Friday, January 11, 2008

Some things never change

By Kevin Duling

My buddy and I sat near the back row of the classroom. The subject was social studies. The teacher was a man who did not believe in laughter. Most days I could focus and learn the subject as the teacher wanted me to. Some days I could not.

There was at least a month during that school year when someone would have to start a car just outside the classroom. This someone would attempt to start their car everyday at 9:40 am. I remember that time because I used to dread it.

At 9:38, my buddy and I would glance at each other hoping that person would choose walking, instead of starting that beast of a car. At 9:40, we would hear the car door shut.




Not only would the car fail to start without this daily ritual, it lacked a muffler. That person would have to repeat the above madness at least three times in order to have a successful launch. My buddy and I found that extremely amusing. The teacher did not.

I’m not sure how much of the social studies class I can remember today, but I can remember the car. My buddy and I were always astonished how nobody else would even acknowledge the failing car. I find similar situations happening today.

I just received a pouch in the mail containing the pictures from our elk hunting trip last fall. The first picture is my dad proudly holding the head of a large bull elk. The second picture is my dad, my brother, and a lifelong family friend holding all three of their bull elk heads. The third picture is my cousin Bob riding on a large stump as I tow it back to the fire pit.

I believe my cousin’s goal was to hang on for eight seconds, so he could have a scoring ride. He informed me he was the current leader in the western stump riding association and a trip to Vegas for the finals was imminent.

After chuckling about Bob and my picture, I began to see the direct correlation on why Bob and I did not bring an elk home. Perhaps the things I see as funny get in the way of worldly success. How many times has success been thwarted by my uncontainable sense of humor?

Moving to the present, my fiancĂ©e Misty and I were invited to a black tie event at one of Portland’s hotels. The New Year’s Eve event included wine tasting, dinner, a chance to meet a former Miss America, and listening to the former Miss America sing in the New Year.

I rarely attend these “proper” functions, as I don’t own a black tie, nor do I understand how to act at these events. A fish out of water would put it mildly. Misty was excited about the evening, so I had to go.

To start the evening, a friend talked Misty and I into having our portrait drawn by a local artist. Artist she may have been, but I looked like Fat Albert and Misty looked twice her age. Perhaps it was a portrait for 25 years from now.

To me, the highlight of the evening was when the event was ending. A man who looked to be in his seventies sucked in a balloon full of helium and yelled out “Happy New Year Everybody” just as the audience was quiet.

Of the forty people present in the room, I only noticed his table plus four people laughing at his blaring pinched vocal chords. Miss America’s husband was sitting at our table and he noticed me laughing. With a twinkle in his eye, he calmly handed me a balloon and grabbed one for himself.

I suppose success can’t be measured just by material things and accomplishments. To me, an evening with good food, good drinks, and great company, accompanied with laughter makes the perfect evening. If the man in the corner had decided against the helium, the evening wouldn’t have been complete.

Laughter is good like medicine and more people need their prescription filled.

Kevin Duling is a wheat farmer from Maupin, Ore. His stories are available on the Capital Press Blog every Friday. Comments are welcomed at

Copyright, January 2008, Kevin Duling

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