Keep Laughing

My mother always liked a good laugh. In her extended family, you would never make it through a meal if you didn’t have a quick comeback or at least a ready laugh.

Mom mugging for camera

They were all like that—the extended Dailey clan—quick retort, a repeated story (either made up or true) was the price of a meal at their table. Mom’s uncle Frank had a reputation for saying just about anything to anybody. Although I never directly heard him say anything he has been reported to say, I understand that his lines leaned more towards the scatological, wanting to get a “Eeeewww” from his hearers more than a guffaw.

One of Uncle Frank’s better-known quips was a question, “Which would you rather do—swim a river of snot or climb a mountain of maggots.” I’ve been told he liked to joke with his co-workers on their lunch break, which leads to this one. It has been said that he had opened his lunch box took out a sandwich and inspected the fixings, and said.

“Yeah, there’s the yellow stuff. Gives a good taste to about anything.” He took a bite and while chewing thoughtfully went on, “That’s a good sandwich. I don’t know what we’re gonna do when the baby quits shittin’ yellow.”


Mom’s Repertoire 

But it was Mom who had jokes and stories that came from who knows how far back in her family history. No doubt they were passed down on nights as families sat around the fire and entertained themselves. Bible reading, hymn singing, and questionable jokes kept the families going through drought, depression, death, and all other calamities that earlier generations in the Appalachian region either survived or fell to.
I absorbed her jokes even when I didn’t understand them. I tucked them away until I could put the pieces together. Here are some of the (questionably) best I have kept.


The Newlyweds’ Chickens:

There were newlyweds who were just going to housekeeping. They didn’t have much—money or belongings, so they were trying to get by on as little as possible. They were renting a small farm but had no animals. “Chickens is what we need,” the young husband said. So off they went to an older farmer’s place. The old farmer sold them six hens and an old rooster. Now the old rooster was about as ugly as a rooster can get.

Make up your mind!

He was missing feathers and had scars on his head from barnyard fights; however, the farmer assured the young folks that the rooster was still able to do what a rooster does best although he would be nobody’s idea of a perfect mate. The couple had not gone far when they heard a disturbance in the back of the wagon. When they looked back they saw all six hens running after the wagon while the rooster stood on the tail gate calling out “MAKE UP YOUR MIND AND YOU CAN RIDE!”

Wifely Concerns

A man comes out of the shower, and as Mom explained, he had a “big bay window” or large paunch. His wife who was scrutinizing her spouse’s physique said, “My goodness, you’re going to have to diet.”
The husband straining to look down asked, “Well, what color is it now?”

A Mournful Honeymoon

A young couple goes on their honeymoon. When they get to their motel the bride goes off to the bathroom to change. The groom picks up a newspaper to catch up on the sports news while he waits for her. Before long the bride comes into the room wearing a beautiful white negligée. She walks around the room makes a few noises but does not catch her husband’s attention. She thinks that a bit strange, but she goes away and comes back wearing a blue negligee. She coughs a few times while arranging the drapes and repositioning a chair. The groom is still reading the paper. The wife gives it one more try. She comes back wearing a black negligee. By now the young man has finished reading and looks up as she comes through the door.
“Well, who are you mourning for?”
Her very honest reply, “Peter.”

Does God Need Some Help?

There was an “old maid” who lived alone, and she was having a harder time keeping her house clean. Finally, she decides to hire a woman to help her. On the first day that the hired woman worked, she noticed a huge amount of dust bunnies under the old maid’s bed. The cleaner puzzled that there were dust bunnies under the bed but not under any of the other furniture.
She had to ask the old lady. “Why so many dust bunnies under your bed?”
“Well, I’ll tell you. The Bible says God made man from the dust of the earth, and I’m saving up for him.”

How to Eat Hot Peppers:

There was a young man who really loved to eat hot peppers, but he had, on occasion, had uncomfortable fiery sensations when the peppers “left his body.” A friend told him the way to avoid that would be to eat ice cream after the peppers and it would cool the area when the digested peppers came through.
What did he have to lose? He ate the hottest
 pepper he could find and followed them with a large bowl of ice cream. A day or so later a cry arose from the outhouse, “COME ON, ICE CREAM, COME ON.”


The Chicken Riddle

Question: If a hen and a half could lay an egg and a half in a day and a half, how long would it take her to lay a doorknob?
Answer: Let me think.
Q: Do you give up?
A: Yes.
So did the hen.
[Nobody said that riddles and jokes must make sense]

Risky Riddle

Question: Riddle-dee, Riddle-dee risk. What does a little boy hold when he goes out to p!$$ ?
Answer: the doorknob.

♦      ♦ ♦ ♦

Question: Where do you live?
Answer: I live in my skin. When I jump out, you can jump in.

♦      ♦ ♦ ♦

A Secret

I’ll tell you something on [name] if you don’t blow it.
[Name] has a whistle up his ass.

♦      ♦ ♦ ♦

Belly to belly; back to the sun
Give a little grunt and the good stuff comes.
Answer: baby pigs nursing


Then there were the general sayings that would come out in conversation and sometimes out of nowhere.

Beat what out of who?
  • As hard to do as beating farts out of a bullfrog.
  • Whatever tickles you pleases me.
  • One time Mom was doing some small carpentry work and had misplaced her hammer. “I should keep it up my ass so I’ll know where it is.”
  • Mom thought a good title for a western would be Ko Tex Rides the Bloody Trail.

As you can see, Mom liked to tell jokes and laugh. This has been a small sampling of her repertoire. I hope wherever she is now that she has everyone laughing.

Margaret Sims Martin 1919-2006

This article was written by Margie Campbell

I have been "writing" since I could first hold a pencil. I would fill lines with squiggles thinking that could convey my ideas to the world. As I grew, so did my interest in writing. It really helped when I learned to make letters and to combine them into "real" words. I have a degree in creative writing and a Master's in English (tech writing specialty). I am retired from teaching all types of writing as an adjunct at community colleges in VA, MD, Ohio, and WV.

2 thoughts on “Keep Laughing”

  1. Thanks for your comment WV. At Bowling Green State University in Ohio there is a cemetery on/near the main campus. Someone once quipped that is for the professors who do not publish. I know that might be a rarified academic joke, but I thought it was funny at the time.

  2. My dad, from whom I am WV once removed, had the corniest sense of humor of anyone I ever met. If he asked us once, “Where was Moses when the lights went out?” he asked us monthly. Then one day I had children and he asked them, too.

    When I finally had a grandchild of my own, of course I had to teach her that one. The look her dad threw me when she entered the room and told the punch line, “In the dark!” before asking the set-up question was priceless. It definitely included a questioning element that I know was tied to my future rep as a Nana in his eyes (and not necessarily in a good way).

    I think family corny jokes can tie together even the loosest ends of family memories. In the decades before interstate highways, to visit an aunt in Syracuse, NY every year or so, we had to travel through every tiny town between Canton and there. As most American towns once shared closely similar layouts, we would inevitably repeat the experience of getting stopped at a red light next to a town’s most prominent cemetery. And we would inevitably repeat the experience of hearing my dad pronounce, “There’s the dead center or town!”

    I don’t say it out loud, but I still say it in my head when driving past a cemetery. (Humor as a form of brainwashing.) I find it fascinating that I can barely remember other experiences I had in Syracuse or at my aunt’s, but medical science could remove my brain from my skull and hook it up to a computer to catalog my memories and that joke would be front and center.

    I loved your topic because in this season of rancorous political scurrillity, we do need to remember to keep laughing. So if someone asks you on Thanksgiving if you got a haircut, be sure to say, “No. I got them all cut,” because somewhere at the table was a person who needed to laugh at something corny and will remember you fondly for it.

Comments are closed.