Dear Smiley: All the recent talk about eating so-called Louisiana food in out-of-state restaurants reminded me of two personal experiences:

My first was in Billings, Mont., where the hotel staff recommended a place called Jack’s, within walking distance.

It was a neat enough place, and looked somewhat like an old Western saloon.

I ordered the jambalaya, and like Carrol Jordan’s experience, it came on a bed of rice — with saffron! Decorating the rice was a baked catfish fillet.

The second was in Calgary, Alberta, where my wife and I were attending a reunion.

Friends kept telling us we should check out this nearby restaurant called “Louisiana,” insisting the food was delicious.

Those friends were from Maryland, so I dismissed their recommendation.

Then other friends, from Missouri, said they wanted to go and asked us to join them.

The building was a run-down, dilapidated place. Inside wasn’t much better. Ceiling fans helped keep the flies away.

The menu offered, among other things, red beans with sausage and rice and “Voodoo Chicken.”

The lone waitress was Asian.

I felt sure we were in for another disappointing “Cajun” meal.

The food took forever to arrive but when it did it was outstanding — hands down the very best Louisiana cooking we had ever had outside our home state.

Turns out the cook was a real Cajun from south Louisiana.

In spite of that experience, however, I am still reluctant to eat at any so-called Cajun restaurant outside of south Louisiana.



Faux gumbo

Dear Smiley: Around 1994, I worked as a salesman covering Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

On occasion I would stop off in Laurel, Miss., to visit customers.

On this day they suggested we go to a cafe run by a friend of theirs, who worked offshore at one time.

They said he made some of the best “white gumbo” they had ever eaten.

Well, we visited the cafe and ate the “white gumbo,” and I can tell you that it was milk gravy with boiled chicken, not gumbo!



Thanks very mulch

Dear Smiley: One morning I went to a local garden market to get some bags of mulch.

I got a carrier and rolled it to the stack of mulch bags.

As I was about to start loading, a man I recognized as a former patient walked up and asked if he could help.

I asked if he was working there, and he said no, he was retired and was just shopping himself.

He then proceeded to load all six of the mulch bags onto my carrier.

After expressions of gratitude and good wishes, I checked out and rolled my mulch to my truck.

As I lowered the tailgate a gentleman I had never seen before walked up and said, “Here, let me help you.”

He then transferred all six bags to my truck bed.

After mutual introductions and thanks he walked away.

I could not help but think that my age must be starting to show more and more.

This sad realization was tempered in my mind, however, by the reaffirmation of faith in the goodness of people.



Repeat performance

Dear Smiley: Back in my Air Force days I was attending a monthly ground safety meeting being given by our Col. Kissinger.

The subject matter was motorcycle safety.

He advised us that the accident rate for motorcycle riders was 125 percent.

A second lieutenant in the back of the room asked how it could be 125 percent.

Col. Kissinger replied, “Because some of you dummies are going to wreck twice.”



Science lesson

Dear Smiley: I certainly got a “charge” from the inclusion of science humor in your Monday column.

I’d like to challenge your readers to continue this educational and entertaining endeavor.

Allow me to supply today’s submission:

Two hydrogen atoms walk into a bar.

One says, “Oh no, I’ve lost my electron.”

The other atom says, “Are you sure?”

The first replies, “Yes, I’m positive. …”

I’ll be keeping an ion your column for more jokes.

For now, I’m going fission.


Baton Rouge

Dear Rob: That gag not only bombed, it hydrogen bombed.