Urine the Know

Continued From: How Do You Solve a Problem Like Mike's Yard Bear?

Relief Is Just a Swallow Away
Dawn came and the black bear was gone. My nerves were frazzled, but a face-to-incredibly-large-face confrontation had not occurred, which is always a good night.

That bear's head was so big, my head would have fit comfortably inside it, suggesting we should buy cushier furniture or, at least, some accent pillows.

Not knowing if the bear remained in the vicinity was at the top of my thoughts. I devised a plan. As a Boy Scout, I had learned to "be prepared," so I placed my porridge in the safe and locked it all up!

Neighbor Joanie telephoned a little before ten. I recited the details of the black bear intimidation, prompting her to share an anecdote which enlightened me and would change my life.

One winter, while visiting friends in the snowy wilderness out west, her hosts' six-year-old son announced he needed to relieve himself. His mother instructed the lad to go outside and mark the territory around their home.

It seems that bears do not like the scent of human urine, specifically male urine. Bears are repelled by the odor.

I am, too. But, hey, what am I to do? I handle the business.

Female human urine, by the way, has no effect on bears.

Sorry, ladies, we know you've been struggling to reach equality. Eat more asparagus. Try that.

"So, Joanie," I said, "you're telling me to pee on my house?"

"Yes, around the house. It might keep the bear away."

"Jehovah's Witnesses?"

"Nothing keeps them away."

"Maybe #2, then."

"I don't think so."

"Number three?"

Well, many, many months have passed and there's excellent news to report. No bears have attempted to enter our cabin and I am communing more with nature. I sneak around the dwelling and winkie while I walk.

This bear deterrent has added purpose to my existence, giving me an extra sense of manliness, as I sprinkle security -- and annihilate weeds without a gas-powered wacker.

It's also given me something I've always desired, yet never thought I could achieve. In the tradition of White Diamonds by Elizabeth Taylor, Curious by Britney Spears, and Love at First Glow by J.Lo, I have my own signature fragrance.

Skim Milk and Diet Pepsi by Mike Durrett.

Life Is Sweet


How Do You Solve a Problem Like Mike's Yard Bear?

Continued From: Bear Scare

Being surprised by a black bear near the stroke of midnight and the myocardial infarction of Mikey, well, that tends to wake up a man.

Thank goodness, I didn't attract a decaf bear, or I might have passed out and not have been able to jump into action.

A wide awake chap must protect his castle, especially when his wife is absent. Donna was pajama partying with her mother that night, unavailable to protect me.

Here I was practically in a full-throttled body smackdown under a wild beast (no time for a prom night joke here) without the expressed written permission of World Wrestling Entertainment, its officials, its patented bonehead goons, and Ranger Smith of Jellystone Park, and my wife is off at her Mommy's, doing the unthinkable.

Girl talk.


As usual, in a subversive ritual they don't think I know about, those ladies have the audacity to commandeer and operate a TV remote control device, a proprietary gadget from the undisputed domain of us bear-wrasslin' men, and they take turns clicking themselves into thumb frenzies.

Up and down the channels, they punch. Thumb. Thumb. "Seventeenth Century Doily Stitches" at HGTV. Thumb. Thumb. Wheeling, dealing, and CorningWare on QVC. Thumb. Thumb. Slo-mo ogles at the visual stylings of Larry King.

All the while, they bite the dimples off homemade Brad Pitt-shaped sweet buns -- and the bear bites the smirk off home-dead me.

I was terrified the bear would bust his way into the house, foraging for food, see me as a threat (or treat) and attack. There would be no stopping him, nevertheless I was frantic to locate a weapon.

I clutched Kelp and Morty, one in each mitt. Cats make lousy grenades. I put them down and remembered the secret weapon stored under the sink.

My brother had gifted us with an aerosol cannister of bear mace. It was a festive Christmas. One spritz taught Santa to keep his hands off the damn milk and cookies.

I had no idea if the bear mace would work or not. The shelf date was chiseled in Roman numerals.

The directions were confusing and there was a dangerous chance the spray might backfire into my face. I could not survive a bear in hysterics, pounding his paw on the ground, roaring in uncontrollable laughter, if that humiliation were to happen.

Think, Mike, think.

Thumb? Thumb?



The phone rang. It was Stan, my projectionist friend, working late at the drive-in theatre ("All Denzel. All the Time. Except When the Sun Is Up.").

"HELLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLPPP!!! Help me!! What am I going to do?! Help! HELP! There's a bear! There's a big bear! He's got a PAW!" I said, which in my language means, "Hullo?"

"What?" said Stan, before shifting to: "Shoot it!"

"I don't want to kill it! I'm a vegetarian! I don't kill things! Indeed, I am an enigma! I may be passing into conundrum! I just want the bear to GO AWAY!"

The cell phone signal distorted, as Stan replied, "[unintelligible] Trap."


"The [unintelligible] Trap."

"The Family von Trapp?" I asked, puzzled. "Okay, here goes...

"I have confidence in sunshine
I have confidence in rain
I have confidence that spring will come again
Besides which you see I have confidence in me."

"No!" Stan screamed from my phone, "Quit singing! I said 'The Parent Trap!' Remember 'The Parent Trap?'"

"Not 'The Sound of Music?'"


"I have pleather lederhosen--"

"No," he insisted. "Do 'The Parent Trap' trick. Remember Hayley Mills and Hayley Mills find a bear in their campsite? Grab big pots and pans and clang them together like the Hayleys. Make lots of noise. Bears hate noise and he'll go away."

"You think?"

"It could work."

"You think?"


"You think there's time for soup?"

Continued: Urine the Know

"I Have Confidence in Me" by Richard Rodgers
Bear photos from earlier visit


Bear Scare

Continued From: Forest Dump

Spotting the spotting by The Abominable Yellow Snowman struck a nerve, rekindling troubled memories of a dark incident which occurred last spring.

You may recall my testimony on the black bear at our door in the fall of 2005 ("I Didn't See That Coming"). I've been on high alert ever since, consumed with the whereabouts of that potential man mauler and kitty hors d'oeuvres gourmet.

Seriously, at least two dozen times around each lap of the clock, I found myself peering out windows for a glimpse of the lumbering, giant hulk. I sort of think Ed McMahon is retired by now from those million dollar publisher's check deliveries, so I repurposed the time and effort spent looking for him into gazes through the glass for the lumbering hulk-equivalent bear.

The seasons changed and we did not see the animal.

We were relieved through the cold hibernation months, although I remain unclear as to how intensely bears sleep in the winter. Are they dead to the world? Or do they get up for a stretch and a snack from the fridge before returning to bed and recurring nightmares of riding atop a unicycle in a polka-dotted bellhop's fez on the next "Ellen?"

Near a midnight in late March or early April, I made my farewell rounds through the house on the ritual path to Electric Blanket Nirvana.

I turned off lamps, decreased the thermostat, and told my TiVo I loved it.

While securing the bolt on the kitchen door, I glanced outside. My heart sunk like a falling anvil onto Daffy Duck.

There in the driveway, centered under the only pool of light in the wide, wooded vicinity was THE BEAR! He lounged nonchalantly -- and largely.

He was huge! He had grown to somewhere between the girth of a two-seater overstuffed couch and a small third world country.

When he yawned and protruded the tongue, an overstuffed couch with a recliner footrest.

I say "he," but maybe it was a she. I don't know which.

There was room for both.

Continued: How Do You Solve a Problem Like Mike's Yard Bear?


Boring Boring

Mike's Mailbag
A Bob Walker of Wichita, Kansas, writes about my attractive photograph, seen in "100 Things About Me #92."

"Oh, great. He's passed out into his vest. Is that a bad tooth or gum in your jaw?"

It is my only tooth. I tried doing a brush-over to cover the bald spots, but that's not working for me. Maybe some mousse?

A Randy of Conyers, the Dakota Fanning Capitol of the World, forwards a press item.

"Fantagraphics Books is pleased to announce that it has acquired the rights to publish a comprehensive series comprising Walt Kelly's classic POGO comic strip. The first volume of Fantagraphics' POGO will appear in October, 2007, and the series will run approximately 12 volumes, reproducing roughly two years of dailies and Sundays per volume."

What? No "The Complete SLUGGO"?

An Astroray of somewhere approximating Atlanta sends fast-breaking Sammy Davis Jr. trivia.

"TV star Sherman Hemsley (George Jefferson) says that he was rescued from the grip of a suicidal depression by the ghost of Sammy."

That cat is one groovy poltergeist, man, dig. Peace. Boo.

Maybe the ghost of Sammy can rescue us from the grip of a suicidal depression by the "Boeing Boeing" revival.

The original stage play, a slamming doors farce spinning around airline stewardesses and pilots, is back on the boards in London. Apparently, the script is different than the Tony Curtis and Jerry Lewis film ("The Big Comedy of Nineteen-Sexty-Sex"), which never worked, probably the result of having the amusing innuendo removed by Hollywood censors, as was often the case.

Bad? This movie is why I don't fly.

I'm scarred and I'm scared.

True story: A family friend took her three-year-old daughter to a theatre to see "Boeing Boeing" on the giant screen during the picture's original release.

After a reel or two had passed, little Lisa whined, "Mama, change the channel."

At the Help Desk


100 Things About Me #92

Writing About Humor

Motivational poster: INTERNET HUMOR
Internet Humor motivational poster made at Despair, Inc. Click image for larger version. Read more about Despair and writing About Humor.

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Forest Dump

Stepping Out With My Beasties
For some time, my wife has sought a nickname for our manor and environment. My uncle had his "Red House." Heathcliff had "Wuthering Heights." For the Durretts, I'm split between "Cold Sore Mountain" or "Forest Dump."

The latter is gaining momentum. Here's why.

Many wildlife visitors appear outside the ramshackle cabin where we reside. Deer and bunnies are common. Hooray.

The snakes and bears are too close for comfort. We're wary of such spine-chilling neighbors indeed.

Raccoons, opossums, frogs, turkeys, moles, peacocks, turtles, hoot owls, hummingbirds, and hawks are a few of the guests to drop in to partake of our homespun hospitality, creature comforts, casual dining, reasonable rates, and ample free parking. Tuesday is Ladies Night.

Donna likes to believe the animals find her warm "WELCOME" sign inviting. I humor her naiveté, knowing full well it's the blinking "KARAOKE NOT SPOKEN HERE" neons above the feeders that bring 'em in.

We wonder about which species will materialize next, fingers crossed because we haven't been able to mark off Sasquatch or undocumented yetis on our Critter Lotto game cards.

I traipsed into the yard, the other week, to scout for animal imprints. Abruptly, I stopped in my tracks. It was worse than I ever could have conceived. We'd had a nightmare caller. Unspeakable horror was afoot.

The Abominable Yellow Snowman.

Continued: Bear Scare


Picnic Pictures

We used to rib my mother about the ugly ol' picnic table on her screened porch in suburbia. She painted the jumble of boards more than 25 years ago with some leftover enamel she had tucked away in her utility closet. It was a form of mental cruelty to eat a meal on the monstrosity, an expanse of loud, icky green framing our food.

To my bemused annoyance, I inherited the splintered dilapidation awhile back and relocated it, reluctantly, to our yard at the edge of the forest.

We've been meaning to sand the table and the benches, brushing them up and down with a fresh, neutral coat, but the years, they roll by.

Donna and I have recently admitted we've grown fond of the table in its outdoor setting and don't much fret about what an eyesore it might be. Seeing the table under the snow earlier this month made me think Mom would have relished the sight and the sweet irony of her little boy adapting to her way -- again.

The picnic ensemble has also been a big hit with the local wildlife. We've seen many species fly in or amble up to sniff its aura, and uncover the acorns and berries nearby.

Mom was never able to visit our home in the woods, but her wood's home, and that's good.

I often imagine her sitting at the table, a comforting notion. There she is basking in our robust patch of nature, scolding the birds, bear, and Bambi to chew with their mouths closed.


This Be My Valentine's

We hopped into the roadster and excelled at high speeds and misdemeanors to dinner and a movie.

The meal was gnashed, chomped, and gulped at our favorite Italian restaurant. I had the Angel Hair Pasta, which I always get, but since this was a special occasion, I ordered conditioner, highlights, and extra halos.

At the theatre, we redeemed a coupon for free popcorn. The snack bag was narrow and rectangular in shape and measured inches shorter than my shoe -- a four dollar value! That means the corn colonizing my large toe is worth 19 cents.

The film was "The Queen" with Helen Mirren, perfect in every way.

Well, they did cut corners. I would have budgeted an extra million or two on bigger ears.

Prince Charles is supposed to look like dueling satellite dishes.

That guy picks up 312 channels and complimentary Cinemax on his intuition.


Call Me Mad, Damn

Continued From: Menu and Wife

In the past decade, with Donna's encouragement, I have worked hard as a writer. I've applied myself, looked up many words in one of them word books with all of the words, and achieved the ultimate award of my profession: a free blog at Blogger.

We are celebrities now and it's about time we settled on our celebrity couple name. You know, like Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez were "Bennifer," Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are "TomKat," and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are "Brangelina."

All the kids have one, why not us?

"How about 'MiDon?'" I asked Donna.

"People will call us 'Midol,'" she said.

"How about 'Mido?'"

"What are we, mutts? I don't like it."


"Three syllables?" she wondered aloud. "Too close to 'The Mikado.' Our love is a Gilbert and Sullivan farce without the flute section, yes, but nope, not that name. And take off that kimono. It's the dead of winter. Again, you are not Japanese."

"Okay," I said, "there's only one option left: 'DoMike.'"

"'Do Mike?'"

I whispered, "'DoMike.'"

Our eyes locked. It was electric. We could feel the hunger.

"You want a banana sandwich?"


Menu and Wife

Chapter 27 of the love story begins tomorrow. Valentine's Day is our wedding anniversary.

And what's the deal? What is going on here?

Anytime I give Donna The Universal Sign of Feed Me Some Food, Woman (i.e., the pointed index finger poked repeatedly into my stomach), she says, "You want a banana sandwich?"


No, I do not want a banana sandwich.

Never, NOT ONCE IN TWENTY-SIX YEARS have I wanted a banana sandwich.

I will never want a banana sandwich.

Ain't gonna happen.

Banana sandwich.

What is she thinking?


Fair Weather Friend

100% Chance of Warmth
I know I was critical of the stormy performance record the television weather gurus have prognosticated over the years, but they have been correct on occasions, too.

Last winter, for example, they predicted three and one-half inches of snow -- and that is exactly what we got.

Photo: 3 1/2 inches of snow.
We raise our many milk jugs in toast.


Snow Jobs

"There is nothing to fear but fear itself -- and no moo juice and no wipe."
--Franklin D. Roosevelt
Residing in the south, where few of us see much snow, there is an indisputable fact of life. The hint of an alleged solitary flake falling out of the sky will impel the chicken little people to enter the irrational zone. Like clockwork, they'll invade the stores, snatching every carton of milk and roll of toilet paper in captivity.

I've known folks to hoard cows and pulp mills.

Snowstorms mean big broadcast ratings, if the media can cause a panic to keep terrified audiences tuned in to watch their talking heads and fluffy hairs.

The exploitive, wall-to-wall, rain-to-sleet, TV weather spectaculars usually fail to deliver the actual grim precipitation promised. My biggest complaint, year after year, is the programs are always the same identical telethons -- minus Norm Crosby, Charo, and marching bands with mangy hats.

Stations could run a 16mm kinescope of "The Freeze of '54" and we wouldn't recognize the difference from their last weather emergency telecast. That is, if the footage hadn't exposed black-and-white and armpit-high pleated slacks.

The only new elements in the coverage are the hyperbolic program titles each channel flaunts at any opportunity. Their promotional graphics incite our attention, especially when there's no glacial mass to report.

My bride overnighted with her mother during the tempest in the teevee. The ladies missed out on snow entirely. Nothing plopped from the atmosphere, except bad local news predictions.

Nevertheless, I was consumed with dread and nervousness until I learned of the plight of my loved ones. I fired off this imperative email at dawn.

"Did you survive? How about the toilet paper? Did the toilet paper survive? Oh, the humanity!"

The answers were affirmative. My prayers were answered, but thanks to the unnecessary, escalating hysteria of the weather professionals, the tissue and me nearly cracked.


The Cat in the Heat

I asked Morty if he wanted to walk with me through the fresh snow, but he declined.

Morty prefers to observe snow from a window.

Besides, he was watching a movie -- windowboxed, of course.


House of Many Steps

The Durrett Lair and Dollar Store Museum

That's my silhouette in the bedroom window, pushing Mother Bates in her rocker.

This wide-angle photo is courtesy of neighbors Jim and Sally, who, I'm told, refer to our place as "House of Many Steps."

The nickname sounds a bit Oriental to me. There is a very long flight of stairs, although largely hidden by trees in the snapshot. The rungs descend to the creek shore from the cabin. I assume that's where "House of Many Steps" is derived, owing nothing to my skeltered roamings in the kimono or the ritual bows I direct at chipmunks.

Years ago, my friend Jeb counted the steps. His grand total was 88, causing him to suggest I paint the boards black and white in the alternating pattern of piano keys.

So far, that hasn't happened. Neither me nor the hill is musically inclined.

Photo ©2007 Jim & Sally Smelcer


100 Things About Me #91

This Is My Country

Here are two photographs from Snow Day 2007, capturing the view from our porch. They're as good as any to illustrate why we moved to our own private Mayberry.

I plodded onto the landing at the top of those stairs one February afternoon in 1999.

A few hours earlier:

"My, God, it's freakin' Jurassic Park!" I exclaimed, as we turned down the overgrown dirt road leading to our formerly cosmopolitan friends' new home in the countryside forest. "What are they thinking? There's no Starbucks! The nearest laundromat is a rock. I'm turning this car around at the first Gomer."

Later, having imbibed the serenity and natural beauty of the rural surroundings, I wondered aloud if there were any other lots nearby. At that very instant, I saw the "House for Sale" sign with an arrow pointed up the trail.

I waited for underscoring by Vic Mizzy, but it didn't happen. We set out on foot.

My spiritual transformation, as the unexpected creek appeared below the bluff, must have been like Christopher Columbus setting eyes on the new world for the first time. I knew within five seconds. I had to have that.

I turned to my buddy, Scott, and said, "I'm in!"

Three months later, we were. We bought the place and moved into the cabin.

Um, not Scott, but Donna moved with me. We were long married and we had the cats and dishes and the toaster oven with commingled bubbled cheese residues. It made sense.

Scott had no dowry, so bye, drive safely.

The poor guy is still in shock about our relocation. I'm beginning to think Scott never pictured lifelong suburbanite me as a mountain man. He's back in the big city, 70 miles south, sipping juice boxes in his blankie, mumbling to evaporated milk, and striping oranges to look like Charlie Brown's shirt.

That whole split-second turn of events and upheaval of lifestyles was unlike me. I'm not one for snap decisions. I'm still waffling on who shot J.R.

Meanwhile, I've been quite splendid as a mountain man. Oh, there was a learning curve, especially with the locals. I have to be careful who I say the word "splendid" to and I make every effort to hide my splendid smile -- and my Splenda®.

The fake limp gets me the over-40 demographics, but I had to drop the occasional "We-e-e-ll doggies!" to ward off the ghost of Irene Ryan.

I'm actually adored. My "free flapjacks for the chillun" policy does the trick.

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Snow Business

A blanket of snow and, perhaps, a pillowcase of sleet, and a grandma's hanky of slush greeted me yesterday morning.

We had been doomed and summoned to the bowels of Hell by the media weather sorcerers for days, but only about an inch accumulation accumulated, out of their predicted four and nuclear winter.

The conditions didn't get bad enough for the roads to ice, although I did see one of the flying squirrels living inside our walls denied clearance on the launch pad. He turned around and ambled back into the attic to safety, gnawing on our electrical wires.

What The Weather Channel called a "wintry mix" was enough to cover the ground all nice nice. So, while humming Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride" and John Tesh's "Angels in the Snow," my wintry mix (James Brown's "Cold Sweat" not available), I snapped a few photographs.

That's my woodpile and my pickax chopping stump.




It's a prop.

I bought those logs in 1999.
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