIA, and other nefarious government agencies from controlling your brain waves.

Do you think the feds paid them off to keep them from mentioning the “good” ones?

PAUL MAJOR

Livonia

Dear Paul: I share your concern, and I’m sending over a couple of guys to discuss this matter with you. They’ll be easy to recognize — they’re wearing white...

Contacting Smiley

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