As long as I can remember (the MAN says about five minutes) I have always loved the BALL.  The way the BALL gets moist and sticky, especially if I’ve had the BALL in my mouth for awhile, or if the BALL drops in the DRINK.  My friend MCDUFF tells me he thinks the BALL is filled with crack, whatever that is.  know when I really give my jaw a workout on the BALL a crack happens.  That’s when I like to set the BALL between my paws and pick at the BALL to make the hole bigger; there’s all this fuzzy and springy stuff everywhere, but I keep at it until the BALL is just the right size so that the BALL can make that awesome ARP ARP sound when I squeeze the BALL in my snout.  When the BALL gets like that the MAN always wants to drop the BALL in the STINKY box where it disappears forever.  I work hard to free the ARP ARP from inside the BALL and I don’t want to give it up, so the MAN and I play hide-and-seek.  I hide and the MAN seeks.  I’ve got ARP ARPs everywhere.  You can say I’m the one with all the BALLS at HOME.

The BALL is so much more than an ARP ARP, though.  I have BALLS in every stage of degeneration –that’s a word MCDUFF taught me; you can tell he’s smart.  The MAN goes out with me to the YARD and brings a lot of BALLS, and throws them for me to FETCH.  That is the most FUN thing in the whole DOG world!  If the MAN let me, I would chase the BALLS until my tongue drags the ground and my BREATH is running.  When the DAY is straight up and I’ve been playing with the BALLS, I LOVE to flop on my side in the grass, a slobbery BALL in my snout, my tongue laid out beside me and my insides as hot as fresh MEATLOAF.  MCDUFF calls it DOG heaven.

Sometimes I catch the stupid CAT playing with one of my BALLS and I chase him away.  He has no idea how to play with a BALL.  I have seen the CAT put his hind legs on it, and other times the CAT hides behind the COUCH or under a CHAIR and then pounces it. The stupid CAT has no business with a BALL anyway.  If the CAT was suppose to have a BALL, it would be a DOG.  The MAN brought a CAT toy home one day with a STICK (my second favorite thing) a string and a tiny BALL with feathers.  The MAN made me stay away and watch as he tried to play with the stupid CAT.  Notice I said tried.  As soon as the MAN left I took the CAT toy behind the COUCH and reverse engineered the CAT toy, another term MCDUFF taught me.  The MAN called it DESTROYED.  He has said that about some of my BALLS, too, but they look nothing alike.

In the HOME I like rolling a BALL under things I can’t get to and then BARK at it until the MAN gets on his hands and knees and retrieves it.  I call this FETCH, too.  I can do this only a couple of times before the MAN yells NO, my least favorite word. I thought my name was NO for a long time.  It doesn’t stop me from playing FETCH with the MAN, though.  At least until he calls me a BAD DOG and takes some of my BALLS away. Then I cry and cry until the MAN says WELL OK and gives them back.  I can have BALLS everywhere but if the MAN puts one out of my reach I go NUTS.  The MAN knows the power of the BALL and uses it against me sometimes.  MCDUFF says DOGS are naturally addicted to BALLS, just like those little smoky HOT STICKS used to be  to the MAN.  The MAN got over his addiction.  I should ask MCDUFF if the MAN was really ever truly addicted, because I can’t even imagine life without my BALLS.

One day the MAN brought a BALL HOME that was bigger than me!  I tried and tried but just could not BITE the big BALL.  That made me so MAD!  I chased that big BALL all over the house while the MAN and stupid CAT laughed at me.  They stopped when I got a FANG in the big BALL and a pathetic, STINKY ARP came out and the big BALL was no longer big.  The MAN took what was left and dropped it in the STINKY box.  No more big BALL.

Sometimes when I am cleaning myself the MAN says he wishes he could lick his BALLS.  I give him a BALL to lick but he just plays FETCH. Sometimes the MAN is a mystery to me. Maybe he has his own BALLS hidden somewhere, but not only can I not find his BALLS, I have never smelled BALLS on his breath.  I believe if the MAN kept one of my BALLS in his mouth for awhile he would find true happiness.  BALLS are a DOG’s best friend.  That’s what MCDUFF says.  Here is a picture of MCDUFF with some of his BALLS.  He is a GENIUS.

There were only three times a day while in Army basic training when I was completely alone, and that was in the port-a-johns just outside of the mess hall. It became the only time I would be able to smoke, so I developed the habit of wolfing my chow down then holing up in the crapper hot-boxing a cigarette.

It was a brilliantly blistering July day, and we had just arrived for lunch en masse, standing at attention in our uniforms, web gear and helmets. As was the established routine, at command and in unison, we all took our helmets off and held them in front of us until we heard the barked order to place them on the tarmac between our feet, and it had better be with one sound of fifty helmets clopping onto the pavement or we’d do it again until we got it right. Then came the web suit – a wide, strong utility belt with thick suspenders designed to hold a rucksack, a canteen, a small shovel, two full clips of .22 shells for our M16A1, and various metal loops for grenades - placed around the helmet, also in unanimity.

The drill sergeants had us go into the chow hall in single file, take our plate of food and eat it as quickly as we could. I always tried to be one of the first ones out, just so I could get a prime seat in the portable toilets outside and smoke. This day, as I puffed away, trying not to notice the lung-searing chemical smell wafting up from below, I spotted a pigeon feather caught in the vent. Almost unconsciously, I picked it free and sat twirling it between my thumb and forefinger as I inhaled smoke.

In a couple of minutes I was done, so I hot-footed it over to my position in the platoon and waited. About half the group was already milling about, chatting with each other. As there was nobody close to me, I squatted down and sat on my helmet, absentmindedly putting the feather in an elastic headband wrapped around the helmet’s base, designed to hold the forest-colored liner in place. And then I forgot it was there, plain and simple.

Soon, the drill sergeants sauntered out of the mess hall and the entire platoon stood behind their gear. A couple of commands away, and we had out gear back on and were marching back to the barracks . . .when one of the drill sergeants yelled at the platoon to stop, came within an inch of my face and screamed, “Harding, what in the hell are you doing with a goddamned feather in your helmet?”

Without hesitation I stammered, “Whawhat feather?”

The DI yanked it out of my headband and held it out in front of me, and though he didn’t say a word to me, I could feel his eyes burning into me. I’m sure my own eyes must have been as large as frisbees as I felt all the blood drain from my head, threatening to take me down in a white cloud of unconsciousness. My brain screamed Deny!, and I found my voice squeaking, “I . . .duhdon’t know!”

Instead of scorching me with his tongue, the drill sergeant took a step back, held the feather up high for everyone to see, and thundered, “So which one of you shitheads thought it would be a good joke to pull on your platoon leader (me, btw)?” After a few seconds of nothing but fifty scared men breathing and looking around, the sergeant added, “Somebody better come clean, or you’ll all be low-crawling all over the company grounds!”


The drill sergeant had us double time (meaning a jogging run) to our barracks and proceeded to make everyone but me hit the ground and crawl themselves through a maze of dirty obstacles. I stood next to the sergeant as he punished the platoon, reminding them that one of our number had brought this about, and that when he found out who the culprit was, he’d make sure they all found out who the clown was. One of the things he said was, “I’m not going to punish Harding, because he was the object of your little prank!” Knowing I was indeed the one who had done this, I felt shame as I’d never known before, witnessing the entire platoon being grilled in the indomitable heat.

Finally unable to take it anymore, I approached the drill instructor and blurted out the truth, willing to face whatever derision would befall me. To my utter shock, the sergeant made the platoon stop and stumble into formation, then told the ragged lot, “Your platoon leader has just informed me that he’s willing to take the blame for this, and I find that so damned honorable I’m going to show each one of you how unworthy you are to be in his presence! Now back to your bellies and crawl!” If this story happens across the view of any of those poor guys in my platoon, I want you to know that life has a way of balancing everything out, and I’m sure at least three of my
own personal hells were in payment for that day. 

I like reading a wide variety of subjects, and keep certain volumes around, like a book of quotable quotes, a rhyming dictionary, and the New York Public Library Desk Reference. Now, I’m not entirely an academic reader – I’ve been known to carry on a relationship with a good novel from time to time, and I especially like some of the things found on the Wal-Mart bathroom wall, but generally I enjoy sticking my head in books that give me plenty of trivial knowledge so I can bewilder and dazzle anyone unlucky enough to be trapped in an elevator with me. Well, I was poring over a book that tells when certain things were invented, and who the inventor was, when I came across an entry that read that in 1866 a fellow by the name of Alexander Melville Bell (evidently not the Bell that invented the graham cracker – you know, Alexander Graham Bell) came up with the idea of lip reading.

As soon as I read that, I knew someone was making things up.  Do the writers of that book of inventions mean to say that no one did any lip reading before 1866?  What about the poor slave in ancient Egypt who watched two task masters chatting at the bottom of the pyramid?  I suppose since this is before the invention of lip reading, he looked at the one task master’s lips moving and thought he said “Let’s free the slaves after lunch,” when the fellow actually told his buddy “Let’s beat the slaves for lunch.” Imagine the letdown.  How can someone invent something like lip reading? That’s like saying Herman Toot invented the fart.  Before that everyone had to pass gas through their ears. I’d be willing to bet that Oog the caveman was sitting in his cave, saw Mrs. Oog grunting with their neighbor and was able to tell by watching her lips that she said Eekanbeack instead of Hottontott.  I’m not trying to take anything away from Mr. Bell.  If the scientific community felt the need to give him credit for being able to tell what the people down the street were saying, so be it.  It made me wonder, though, what other silly things have been attributed to a single individual, so I did a little research.

In 1285 a fellow by the name of Alessandro de Spina is credited with inventing eyeglasses. I suppose before that, people had to prop their reading material on a tree stump and back away until they could see it. Before eyeglasses people actually had to look through coke bottles.  Before eyeglasses you could flip an old geezer off without him throwing his dentures at you.

Sir John Harington invented the flush toilet in 1589.  If he didn’t get a ticker tape parade for that one, he should have.  Can you imagine what people had to do before that? “Harriet, could you hand me some toilet paper and a fork?  I’ve got a floater here.”  I would have solved the unemployment problem by starting the world’s first pooper scooper business.  Its motto would have been: “Like it never even happened”.

The medical thermometer was invented in 1616 by Santorio Santorio.  He’s probably the ancestor of Duran Duran.  Before his invention patients had to hold mercury in their mouths and then spit it into a bowl of tea leaves.  I bet he had a few bumps in the road along the way, though.  “Mr. Feliciano, I TOLD you not to bite down! Now you’ve got to hold the mercury and broken glass in your mouth until I can get some tea leaves.”

Of course, everyone knows the sandwich was invented by the Earl of Sandwich.  I’m just glad his name wasn’t the Earl of Crap.  “Would you children rather have a peanut butter and jelly crap, or a bologna and cheese crap?”

A man by the name of Edward Beard Budding (someone should have invented a better name for him) brought the first lawn mower into the world.  Goats around the world began dying of starvation.  Yeah, well they should have been grateful they didn’t have to drink all that gasoline anymore.

I could probably go all day like this, but I’ll save you the incredulity.  I do need to mention one of the greatest inventions of the modern world: in 1860 a Mr. John Newnham came up with the idea of the snap button.  Think about how much time and effort he saved! I’ve got another book that chronicles famous last words, and one of my favorite is the suicide note of a man who obviously lived before Mr. Newnham’s invention.  It simply said: “All this buttoning and unbuttoning.”  I
feel you, sir.  Where was the snap
button when you needed it?