“Our country has lost its sense of humor. We need an American humorist. There’s been no one since Will Rogers.”
“I’m not a stand-up comedian, I’m more of a sit-down humorist.”
In the past I submitted the following humorous anecdotes—without success—to different departments of Reader’s Digest. I have reproduced them here in only slightly edited versions to omit such items as personal names.
All in a Day’s Work
As a forty-year-old member of the publications department of a large Christian evangelistic organization, I had found the secretary chair I was using less and less suited to my age, status, or especially my aching back.
After several attempts I was finally able to appeal my case up through organizational channels to the International General Manager—a lady—who assured me that I would be assigned a swivel armchair.
When three more painful months had passed with still no word of my promised armchair, I sent the following memo directly to the lady in question (with emphasis in italic):
TO: Int’l General Manager
FROM: Jimmy Peacock
RE: Promise of armchair (12/12/78)
DATE: 3/12/79 (3 months later)
“Blessed is the man that . . . sitteth (not) in the seat of . . . a maiden” (Ps. 1:1, 123:2).
“Why art thou so far from helping me . . .?” (Ps. 22:1).
“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint” (Ps. 22:14).
“I am feeble and sore broken” (Ps. 38:8).
“Look upon mine affliction and my pain” (Ps. 25:18). “Make haste . . . to deliver me; make haste to help me . . .” (Ps. 70:1).
“Now also when I am old and grayheaded . . . . forsake me not . . . ” (Ps. 71:18).
“(And) I will also praise thee . . . . My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing unto thee . . . . My tongue also shall talk of thy righteousness all the day long . . . ” (Ps. 71:21-24). “Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies . . . . Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates” (Pr. 31:10, 31). “Exalt her, and she shall promote thee . . . ” (Pr. 4:8).
“Peace be to thee” (3 John 14).
Needless to say, I received my swivel armchair posthaste.
July 29, 1980
Note: That chronic back ache from the early 1980s has now progressed to the place that I am in need of back surgery to correct it to avoid permanent and irreversible nerve damage. I have now submitted this memo (edited for gender) to God, my divine International General Manager.
Life in These United States
Several years ago, I, along with forty-four other high school teachers from throughout the United States, was attending a summer French-language institute at Kansas State Teachers College.
For weeks there had been a good-natured rivalry between those from the Middle West, who were by far in the majority, and those few of us from the South.
Finally, our cultural difference was made amusingly clear one evening when, in the course of a “bull session” in the dormitory, I (an Arkansan) and a buddy from Tennessee—both of us raised in the country—were discussing rural life when we were boys. One of us mentioned a “slop jar.”
“Y’all know what a ‘slop jar’ is, don’t you?” I asked our Yankee listeners.
Instantly, a native Chicagoan piped up, and in (what was to us) pure big-city Yankee ignorance, asked in wide-eyed innocence: “Is it for the hahgs”?
My Tennessee friend and I exploded into almost uncontrollable laughter—especially when I choked out, “Yeah, if you can get ‘em to use it!”
Our Yankee classmates waited patiently with puzzled looks until we could get our composure enough to explain that a “slop jar” is what we in the South used to call the old-fashioned, bucket-shaped chamber pot found in every rural Southern home. Obviously, the mental image of a hog perched on a chamber pot was more than we country boys could bear with a straight face!
July 30, 1980
Note: I attended a second such French-language institute at Kansas State Teachers College in the summer of 1965. Later I earned a master’s degree in French from the University of Arkansas and taught French in college. In fact, I taught, and indeed designed, foreign language teaching courses at Arkansas State University. Yet I never had an undergraduate degree or even a major in French. Just another example of my statement that I have never held a job for which I was qualified on paper.
Humor in Uniform
On one occasion, contrary to the customary separation of troops by state, my four-man tank crew was assigned as armor support in joint maneuvers with a full company of French-speaking Cajun infantrymen from South Louisiana.
The cultural differences between our two groups soon became evident. Just how different we were was brought home both clearly and amusingly by a remark made by one of my tank-crew buddies as we sat rather uncomfortably by ourselves at break time—four lone Arkies huddled together in a circle surrounded by a seeming sea of swarthy, mustachioed Gallic-types, all furiously rattling away in (what was to us) an incomprehensible jargon.
After suspiciously eyeing for some time the dark, jabbering militiamen all about us, suddenly my friend leaned over to me and in pure Arkansas tones drawled confidentially: “Peacock, you know whut? Ah feel lik’ a dam’ pris’ner o’ war!”
July 28, 1980
Note: In addition to teaching French in high school, college, and junior college for ten years, I later served as a French-English translator in an international Christian ministry in Tulsa. And I did all that without ever having set foot in any French-speaking country, which I did in 1983 for two whole weeks. After spending twenty-five years learning, teaching, translating, and interpreting French, I have now spent twenty-five years losing it, for lack of use. Today my only contact with French is my daily Bible reading which I do in the same French Bible I used to translate French thirty-four years ago. And I still can’t understand Cajun French.
* * *
Tall, lanky, slowing-moving, and easygoing, my “laid-back” brother, Joe, was most definitely not the military type.
Despite the concerted efforts of the officers and noncoms of the local National Guard unit (which he had joined only to avoid being drafted), Joe steadfastly resisted all attempts to mold him into anything even vaguely resembling a soldier.
The ultimate test of this martial tug-of-war finally arrived during summer camp in the form of the big Saturday-morning barracks inspection. This particular inspection was especially important since it was to be conducted by a spit-and-polish Regular Army colonel.
After hours of feverish preparation, everything was (supposedly) in ship shape, and all was going well until the moment when the inspecting officer stepped in front of Brother Joe.
Eyeing the amateurishly made bunk that sagged disconsolately in the middle like a worn-out hammock, the colonel turned to Joe, who was slouching in a Gomer Pyle imitation of attention. “Son,” the colonel inquired in a fatherly tone, “did you ever think about turning that mattress over?”
With exaggerated sincerity and a twinkle in his blue eyes, Joe drawled in mock astonishment: “Why, Colonel sir, if I was to do that, my blanket’d be on bottom!”
While the colonel stared at Joe in a mixture of surprise and disbelief, the entire barracks held its breath in anticipation of the coming explosion. Finally, after a long moment, the tension was broken when the veteran officer, seemingly recognizing a hopeless case when he encountered one, heaved a long sigh and, shaking his head, turned and walked on without a word.
July 18, 1980
Note: Although he suffered decades of hardship, adversity, and health issues that eventually led to his death, Joe never lost his “laid back” personality. Nor did he ever lose his unshakable faith in God or his undying love for his family.