2012.02.08 Gag me with a present

Written by David Green.

I made it through four weeks of January and one week of February without visiting the column archive, but here’s an old one from the past.

It was first published Jan. 8, 1992, which places it rather close to Christmas. It’s a little late now to be writing about that holiday, but when I saw mention of “Walkin’ My Cat Named Dog,” I had to go with the old column because oddly enough, that song from 1966 was running through my head today.


People are still returning Christmas gifts, so I suppose it would yet be in season to write about some of the gifts exchanged at our family gathering.

We have a strange tradition known as the Gag Gift. Usually that’s “gag” as in joke, but I remember one year there were some rotten bananas that were opened and then mailed to Eat Lansing and later mailed back to Morenci. A little disgusting, but they made wonderful compost. Our garden was excellent, but you had to peel the broccoli.

Back to Christmas. After an exchange of real gifts—and after bloating on dinner and dessert—out came the gag gifts. They’re often the result of a frantic search through basements and junk drawers on Christmas day. In with the new gifts, out with the old.

We seem to have trouble remembering from year to year how they get distributed, so this time it went by the alphabetical order of first names. Everybody knows one of my brothers as Tom, but his actual first name is Alan, so he was the first to choose from the table of strange packages.

Lucky guy. He received a Barbie doll body that had a Mr. Potato Head taped onto the neck. At least it was supposed to be a gag gift. Tom’s three-year-old latched on to that one really fast. I think it became one of her favorite gifts.

Someone was fortunate enough to win a package of dehydrated scrambled eggs from 1971.  A moldy sandal, circa 1967, went to another person. My father thought he chose a toilet seat, but he was visibly disappointed when he unwrapped a hideous wreath. Myself? I received a package of candle butts.

I can’t remember who ended up with this cultural artifact from the archives in my parents’ basement: a 45 r.p.m. record of “Walkin’ My Cat Named Dog” by Norma Tanega. My mother thought it was my sister’s, but I knew that I was the one who bought it back in the 60s.

That set off a discussion of which records belonged to whom as we went through my sister’s old box of 45s. Some obviously belonged to my parents: “Begin the Beguine” by David Rose and his Orchestra; “Way Down South Where the Blues Began” by Bob Crosby and his Orchestra; “Star Dust” and “In the Mood” by Glenn Miller and Orchestra; “Da Doo Ron Ron” by Alpha Zoe.

Ha. Just joking. That last one belonged to my sister Diane. Hers were rather easy to guess: “Hey there Lonely Boy” by Ruby and the Romantics; “Be True to Yourself” by Bobby Vee; “Don’t Just Stand There” by Patty Duke.

A lot of them were simply marked D. Green. Diane, David or Danny? “Lady Jane” by the Rolling Stones. Dan’s or mine? “Sea Stones,” a sample for Dead Heads. I don’t remember even seeing that one before. And what about the record of sitar Christmas music by Jayram Ackarya? And who bought that Screamin’ Jay Hawkins thang?

We came cross a copy of “California Girls” by the Beach Boys that was originally owned by Judy Shoemaker. Her name was crossed out and Roger Hart’s was written on it. And now it’s in our possession. Our autographed copy of Rod Wilson’s “Back on Mulberry Road” was found cracked and chipped. It was a collector’s item.

It was a gag-filled day in the Green household. Unfortunately, I returned home with the same gift I took over: a pet cabbage. I brought it in the house on a leash and made it jump up on a chair and do a few other tricks.

Fortunately, some quick thinking by Ben got it out of our house for good. When my brother was packing up to leave for Minnesota, Ben slipped the cabbage onto the floor of the car. If it kept quiet, it’s probably still there hiding under the seat.

And don’t get any foolish ideas, Tom, because you know it’s against the law to ship rotting pet cabbage through the mail.

  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.base Ball
    UMPIRE Thomas Henthorn tosses the bat between team captains Mikayla Price and Chuck Piskoti of Flint’s Lumber City Base Ball Club. Following the 1860 rules, after the bat was grabbed by the captains, captains’ hands advanced to the top of the bat—one hand on top of the other. The captain whose hand ended up on top decided who would bat first. Additional photos of Sunday’s game appear on page 12 of this week’s Observer. The contest was organized in conjunction with Stair District Library’s Hometown Teams exhibit that runs through Nov. 20.
  • Front.chat
    VALUE OF ATHLETICS—Morenci graduate John Bancroft (center) takes a turn at the microphone during a chat session at the opening of the Hometown Teams exhibit at Stair District Library. Clockwise to his left is John Dillon, Jed Hall, Jim Bauer, Joe Farquhar, George Hollstein, George Vereecke and Mike McDowell. Thomas Henthorn (at the podium) kicked off the conversation. Henthorn, a University of Michigan–Flint professor, will return to Morenci this Sunday to lead a game of vintage base ball at the school softball field.
  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.crossing
    Crossing over—Jim Heiney was given a U.S. flag to carry by George Vereecke (behind Jim in the hat), turning him into the leader of the parade. Bridge Walk participants cross over Bean Creek while, in the background, members of the Morenci Legion Riders cross the main traffic bridge on East Street South. Additional photos appear on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.

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