Mike Berry, of New Iberia, adds to our VW Beetle lore:

"I was going through flight school in Pensacola in the ’60s and the following story was related to me by a fellow student.

"In college, one of his fraternity brothers owned a Beetle and was constantly bragging about its wonderful mileage.

"Tiring of the constant boasting, the guys bought a small gasoline can, and would steal out at night and add a little bit of gas to the VW's tank.

"The unsuspecting owner began to achieve truly spectacular gas mileage, and was insufferable.

"When the mileage exceeded 100 miles to the gallon, the proud owner wrote to Volkswagen extolling the virtues of his miraculous Beetle.

"The engineers at VW decided to investigate. They came to town and offered the owner a loaner while they ran a complete set of diagnostics on the 'magic' car. They quickly decided it was no better than any other Beetle.

"The fraternity brothers, thereafter, began to periodically siphon a little bit of gas out of the car's tank, resulting in truly horrible gas mileage.

"The owner was convinced that the VW people had stolen his magic engine and replaced it with some sort of factory reject.

"He probably holds a grudge to this day."

Which reminds me

Speaking of car pranks:

Back when I worked for the Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce, I drove an Austin-Healey Sprite, a tiny British sports car.

One afternoon after work, I got in my car to join the other guys for happy hour at the Pastime. But when I put it in reverse and gave it the gas, it didn't move.

Fearing that some disaster had befallen my beloved Sprite, I leaped out — to find my buddies had lifted up the car and put a wooden Coke case under the rear axle. The Sprite was so low that the case prevented the back wheels from touching the ground.

As I stood there looking at this, the guys showed up, laughing their fool heads off. But they made up for it by paying for my root beer all evening.

Chinaberry chronicles

  • Nobey Benoit continues our seminar on chinaberry (chinaball) trees:

"All the talk about chinaball popguns really brings back childhood memories. We had hours of fun making those popguns, collecting the 'ammo' then having neighborhood battles.

"The fun didn't stop when the chinaball trees were stripped of balls. We'd simply cut another section of bamboo, leave a node on one end, bore a small hole in the node, tie a piece of cloth on the end of the broomstick pushrod and have water fights with our new water guns.

"Whatever happened to all those chinaball trees? Did a freeze kill them all?"

  • Buddy Van Wick, of Scott, says, "Growing up in south Mississippi, chinaberries were a problem in our yard.

"Seeing our cat meowing at the back window one hot afternoon, I saw two mockingbirds stumbling around the backyard. Apparently the berries had fermented and the birds were drunk."

Special People Dept.

  • Ethel LeBlanc, of Donaldsonville, celebrates her 97th birthday Wednesday, Aug. 7.
  • Darrell and Gloria Girouard, of Baton Rouge, celebrated their 57th anniversary Monday, Aug. 5.

Feeding Phideaux

Faye Hoffman Talbot, of Clinton, says, "I find that most dog food packaging is more tamper proof than most human food.

"In order to feed my dogs, I have to remove a plastic cover and then peel off a foil seal. Maybe that is why we haven't seen anyone licking dog food and putting it back on the shelf on YouTube.

"Of course, the smell might stop them from licking."

That's poor!

Algie Petrere, of Central, says, "Donald Landaiche’s post in your column Saturday (about riding the ferry for a nickel) reminded me of something a friend of mine used to say. It described the childhood of a lot of people my age. (I started to say 'our age,' but decided against it.)

"If they were selling steamboat rides for a nickel, all I could do is run up and down the bank yelling, 'Ain’t that cheap!' "

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.