by Mike McHugh
Four years ago, I pitched the idea of a column about a Yankee’s view of living in Louisiana to my good friend, Laruen, for her then-new publication. We were at a party, and I made sure to wait until the time was right—that is, at least two-thirds of the way to the bottom of the Crown Royal bottle. Now, exactly one hundred articles later, I’m still going strong, plus I have a line on selling Lauren’s side of the story to Hollywood for the next Hangover movie.
Since I’ve been writing “The Dang Yankee”, the first question I get from people when they see me in public—outside of when it’s open season on Yankees and I’m wearing camouflage—is, “Where’s your wife?” I’ve learned that, around here, it’s frowned upon for a man to leave the house without his wife unless he’s carrying a fishing rod. Even then, she’ll often be seen tagging along, and not to help bait the hook, if you know what I mean.
Another question I often get is, “How do you come up with your ideas?” Well, it isn’t hard. First off, it helps a lot when you’re married to someone where every day is like an episode of “I Love Lucy”. It’s not a bad thing, really, except for the reruns, like the episode where she’s calling her cell phone in order to find it, only she left it on vibrate. That’s the same one where I do a mean job of cursing in Spanish a la Ricky Ricardo.
Actually, my wife is the first one I’d like to publicly acknowledge for this column, because, let’s face it, I’d better. But, more importantly, I’m fortunate to be married to someone who’s such a good sport about it all. I could lampoon her in an article, and she’d just giggle over it as she reads the draft over our morning coffee. Everything is hunky-dory, except for the strange odor of correction fluid in my creamer.
On top of married life, Louisiana itself is a veritable gold mine for the humorist. This is confirmed by the world-respected Cajun think tank, Boudreaux and Thibodeaux Research Associates, LLC, on whose accurate data I have come to rely as a source for this column. According to their studies, Louisiana has more jokes per capita than any other state in the nation. (Fully half of them involve some reference to road kill.) Of course, our state also has the most prison inmates per capita, and that’s counting
only the elected officials.
So there’s no shortage around here of subject material for a humor column. I’ve written about hurricanes, high school football, and weed infestations that I could control only with napalm. I’ve learned, however, that there are certain, sensitive subjects where I’d best tread lightly. I’m talking grave issues where people hold strong, deep-seated views. Chief among these is LSU football. And while I do often hear people knock on the Tigers, I notice that these are all natives talking. It’s a birthright. If you were born in Louisiana, you could say all you want about Les Miles, like, maybe, how you’ve seen better X’s and O’s drawn on a Valentine’s Day card. However, if I, being of Yankee persuasion, tried to say that, I’d find myself resting peacefully underneath a duck blind somewhere in Cameron Parish. This is why I left the whole Honey Badger thing alone, even though, for a time, his comic value rose almost to the same level as road kill.
I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge my many loyal readers. (I count at least ten, including my mother.) So many of you have had such nice things to say about the column. This has helped to keep me going, even though I’m sure most people do it for fear of otherwise having their names mentioned. (It doesn’t work; just ask around.)
Finally, I have to thank my editor, Lauren, particularly for sticking with me through my early period (what the literary critics call my “Brown Period”). She is an English major and reads Faulkner; I’m an engineer who did his senior-year term paper on Dr. Seuss. (I got a “C”, mainly out of sympathy.) She taught me a lot about writing, like how important it is to use the right word. Mark Twain said it best: “The difference between using the right word and almost the right word is like the difference between ‘honeymooning’ and just plain ‘mooning’”.
So now, Lauren, are you sure I can’t get you something for that hangover?