Some help from the past 2016.01.13


It’s 11:15 a.m. Tuesday morning. I have no column, I have all the sports yet to write. I have a deadline at 3 p.m. The phrase about being up a creek without a paddle comes to mind.

But I’ll stick my hand into old waters because I keep thinking about something I read last week when I was taking care of the Decade Review.

Jan. 15, 1986: Why did Ben pour water into the vacuum sweeper?

“I thought there might be fishes inside,” he explained.

He’s still looking for fish, but 30 years older and living near lots of water in Miami.

In 1986, my wife had not yet started writing her “Midnight Musings” column. I was the one telling tales of young children. Now, in my moment of deadline fear, I’m going to repeat some of those old stories.


“We love writing to you, B L Green, and we want to keep on writing to you, but with the costs of paper and printing rising almost daily, we have to decide which of our friends to write each time.”

Lots of people are receiving this same message.

“Please understand, we’re not saying you won’t hear from us again if you don’t order. But an order NOW will put you at the top of the list for our next mailing.”

Yes, it’s that exciting time of year when the Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes envelop arrives. Unfortunately, I’m no longer at the top of their list. There will be no $10 million for me, but their good friend Ben Green has a chance to win.

I read the opening question of the letter to him: “Do you ever in your wildest dreams think that some day you—hardworking, bill-paying you—would stand a chance of coming into this kind of money?”

He gave me an amused smile, shook his head no and said, “Uh uh.” Then he ran off to pay more bills. He’s such a hard worker.

Actually he ran off to ask Colleen what deer do when they get sick. He also wanted to know if bees have lungs. Those were his two biggest questions this week. He never asked what lungs were.


If you pass Ben on the street, please feel free to answer either of his two current questions:

• Do dogs have guts?

• What’s a train’s last name?


It’s still a few weeks until my birthday, but I already know how my son Benjamin will celebrate. He’s going to put a toilet plunger on top of his head and start marching around the house singing, “Happy birthday, happy birthday.” I saw him rehearsing the other day.

I don’t know where this tradition originated. Certainly not from my family, although I’m sure Colleen will insist that I taught him. I’ll admit to showing him some stuff that I regretted later, but this is one I don’t remember.

Don’t worry about the sanitation issue. Because of his fondness for plungers, we bought him his own. And he only wears it on special occasions.


Strange things sometimes happen when I leave home. I went downstairs one night last week to do a little work at the Observer after dinner. Soon I heard Ben’s voice coming down through the ceiling, rather desperately calling my name.

Then I heard Colleen stating firmly, “He’s not in the toilet, Ben.”

Believe me, I never asked for an explanation.


My birthday came and went last weekend and of course a good time was had by all. 

Ben knows I like to read so he had Colleen wrap up a section of an old Detroit Free Press for a present. Try to act surprised and pleased when you open up a gift like that.

I think he was sincere, but his sense of humor is really growing. It was just a few days ago that he took great delight in locking his mother out while she was on our veranda (the back roof of the Observer office) when she went out to hang clothes.


I had some bad times with Ben the other night. I was experiencing the joys of a homeowner by squeezing into a cabinet under the bathroom sink in a noble effort at faucet repair.

Ben was crying because I took the pony out of the barn and crawled into the barn myself. How was I to know?

A few minutes later he was upset because I wouldn’t leave the barn and go outside to show him the dead bird I found under our feeder.

He made the classic observation last week that the moon follows you when you walk and asked the not-so-classic question: How do tongues get wet?