Ask Animal!

Ask Animal

My colleagues ZARDOZ and STEVE SMITH have been offering advice and counsel to Glibs, lurkers, ladies and gentlemen and persons of irregular birth for some time now, so I thought I’d join the fun.  However, just to set myself apart, instead of lifting advice requests from the papers I’ll present some that I’ve dealt with personally over the years.

All names have been changed to protect the… uh…  correspondents.

Unfortunate Plans

Dear Animal –

My son is nineteen.  His girlfriend is eighteen.  They are both high school graduates.  While we live in New Jersey, the kids have settled on the desire to move to California.  I can’t blame them for this, as I lived in California as a young man and really enjoyed my time there.  I do love New Jersey, as it is a settled, civilized place, but I can see the appeal of California as well.

What concerns me is that the two kids have reduced their personal belongings to what will fit in a knapsack each, and they plan to hitchhike cross-country to California. 

Is this a good idea?  What might go wrong with two teenagers hitchhiking from New Jersey to California?  Should I try to talk them out of it?

Woolchester Cowperthingle, Crosspatch, NJ

Dear Woolly –

You should offer no resistance or criticism to your son’s and his girlfriend’s plans.  This may come as something of a surprise to you, but your son and his girl are both idiots.  Sometimes a young person just has to have the stupid beat out of them, and the fact that your son and his girlfriend think that California as it currently stands is a desirable place to move to indicates that they are in possession of more stupid than the usual run of American teenagers.  In fact, I’m doubtful as to whether one cross-country trip will do the trick; you might suggest that if things in California don’t work out, they should hitchhike back home.

Still, if you are concerned for their safety, consider giving them the following pieces of wisdom for the road:

  • Roadside ditches are not good places to sleep during thunderstorms.
  • Never accept a ride from anyone named “Hatchet,” “Alley-Oop” or “STEVE SMITH.”
  • You’re more likely to get rides if you look pathetic. Fortunately, after a day or two on the road this will be pretty easy for them.

I’d advise you to hold out hope that the kids will learn something from this experience, preferably before they hit the city limits, but as a wise man (me) once said, beauty is skin deep, but stupid goes clear to the bone.

Mule Deer?

Dear Animal –

My husband is fond of traveling around the country on hunting and fishing trips.  He normally tells me all about his adventures when he returns, but on his last trip when he went hunting in Wyoming, he was very quiet when he returned home.  I asked him how he did, and he would only say “I shot a mule, dear.”

Now I can understand why accidentally shooting a mule would be embarrassing, but should I be worried that he’ll have to compensate the owner of the mule?  If so, should I encourage him to talk to me about this?  How much is a mule worth?  Or am I misunderstanding him?

  • Roseanna Sparkwaite, Leaf Springs, Indiana

Dear Roseanna –

You didn’t misunderstand your husband.  He shot a mule.  In fact, this happens so often that many outdoorsmen and outdoor writers have invented a mythological beast called a “mule deer” to provide plausible deniability in the event someone accidentally spills out that they shot a mule.  This conspiracy has gone so far that computer-generated images of the mythical “mule deer” often grace the covers of outdoor magazines.  Don’t let your husband use this excuse; there’s no such thing as a mule deer.

The whole matter is rather perplexing, as a mule looks nothing like any game animal you’d normally encounter in the American West.

That being said:  It’s understanding that your husband would be a little embarrassed about the whole matter, but you should gently encourage him to contact the owner of the animal and offer compensation.

Stealth Collecting

Dear Animal –

My wife is becoming annoyed with my passion for collecting old guns.  I generally buy them at shows, estate sales and so on, and have amassed a collection of about sixty guns, which I keep in two safes in my basement workshop.  After my last purchase, she advised me that “if I knew what was good for me, I wouldn’t buy any more guns for at least a year.”

Here’s my problem.  My buddy is selling a Hiram McDonald-Berger shotgun, a very rare 12-gauge side-by-side made only in Sniffpiddle County, Indiana, for two years, from 1892 to 1894.  Obviously, this is a very desirable piece and I really need it in my collection.  How can I convince my wife to allow this purchase?

  • Abner Postlewaite, Ironspot, OH

Dear Abner –

Your wife probably won’t convince easily.  She has apparently hit the end of her tolerance with your collecting, so it’s best just to leave it alone for now; you should instead reflect on the famous old truism, “happy wife, happy life.”

That doesn’t mean you have to forgo the old shotgun, though.  Here’s what you do:

Go to your local home-improvement store and buy these things:

  • Light bulb.
  • Lamp shade.
  • Cheap indoor extension cord.
  • If you don’t already have some, duct tape.

Now a bit of subterfuge is in order.  Go to your buddy’s house and buy the shotgun, but before going home, insert a light bulb into one of the gun’s muzzles.  Put the lampshade over the bulb.  Cut off the socket end of the extension cord and tape the cut-off end to the barrel of the gun under the lampshade.

When you take the gun home, show it to your wife.  Tell her “Honey, I found this old lamp at a garage sale.  I’m going to take it down to my workshop and see if I can get it working.”  Put the gun in the safe and never mention it again.  If she asks about the lamp, tell her you couldn’t get it working so you threw it out.

A little white lie never hurt anyone, after all.  Good luck.

Adventures in Housework

Dear Animal –

I’m a great music lover.  I love music of all kinds, but especially classical music.  I like listening to music while I do housework, generally majestic stuff like the 1812 Overture.

Since I love music so much, but have a hard time hearing it while the dishwasher is running or I am vacuuming, my husband bought me some great noise-cancelling headphones to use while doing housework.  He’s been doing the same thing, and as a result we can each listen to our favorite music while getting chores done around the house.

But here’s the problem:  Ever since I got these great noise-cancelling headphones, our vacuum cleaner isn’t working properly.  Yesterday I ran it around the living room five times and could still see that the carpet wasn’t clean.  Is there any way my new noise-cancelling headphones could interfere with the vacuum cleaner?

  • Katie Limadally, Sudbury, ON

Dear Katie –

Make sure the vacuum is turned on.