Tommy Watts has a story for our “ separated by a common language” file:

“Our daughter-in-law Victoria (Vikki for short) is British. Upon her arrival in the colonies and for some time thereafter, she and I had considerable difficulty accomplishing verbal communication.

“My survival instincts eventually kicked in and I developed a method of dealing with the situation.

“After saying ‘What?’ or ‘I beg your pardon,’ I would either laugh or express disappointment/sympathy depending on my interpretation of her facial expression, body language and/or the intonation of her voice.

“The easiest is recognizing a humorous comment or story, because she usually smiles during the telling and ends with a laugh.

“Also, one can recognize a question by the rise in pitch of her voice at the end, then fake an answer: ‘I don’t believe I know’ provides an escape from an inquiry without the need to directly respond. It really is an art.

“About the time I began to think she was catching on to my ruse, Vikki telephoned her sister Catherine in England to announce that she was carrying our grandchild.

“Catherine remarked on the wonderful opportunity for her nephew or niece to be raised bilingual — speaking both English and American.

“Discovering I was attempting to understand a foreign language gave me considerable relief.”

Burning issue

Jerry Berggren says our seminar on the use of dried cow pies as a heating fuel answered a question for him:

“Back in the early ’70s when I was a graduate student at LSU, we had a postdoctoral scientist in our lab who liked to say he was from Hereford, Texas, ‘Where the wind pumps the water and the cows heat the homes.’

“I never really understood how the cows heated homes, and didn’t want to ask, but thanks to the information in your column, I now understand.

“Now I wonder what it smelled like in Hereford in the winter?”

Stop it!

Dan Burkhalter, the Carencro Curmudgeon, says my recent “groaners” reminded him of this old one he recently heard from Jim Tatman, of Opelousas:

“Jim told me of a friend of his who was addicted to brake fluid.

“But the guy refused to go into rehab, saying, ‘No way — I can stop any time.’ ”

(Dan dedicates that one to the late Roland Daigre, this column’s main source of groaners for many years.)

Remember the boats?

  • Eric Monarch says, “My mother recalls that when she was a child there were several families who lived in houseboats on the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge.

“I wonder if there is someone else who might remember something about this.”

  • Julia Welles Hawkins says, “I’m 98, and when I was 5 or 6, I remember our family driving from Ponchatoula to Mandeville to catch a ferry to New Orleans for Mardi Gras.

“It was windy and very rough, and I got terribly seasick.

“But we had a good time and came back that afternoon.

“I wonder how long there was a ferry there? Does anyone remember it? Were there cars too, or just pedestrians?”

Trevor’s statue

Ashton Kennedy, 18, says he got to know cancer patient Trevor Sims when Ashton was Student Council president at Central High and, honoring Trevor’s request, helped raise almost $18,000 for the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank.

Trevor, who died just after he turned 11, had requested that people remember him by feeding the hungry in Baton Rouge.

Trevor also said he’d like a statue of himself, and Ashton is raising money to honor “a young boy who set such a great example for children, teenagers and young adults, and adults to follow.”

A “Trevor Sims Statue Fund” has been set up at Chase Bank.

To donate by mail, you can reach Ashton at 9456 Jefferson Highway, Suite D, Baton Rouge, LA 70809.

Renovation needed

Dudley Lehew, of Denham Springs, says this about my tale of my spouse, Lady Katherine, becoming a fan of home improvement shows on HGTV:

“Tell her to watch ‘Salvage Dawgs’ on the Do It Yourself (DIY) network.

“The show is about taking something old and making it look better, an area of challenge where your Lady K and my Mary have plenty of experience!”

(Wonder what he means by that?)

Dinner and a show

Mariano Hinojosa says he and wife Bertha got a little comedy with their meal when they dined at Sammy’s Restaurant recently:

“We noticed the giant aquarium, which is normally teeming with aquatic animals, had only three fish.

“When our waitress Britni came to our table, I jokingly said, ‘So, it looks like the exotic fish appetizers were a big hit with the customers.’

“She quickly responded, ‘Yeah, they loved them, except for one fish. The customers said the clown fish tasted funny.’ ”

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.