Posts Tagged ‘Comedy’

WHY MANNEQUINS HATE THE 4TH OF JULY

In honor of Independence Day, I proudly present this patriotic column from 2002, in which I salute the brave mannequins who sacrificed various plastic body-parts to keep us safe on the 4th of July.
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© 2002 Mark W. Mayfield

The 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays. I love celebrating our nation’s independence with my family and friends. I love listening to military bands play patriotic songs. I love displaying Old Glory on my front porch. I love reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, including the “under God” part. I love reflecting on the precious freedoms that all Americans enjoy. And I love watching dangerous fireworks severely injure innocent mannequins.

Before proceeding with today’s column, I must issue this important disclaimer: I do not promote, condone, encourage or recommend the use of dangerous fireworks. On the contrary, I strongly urge all readers to purchase only “Safe & Sane” fireworks from a reputable vendor. Do not purchase fireworks with these labels:
“Dangerous & Insane”
“Murderous & Paranoid”
“Treacherous & Psychotic”
“Sneaky & Subversive”
“Naughty & Unstable”
“Slightly Mischievous & A Little Wacky”
“Sweet & Sexy”

I realize that most readers don’t need that disclaimer, but my legal advisers made me include it for the ne’er-do-wells who twist, mangle and misinterpret my columns in a coordinated effort to destroy my reputation as a serious, respected journalist. (“Ne’er-do-wells” is a fancy word used by serious, respected journalists to describe people who have too much time on their hands.) Here are two examples of how the ne’er-do-wells operate. In a recent column about the hit TV show Fear Factor, I said that some executives at NBC are “greedy bigwigs.” Well, believe it or not, the ne’er-do-wells twisted, mangled and misinterpreted those words and then accused me of saying that some executives at NBC are “greedy bigwigs.” In another recent column, I said that my family’s miniature dachshund is “a stupid, worthless wiener dog.” The ne’er-do-wells took that harmless characterization and made it sound as if I had called my family’s miniature dachshund a “stupid, worthless wiener dog.” Just imagine what the ne’er-do-wells would do with this column, especially the part where I said, “And I love watching dangerous fireworks severely injure innocent mannequins.”

Now let’s return to today’s thought-provoking column about the dangers of fireworks.
Many July’s ago, when I was about twelve years old, the evening news aired a graphic film of a “cherry bomb” exploding in a mannequin’s hand. In a split second, several of the mannequin’s fingers disappeared. Because of his carelessness with dangerous fireworks, the mannequin instantly lost his ability to make a living by modeling snow gloves and wedding rings.

That graphic demonstration made a tremendous impression on me. It made me desperately want to illustrate the dangers of fireworks for my friends. Unfortunately, mannequins and cherry bombs were hard to come by, so I settled for a GI Joe and a firecracker. (I bought the firecracker from an older boy down the street. He sold it to me for only $18.00)

My demonstration was much more imaginative than the one on TV. I pretended that “sneaky Russian commies,” had booby-trapped GI Joe’s jeep with dynamite. As several neighborhood kids watched nervously, I ignited the fuse and jumped out of the way. Seconds before the firecracker exploded, I yelled, “WATCH OUT, JOE! SNEAKY RUSSIAN COMMIES BOOBY-TRAPPED YOUR JEEP!” (I intentionally waited too late to shout my warning because I didn’t really want GI Joe to escape the blast.)

The explosion propelled Joe’s little plastic body several yards to the right of the jeep, where he landed with a sickening thud. I then turned toward the stunned audience and gravely said, “That’s why you should never play with dangerous fireworks.” At that point, my mom, who was a ne’er-do-well at the time, ran outside and immediately began to misinterpret my demonstration.

Fortunately, GI Joe received immediate treatment for his injuries. A neighborhood girl quickly transported him to a nearby army hospital, where a beautiful Barbie nurse in a tight-fitting uniform repeatedly kissed him on the lips.

My legal advisers just suggested that I issue another important disclaimer: I do not promote, condone, encourage or recommend the willful mistreatment of plastic action figures. Furthermore, I firmly believe that GI Joe and Barbie shouldn’t kiss each other on the lips until they’ve dated a few times.

The main point of today’s column is this: If you play with dangerous fireworks, you may not be as lucky as GI Joe.

Happy 4th of July!

BEING PARANORMAL ISN’T EASY

There’s a program on A&E called “Paranormal State.” I think the producers stole the idea from a 2002 column I wrote about the amazing powers of my mind. (Okay, maybe not.)
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© 2002 Mark W. Mayfield

I’ve long suspected that I’m different from most other people, but now I’m absolutely sure. My suspicions were confirmed as I listened to a late-night radio show that regularly features guests who believe in the existence of supernatural phenomena, including UFO’s, crop circles and truthful politicians. According to a recent guest, an expert in ESP (Extra Sensual Persuasion), people who frequently experience unexplainable psychic episodes may possess extraordinary mental powers (a.k.a. parasitic powers of the mind). Well, when it comes to experiencing unexplainable psychic episodes, I’m an old pro. I’ve been experiencing unexplainable psychic episodes since 1978, after I slipped on an oily spot in the garage and hit my head on the back bumper of a 1963 Volkswagen.

My paranoiac powers of the mind enable me to see the future. For example, last Saturday, when I was watching the Leave It To Beaver marathon while my wife was doing the laundry, washing the car and repairing the water heater, I just knew she would walk by the couch and say, “Shouldn’t you be mowing the lawn or something?” And that’s exactly what she did. It was really weird. Later that day, after my teenage son unsuccessfully attempted to distract me so he could grab the last piece of deep-dish pepperoni pizza, I just knew I would glare at him and say, “Listen, you gluttonous little punk, if you ever want to use that hand again, put the pizza down and move away from the table.” And that’s exactly what happened.

Now consider this unexplainable psychic episode: During a recent dinner at a friend’s house, I just knew that the main course, Norwegian Meatloaf Surprise, would taste terrible. It did. Need more proof? Yesterday, after a heavy file cabinet fell on my right foot, I just knew I would emit a bloodcurdling scream of pain and say a bad word that begins with the 19th letter of the alphabet. Furthermore, I just knew that my wife, who doesn’t believe in my remarkable paramedic powers of the mind, would vainly try to suppress a laugh when she saw my injured foot, which resembled the Coyote’s foot after the Roadrunner crushes it with a huge boulder. I was right again.

At this point, many skeptical readers are sarcastically asking, “Okay, Mr. Parallel Powers of the Mind, if you can see the future, why don’t you pick the winning lottery numbers so you can be rich beyond your wildest dreams?” I just knew that you would ask that stupid question, and I just knew that I would reply like this: You’re just jealous because you don’t have parenthetical powers of the mind. Yes, I could easily exploit my supernatural abilities for my own wealth and prosperity, but that wouldn’t be right. Unlike some of my fellow phenoms, I’ve vowed to never misuse my periodontal powers of the mind for personal gain (except on Super Bowl Sunday).

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not bragging about my astonishing paramount powers of the mind. In fact, sometimes I wish I had an ordinary, unremarkable mind like yours. After all, having paralegal powers of the mind is a tremendous burden. Do you think that I really want to know that my next haircut will make me resemble an angry Pekinese? Do you think that I really want to know that at the zenith of my professional and personal life, I will be involved in a freak accident involving an electric vegetable peeler and a can of whipping cream? Of course not! Life is much more enjoyable when the future remains a mystery. So appreciate your run-of-the-mill, nondescript mind, and pity the unfortunate few who will always live with the hardship of having amazing parabolic powers.

Mark Mayfield just knew that you wouldn’t believe that part about the file cabinet falling on his foot.

BEWARE OF DEFECTIVE WEINER DOGS

Soon after we were married in 1980, Vicky and I purchased a dachshund puppy. “Odie” (pictured) was named after the mischievous dog in the Garfield comic strip. He was a wonderful pet and companion until he died in 1995. Since then, we’ve had two more dachshunds (three if you count my son’s dog, Marley, who is currently living with us). The following column is one of several I wrote about “Molly,” our second beloved wiener dog, who died unexpectedly a couple years ago.


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© July 2002 Mark W. Mayfield

Several months ago, I wrote a heartwarming column about Molly, the most recent addition to the canine division of our family. Since then, I’ve received lots of requests from happy readers who desperately want me to write another column about our beloved miniature dachshund.

I have a message for those so-called “happy readers.” Your flattering letters and e-mail don’t fool me. Your compliments and praise mean nothing to me because I know who you really are. I know that you’re actually high-ranking members of the powerful Wiener Dog Cartel, who will use any means, including sweet talk, threats and bribery, to persuade me to promote your overpriced product. I also know that you’re responsible for sending me that digitally doctored photograph, the one that shows dozens of vicious wiener dogs attacking my wife and kids in a dark alley. And, by the way, if you think you can influence me with the suitcase full of $100 bills you left on my doorstep, you’ve got another thing coming.

Ironically, today’s column is about Molly, but it’s not the glowing, pro-dachshund column you want. Instead, it’s a hard-hitting exposé about your inferior product, so fasten your seatbelts, and prepare to watch miniature dachshund prices plummet.

Attention, shoppers! If you’re in the market for a small, oblong dog, do not buy a miniature dachshund until you read this column. (Warning for sensitive readers: If you’re offended by graphic words related to dog potty, including “tinkle,” please skip to the next paragraph.) Several months ago, I discovered that Molly has a factory defect called “submissive urination,” which is a fancy way of saying she tinkles whenever anybody touches her or says her name in an excited, high-pitched manner. When I say “tinkle,” I’m not talking about a few harmless drops of puppy pee. I’m talking about large puddles that require at least three extra-absorbent paper towels. According to experts, Molly submissively tinkles to show us that she accepts her low position in the family’s “pecking order.” It’s her way of saying, “I’m not worthy of being in your presence. I am merely an overpriced wiener dog who serves no useful purpose on this planet, but you are a magnificent human who knows how to talk and read and write and drive a car and count $100 bills. Since I don’t know how to bow or kneel, I will now tinkle all over myself to demonstrate my inferiority.”

But, like Molly’s bladder, the experts’ explanation doesn’t hold water. After all, I’ve always been very low in the “pecking order,” but I’ve never resorted to submissive urination. (However, I will admit that I had a close call in the fifth grade, after one of my spit wads missed its intended target, Freda “Four-Eyes” Phillips, and hit my ill-tempered teacher, Mr. Williams, in the middle of his forehead.) Here’s the truth about Molly’s uncontrollable tinkling: Germany’s thriving dog industry recently abandoned its work on miniature dachshunds to devote more time and money to larger, more powerful models, namely German shepherds and schnauzers. The production of miniature dachshunds is now farmed out to shady sub-contractors who increase their profits by knowingly using cheap, inferior parts, including faulty bladders. Of course, the powerful Weiner Dog Cartel will vehemently deny these charges, but I’ll bravely stand by my position until a few more heavy suitcases mysteriously appear at my home–if you get my drift.

A defective bladder isn’t Molly’s only problem. Like most other miniature dachshunds, she also suffers from an annoying condition called “little dog’s syndrome.” When she’s around our other dogs, which are quite large, she compensates for her small size by standing on her tiptoes and acting like an overbearing, loudmouthed jerk. Fortunately, the other dogs take Molly’s boorish behavior in stride and, in fact, feel sorry for her. They realize that she is nothing more than a pitifully short, wiener-shaped misfit who will never be able to look skyward without seeing the private underparts of her much taller peers.

Those are just two of the many reasons that you shouldn’t buy a miniature dachshund. I’ll share several more reasons in future columns, unless, of course, the powerful Weiner Dog Cartel leaves three suitcases full of $100 bills in my garage, next to my lawn mower.

Members of the powerful Weiner Dog Cartel can reach Mark at mark.mayfield@comcast.net

THE END IS NEAR! LET’S EAT!

And speaking of the end of the world . . .
Here’s my apocalyptic masterpiece from 1999, right before Y2K-related disasters were supposed to plunge the world into unprecedented chaos.
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1999 © Mark W. Mayfield

Thanksgiving with my family and friends is usually an enjoyable occasion. We eat, drink and merrily devour anything that remotely resembles a large, headless bird. But something went terribly wrong this year, the year of The Apocalyptic Thanksgiving.

The commotion began when my perennially pessimistic pal, Armand Geddon, interrupted a pleasant conversation about turkey entrails by asking, “Isn’t anybody here concerned about Clinton’s secret plan to use Y2K panic as an excuse to declare martial law, take away our guns and ship us to internment camps, where we’ll be brainwashed to embrace a One-World Government and its evil leader, Regis Philbin?”

“Happy Thanksgiving to you, too!” we replied in unison.

Unfazed by our sarcasm, Armand continued. “Did any of you know that a 16th-century prophet accurately predicted the name of every pope, and that his predictions unexplainably end after John Paul II?”

Valiantly trying to derail this diabolic plot to ruin the festivities, I responded by asking, “Did Mr. Know-It-All Prophet also predict that the most obnoxious doofus in history would be severely bludgeoned by several angry friends on Thanksgiving Day, 1999?” Armand dismissed me with a smirk and segued into a lecture about the Mayan calendar, which mysteriously ends soon after the year 2000.

“MAKE HIM GO AWAY!” somebody screamed.

“Maybe those Mayan guys stopped because they were tired of making the stupid calendar,” I said, determined to reclaim the conversation for the Righteous Forces of All Who Enjoy Cheerful Holidays. “And anyway, who cares about a calendar that doesn’t include Independence Day or Mothers Day or Veterans Day or Memorial Day or THANKSGIVING DAY, which, Mr. Doomsday, we were really enjoying until your stinkin’ end-of-the-world speech!”

Armand then yielded the floor to his equally annoying wife, Irma Geddon, who bombarded us with “the truth” about Area 51, UFO’s, black helicopters, alien abductions, Stonehenge, the Egyptian pyramids, the United Nations, the Kennedy assassination, trilateralism, Gulf War Syndrome and crop circles. She provided a horribly vivid description of the Last Days, which included famine, floods, droughts, pestilence, earthquakes, biological warfare, nuclear annihilation and, worst of all, the Rosie O’Donnell Show on every channel. At this point, we were all convinced that the apocalypse was indeed just around the corner. In fact, everybody in the room desperately wanted the apocalypse to occur at that precise moment, right next to Irma’s chair.

It was Armand’s turn again, and he broached a topic that never fails to make my head spin: The Meaning of Life. Asking my mind to ponder such things is like asking a lawn tractor to win the Daytona 500. The tractor, like my brain, would undoubtedly explode before reaching the finish line.

Armand lowered his voice to a reverent whisper and presented several ominous questions: “What if our lives aren’t what they seem to be? What if we are actually unwitting cast members in a celestial play of infinite importance, a long-running tragedy with an inconceivable ending? What if we are unknowingly following a divine script that was written long before the universe existed? And, my dear friends, what if intermission is over and it’s time for the FINAL ACT?!!”

He delivered the last question with a pounding fist against the table for emphasis. The sound hit us like an apocalyptic asteroid.

Several women broke into uncontrollable sobs, afraid of being unwitting cast members in a celestial play of infinite importance. One practical friend excitedly realized that now would be a great time to buy that expensive SUV he can’t afford. (After all, the Final Act might end before the first payment is due.) Another guy, who doesn’t know the difference between Y2K and KY Jelly, muttered something about the 49er’s needing a new quarterback. My wife, who is strangely immune to apocalyptic rants, politely suggested that Armand and Irma seek professional counseling. The chaos was too much for my overheated little lawn tractor to handle. I slammed my hands against my head, shouting “BLAH! BLAH! BLAH! BLAH!,” a technique I’ve used since childhood to prevent unwanted information from entering my earholes.

Obviously satisfied with the mayhem, Armand calmly sipped his coffee, wiped a wad of pumpkin pie from his chin, and happily asked, “Hey, anybody for a quick game of charades?”

That’s when I apocalyptically whacked him with a can of whipped cream.

Mark Mayfield and his terrified family await the apocalypse in a secret underground bunker, which is stocked with 175 pounds of turkey jerky, 200 liters of generic diet cola and enough Spam to gag the entire population of a small city.

MULCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING

In 1993, I wrote this piece about the perils of poor gardening. It was published in several newspapers and regional magazines, including the Orlando Sentinel, Buffalo News, Pitch Weekly (Kansas City), and the Vermont Times.
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© Mark W. Mayfield

Spring has finally arrived, and winter-weary homeowners are understandably eager to reactivate their dormant lawn-care muscles. But before you begin your annual quest for the perfect yard, heed the words of a wise old gardener, who once said, “A beautiful yard is like a virtuous child. Both require love, patience, attention, mulch, manure, compost, and frequent mowing.”

Okay, so the simile goes a little haywire at the end. It’s not easy to coin a timeless adage about a dirt-related activity. Nevertheless, the wise old gardener’s meaning is clear: Without proper care, your yard will become unruly and rebellious, and could end up in a federal correctional facility. Moreover, an ugly yard subjects you to possible retaliation from the notorious Yard Posse, a ruthless organization that uses intimidation and violence to control the appearance of your neighborhood. Here are some frightening excerpts from its last secret meeting:

Thug #1: Gentlemen, we have a little problem on Elm Street. Naughty Mr. Fillmore hasn’t mowed, fertilized or cleaned his yard in two months. If we allow his slovenly behavior to continue, the property value of our territory will plummet.

Thug #2: Maybe Fillmore’s attitude will change after a visit from Clem the Psychopathic Landscaper and his special “gardening tools.” Clem’s pruning procedure is very persuasive.

Thug #1: The time for persuasion is over. There’s only one thing left to do. Poor Mr. Fillmore will meet his tragic demise at the next neighborhood barbecue.

Thug #2: You don’t mean . . .

Thug #1: Yes, it’s time for the exploding-hamburger plan. If Fillmore won’t take care of his yard, we’ll take care of HIM.

Lazy Mr. Fillmore would be alive today if he had known about some handy laborsaving inventions that make yard work easy and fun. One such tool is the yard blower, a device that creates a powerful stream of air to push your unwanted yard debris to your neighbor’s property, where it magically becomes his unwanted yard debris. Your neighbor can then use his own blower to move the unwanted debris to another yard. This process continues until the last home on the street is buried under tons of unwanted yard debris.

Another helpful tool is the gas-powered string trimmer, which uses a rapidly rotating piece of fishing line to cut grass in areas your mower can’t reach. It’s like a nose-hair clipper for your lawn. (When operating this device, wear protective clothing. A naked gardener, especially one using a gas-powered string trimmer, is just asking for trouble.)

Of course, trimmers and blowers are unnecessary unless you encourage vigorous new growth with mulch and manure, commonly called soil suppositories. Mulch, named after the famous German gardener Erich Von Mulch, is the most versatile substance in the universe. It conserves water, protects soil from extreme temperatures, promotes healthy plant growth, and may hold the key to peace in the Middle East. And fiber-rich mulch is a delicious, nutritious addition to soups, salads and sandwiches. Remember the wise old gardener’s motto: “When in doubt, mulch it.”

When used properly, manure does something that nothing else can do. It makes your yard really stink, and a stinky yard is a healthy yard. Manure is an organic material that comes from enormous manure mines in Washington, D.C. Geologists believe that these vast deposits were produced by huge prehistoric politicians who once roamed the continent. Recently discovered cave drawings suggest that these loathsome predators would say anything to get elected, and what they usually said was–you guessed it–pure manure. Many present-day politicians still gather in the land of their ancestors, mysteriously attracted by a primal urge to contribute to our nation’s manure supply.

Unfortunately, all the manure in Washington can’t help your yard if it’s choked by weeds. The most effective and entertaining way to eliminate weeds is to squirt them with deadly chemicals. Find the biggest weed in your yard and saturate with your favorite brand of weed killer. After watching the slow, painful death of their burly comrade, nearby weeds will be so depressed that they’ll commit suicide by pulling themselves, thereby saving you time.

Finally, remember that a beautiful yard doesn’t happen overnight. But if you’re patient and diligent, if you regularly apply ample amounts of manure, mulch and weed killer, and if you’re lucky enough to avoid a serious string-trimmer related injury, you’ll soon discover that you should have hired a professional gardener.

Mark Mayfield was recently hospitalized after trying to trim his mustache with a gas-powered Weed Whompper. Using a revolutionary surgical procedure, doctors successfully reattached his lips.

IT’S NEVER TOO LATE FOR A CAREER CHANGE

Every 25 years or so, I experience an overwhelming urge to change careers. When I wrote this column in 2002, I was considering two very different professions.
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© August 2002 Mark W. Mayfield

Every man will eventually reach the “over-the-hill” phase of his life, which begins on the fateful day when his teenage son fairly beats him in three consecutive games of basketball (despite the fact that I violently tackled him every time he dribbled the ball and screamed, “MISS!!” whenever he took a shot), wins four consecutive footraces to the end of the driveway and back (despite the fact that he ran backwards after giving me a huge head start), and easily prevails in a grueling sit-up contest (despite the fact that I “accidentally” placed two10-pound weights on his chest).

Like many men who have reached this dreaded phase of their lives, I’m occasionally struck by the urge to do something completely different with the rest of my rapidly passing time on earth, to change course in the middle of life’s journey, to boldly embark on a new, noble occupation, one that offers true spiritual fulfillment.

I really want to be a brain surgeon, an astronaut, Bill Gates or an incredibly wealthy NBA star, but since the sight of internal organs, especially brains, makes me queasy, and since I have a terrible fear of flying, especially at 25,000 mph, and since I look terrible in nerdy glasses, and since my ability to make a three-point basket ranks somewhere between “Almost Never” and “Never,” I had to ponder other options. After much consideration, I narrowed my choices to two professions, which are listed below with their pros and cons.

1. Movie star
I don’t mean one of those old-fashioned movie stars who had actual talent. I mean a modern movie star, whose fame is based solely on his smile, pectoral arrangement and/or abdominal definition.

Pros:

–My blockbuster movies would earn millions of dollars, which is even better than “true spiritual fulfillment.”

–I would have legions of fans who worship and adore me.

–Star-struck restaurant owners would give me free meals.

–Other movie stars would call me at home to invite me to hang out with them. (“Hi, Mark, this is your best friend, Denzel. Several other movie stars and I are going to a fancy restaurant to get free food. Wanna go with us?”)

Cons:

–My greedy agent would insist that I secretly undergo painful “pectoral enhancement” surgery to replace my “over-the-hill” chest muscles with perky new “top-of-the-hill” silicon chest muscles, which are essential for modern male movie stars who remove their shirts during love scenes with beautiful starlets.

–After beholding my impressive chest muscles in my latest blockbuster movie, obsessed female fans would follow me wherever I go, begging me to remove my shirt and flex my pecs.

–My wife would embarrass me in front of those obsessed female fans by saying, “Believe me, ladies, his real chest muscles are nothing special. In fact, I’ve seen better pecs on a jellyfish!”

2. Mideast Peace Negotiator
I can’t think of anything more fulfilling than single-handedly bringing a lasting peace to the Middle East.


Pros:

–This profession doesn’t require painful “pectoral enhancement” surgery.

–I would travel to faraway places and experience different cultures.

–I would frequently appear on Sunday morning news shows, where I could impress the host with my diplomatic lingo. (Example: “My timely intervention has undoubtedly averted a crisis, and now we must move forward, seize the moment, and bring both sides to the table for meaningful dialogue, which can foster mutual trust and eventually lead to an equitable solution.”)

Cons:

–I would have to actually study the region’s politics, history and culture so I can understand what all the fuss is about.

–I would have to look up “envoy” in the dictionary.

–Stray bullets and flying shrapnel make me very nervous.

So if you’re a greedy agent or an influential person in the White House, please contact me immediately. I want to begin my new profession asap.

A FISH STORY

I wrote this piece in the mid 1980’s, when my love affair with fishing was at its peak. It appeared in several newspapers and regional publications, including “Florida Keys Magazine.”
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© Mark W. Mayfield

Few of life’s milestones are more memorable than that first fishing trip. Who can ever forget the thrill of reeling in a scrappy rainbow trout, the pride of posing for the mandatory “My-First-Fish” snapshot, the challenge of removing a barbed hook from your left earlobe after one of uncle Tony’s errant casts, or the horror of discovering that real fish, unlike the tasty fish sticks mom frequently served for dinner, are full of slimy things called entrails that must be removed by hand. And what can be more memorable than watching dad’s boating skills quickly deteriorate after several hearty gulps from his huge thermos of “Special Fishing Coffee.”

Memories like these would be impossible without reliable fishing gear, yet many of us never think about the hardworking, dedicated folks who make the equipment for our favorite fish-related pastime. In their honor, let’s take an appreciative look at our beloved fishing tackle.

The father of modern fishing gear was Arvin Carp, a part-time inventor who also owned a failing condiment company. Carp knew that if he could discover a practical way to catch fish, he would greatly increase his sales of tartar sauce and lemon juice. In fact, Carp coined the famous adage, “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, but if you teach a man to fish, you can sell him lots of malt vinegar.”

Carp’s first few inventions were ingenious but unsuccessful. The Fishswatter, inspired by the ubiquitous flyswatter, didn’t work because the fish always swam away before Arvin could get close enough to give ’em a good whomp. The Fishgripper, a mechanical hand at the end of a long pole, failed miserably because most fish are factory-equipped with an extremely slick finish that allows them to easily escape a predator’s grasp. Carp’s most ambitious project, the Laser-Guided Fish Missile, was a remarkable technical achievement, but it had three serious flaws: (1) It blew up the best parts of the fish. (2) Each missile cost several million dollars. (3) Carp was afraid that a group of terrorist fish might steal some missiles, equip them with nuclear warheads and launch a surprise attack against innocent anglers. (Don’t laugh. According to the Pentagon, certain fish have already unlocked the secret of nuclear fishin’.)

Just when he was about to abandon his quest, Carp discovered a relatively simple method of catching fish with a bamboo pole, some string, a hook and a worm. After successfully using his invention at a nearby pond, he tried to yell with joy, but his lips, which he had unselfishly sacrificed to test the holding power of various fishing hooks, had become a large pink mass of useless scar tissue.

Fishing gear has undergone dramatic changes since those early days. Carp’s primitive devices have been replaced by wide variety of high-tech equipment, and no weapon in the angler’s arsenal has evolved more than artificial lures. The people who design these deadly decoys know that modern fish, like humans, are plagued with many societal problems, including a growing number of homeless fish, rampant promiscuity among teenage fish, the frightening rise of violent fish gangs, widespread crime, and, of course, high gas prices. Using this information, researchers have developed lures for every conceivable situation. One of the most effective new models is the Drunken Investment Banker, which mimics the erratic movements of an intoxicated well-to-do business fish. When large hoodlum fish try to steal the lure’s gold jewelry, they are quickly snagged by hooks concealed in a tiny designer briefcase. The most deceptive lure on the market is the Publishers Clearing House lure, which entices its unsuspecting victim with a chance to win millions of dollars.

What does the future hold for angling? Knowing that fishing tackle has evolved as far as it possibly can, researchers are now using genetic engineering to create fish that are easier to catch. The Traitor Fish, for example, will tell anglers where to find its large, hungry friends. The Cowardly Fish will voluntarily surrender instead of facing the prospect of a long, painful fight. And, in the ultimate gesture of sportsmanship, the Self-Cleaning Fish will bravely remove his own slimy entrails after he’s caught.

Of course, science can’t improve every part of the fishing experience. There will always be quiet mountain lakes, warm summer mornings and the irresistible aroma of “Special Fishing Coffee.”

Mark W. Mayfield DOES NOT condone the habitual consumption of “Special Fishing Coffee.”