Since I get 90-95 percent of my column submissions by email, receiving a letter from what we now call "snail mail" is a relatively rare experience.

Usually these letters are from older folks who aren't cool with computers. Some are typed, but I've noticed something about the ones that are written in longhand — the cursive writing is almost always flawless, and often beautiful.

The writers have evidently taken courses in what we used to call "penmanship." (How long has it been since you've heard that word, if ever?)

I know, email has many obvious benefits — I can easily edit the letters and store them for future use, and if I have a question I can instantly respond to the writer.

Still, it's nice to see those swooping curves and carefully formed letters from a bygone era…a more graceful one in many ways…

Which reminds me

I'm actually old enough to have had a penmanship class, in the fourth grade in Natchez, Mississippi, just before we moved to Baton Rouge.

The teacher did not seem friendly, and my mom told me the reason why. Mom had that same teacher when she was in the fourth grade at that school.

At that time, students were "cured" of left-handed writing by being forced to use their right hands. This teacher rapped my mom on the knuckles with a ruler every time she tried to use her left hand.

Mom came home crying, and when she told her father, he marched to the school and confronted the teacher.

My grandfather, Prospero DeMarco, was an imposing figure — tall, with white hair, dark eyes and the face of a Roman nobleman. He was also a stern man, so I can't imagine the teacher enjoyed her meeting with him.

As a result, my mother wrote with her left hand the rest of her life.

This teacher never remarked about my being left-handed, but I got a C in penmanship. In her defense, my handwriting IS pretty bad…

Inquiring Minds Dept.

A curious reader wants to know, "Can members of the Legislature get unemployment compensation for their time spent in the special session?

"Because obviously they didn't do any work during that time…"

Music from home

Ralph Drouin, of Baton Rouge, says, "Reading the comments about receiving gumbo, etc., while in Vietnam reminded me of the time I was there.

"One of the letters I wrote to my parents asked if they would send me the cassette tape of 'Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band' by the Beatles for Christmas.

"Upon receiving it, I popped it into the cassette player one of guys had and proceeded to play it. The tape and I received a standing ovation! We wore out that tape!"

Educational experience

Although a reader pointed out that it's a social media joke that a group of baboons is called a "congress," Algie Petrere says one publication has bought into it:

It seems "The English Workbook — Teachers Resource Books: Book E —Ages 10 plus," published on Dec. 22 in 2013, describes a group of baboons as a congress.

Algie adds, "They also have a group of flamingos as a 'stand.' I much prefer 'flamboyance.'"

Educational experience II

Ronald Scioneaux, of St. James, offers this quote from football star Alex Karras: "I never graduated from Iowa. But I was only there for two terms — Truman's and Eisenhower's."

Special People Dept.

Paula Dauphin celebrates her 99th birthday on Wednesday, March 7.

Eat your problems

Dudley Lehew, of Marrero, wants to make our readers aware that "California is having a nutria invasion problem.

"Some residents are considering (gasp!) EATING the critters! Your contributors should have a lot of fun offering suggestions.

"Nutria are already 'free range,' so to speak," says Dudley. And since they eat aquatic vegetation, their meat is lean and nutritious, and should fit into Californian's healthy-dining lifestyle.  

"Perhaps some daytime cooking shows could feature celebrity nutria recipes," says Dudley. He envisions a trendy Hollywood dish called "tofutria," which I wish he hadn't…

Louisiana Haiku

Rows of strawberries

Novice pickers have system

Pick one, then eat one 

Write Smiley at Smiley@theadvocate.com. He can also be reached by mail at P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821. Follow Smiley Anders on Twitter, @SmileyAndersAdv.