In the city, we have many entertainment options, such as whether to watch Real Annoying and Vacuous Housewives of Hoboken or spend thirty minutes with Honey Boo Boo. On really good days, we may go to Target and Home Depot. We have Krispy Kreme and White Castle. We are cultured. Still, entertainment decisions in rural America are more complex than you may imagine, such as what type of food product to shoot from a small cannon. More on that in a bit. First, here’s a short list of my activities during a recent visit to the folks in northwest Missouri.
– Shucked sweet corn.
– Got mistaken for younger brother Robert six times.
– Made plans for local bank heist knowing Robert would be blamed.
– Made peace with dog.
– Yelled “Stay!” fourteen times as dog followed me 2.5 miles back to parents’ house.
– Put dog in dad’s truck and returned it to its home.
– Drove out to prairie to look for bison.
– Argued with 84-year-old father about why he didn’t tell me when he needed help around the place.
– Put wheel on hay baler.
– Directed dad as he backed hay baler into shed.
– Helped dad get baler in cockeyed position so that it was stuck halfway in shed.
– Hooked log chain to second tractor to pull baler free.
– Promised dad I would not help him anymore.
– Went for another run.
– Took different route to avoid dog.
– Surprised to find dog waiting in yard of different house.
– Realized I had dropped off dog at wrong house the first time.
– Yelled at dog as it followed me back to parents’ house.
– Told dog I would see her next time I was in the area.
– Met uncle for breakfast at Square Deal cafe.
– Offered to pay.
– Paid $8.62 for both of us.
– Bragged to everyone that I only paid $8.62 for two breakfasts.
– Drove an hour west to have lunch with older brother Jeff, who was renovating space for a new GameStop.
– Remained patient as Jeff ran around like chicken with head cut off.
– Had lunch with Jeff at grocery store.
– Texted everyone I knew that I was having lunch at a grocery store.
– Made smart comment about how of course Jeff forgot wallet as he always does.
– Wondered how many wallets Jeff had lost in his life.
– Paid for lunch.
– Visited apiary.
– Nearly soiled boxers during ride.
– Played cutthroat croquet.
– Suspected mother of cheating during croquet.
– Shot potato gun.
About that tuber weapon: A childhood neighbor and friend of Robert (I’ll call him Bruce for this story) recently married. He and his wife received a potato gun from her father. Because what else would a loving father give his daughter and her new spouse?
Potato guns require three items. 1) a potato (are you writing this down?) 2) a fuel source such as Aquanet and 2) a means of ignition to spark the Aquanet. Bruce says the potato gun can shoot a hole through a ¼’ sheet of plywood from twenty or thirty yards. I will take his word for it. Bruce prefers russets. I have no idea how Reds or Yukon Golds would perform. I would imagine certain types of sweet potatoes could put a big hurt on a target. If you want to fire buckshot, try frozen tater tots. I do not recommend hash browns.
When my brothers and sister gathered at my parents’ house with their families, Bruce texted to say he was dropping by.
Did I want him to bring the tater gun?
Is a bear Catholic?
A little explanation about my parents: The last I checked, they were alive. But they already have a burial plot. And a tombstone with their names on it. Perhaps they don’t trust their children to properly memorialize them, so they have memorialized themselves. The cemetery is across the road from their house. The graveyard’s newest section was formerly a hay field on their property. Their gravestone sits in this new section, no more than 200 feet from their front door. My parents can step outside every morning to see their grave site. Beats watching a repeat of Sportscenter, I guess.
Two hundred feet is also well within range of a well-manufactured potato gun. And a gravestone with “Harold Dee Smith” and “Joyce Elaine Smith” etched on it (death dates TBD) makes a pretty tempting target. I’m not saying I shot at the grave stone, because I’m the good son. However, some of the bad seeds in the family did. Julie, my sister, took the first shot, because she has no moral center. But she overshot the marker by a good fifty feet. Even the third generation took aim at Granddad and Grandma’s stone. No one hit the mark, but a few taters landed within a few yards. Let me stress again that I did not endorse or otherwise encourage this activity. And if anyone says otherwise, I’d like to see the footage of it.
You may think there is something inherently disrespectful about shooting potatoes at the grave stone of one’s parents. You are mistaken. Dad watched and laughed. Also, it’s tradition to plant flowers around grave stones. Who is to say one method of planting is better than another? Why does a shovel have to be involved? Why only flowers? My mother is partial to peonies. The grave sites of many of my ancestors are surrounded by these flowers. In coming years, it may not be peonies that grow around my parents’ grave site, but there will be plants. And as we enjoy a few baked potatoes, we’ll toast my mom and dad.