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Palmetto Bugs and Literary Criticism

The rec.arts.books newsgroup is a high-minded place wherein people discuss matters literary. Sometimes, however, discussions take a curious turn. Consider, for example, this excerpt. It started out as a discussion of the merits, if any, of formal courses in literature. How did palmetto bugs and outhouses get in there?

William Grosso
The primary benefit of a professor is that you have an intelligent person willing to share their knowledge about things they’ve mulled over in great detail. When you get stuck, or when you’re curious about things that are outside the subject area (the connections a certain subject makes with other subjects) etcetera, an expert is good to have at hand.

Richard Harter
In short, you need a teacher to help you replace your misunderstandings with his.

William Grosso
For those who have spent some time in the Marines, I offer this helpful hint: A teacher need not be a drill sergeant.

Richard Harter
Even so, little grasshopper. However a drill sergeant is always a teacher.

William Grosso
Ah, what wondrous words. No one else has Richard’s touch with two-word phrases that end in “so.’ His use of “Even so” (see quote above) is admirable beyond compare.

Indeed, if I may be permitted a pale imitation of the master, it is Just So.

Richard, I dub thee “magus of the ineluctable.”

Richard Harter
Not bad. The last time around it was the maggot of the inedible.

William Grosso
ObBook: Blood Stained Kings by Tim Willocks. A lurid potboiler from Britain, BSK is a simpleminded thriller rendered more memorable by copious overuse of chyle-scented adjectives.

One of the minor characters has a maggot embedded in his thigh, eating the rot out of his gangrenous leg. No doubt intended as homage de Richard.

Richard Harter
Perhaps so. It is an unsobering thought (a unsobering thought being one that drives you to drink) that in the end we are all maggot food. All, that is, save I who was informed by the Lord of the Flies that I was quite inedible.

William Grosso
Not so.

While I am appreciative of the excuse to drink (there’s a bottle of Lagavulin in the pantry just waiting to be opened), I have to beg off on this one. As a Californian semi-vegetarian, I am morally bound to be thrilled by *any* prospect of recycling.

Maggots are beautiful.

Richard Harter
Magnificently so. Your attachment to maggots explains your presence in rab.

William Grosso
Didn’t know there was anything what needed splainin’.

Didn’t think that you would pop for the above explanation neither though. Given the volume of your posts (ain’t hardly no threads you ain’t posted to and most of ’em got hit more than once), it ain’t what you might call a self-esteemful remark.

All in all, it sorta reminds me of the guy who didn’t like to eat cockroaches but thought palmetto bugs was a whole ‘nother story.

Richard Harter
Everything needs explaining. THEY want to know what you’re up to. (I’m into conspiracy theories this week. I don’t know exactly who THEY are, though. THEY used to be the trilateral commission but that’s passe. It’s all very sad. Between the aliens, the pope taking orders from the zionists, and the impending corner on oxygen, there are just too many conspiracies. The week is bound to go by and I won’t even be caught up with Oliver Stone. Tough. A week is all I’m allotting to conspiracy theories. In any case, just remember THEY want to know what you are doing. And why. And who you did it with. )

All in all, it sorta reminds me of the guy who didn’t like to eat cockroaches but thought palmetto bugs was a whole ‘nother story.

Ayup, them palmetto bugs is right good eatin’. You jest pull off the wiggly part and fry ’em in the fryolator. Sorta taste like chicken.

William Grosso
Which parts is the wiggly parts ? I know mama used to pull off the wings and use them as fake fingernails when the money was tight.

“Nothin’,” she used to say to me, “Nothin’ makes a women feel glamorous like beautiful fingernails does. And if we can’t afford them ones they sell on the telly, then we’re going haveta dissect us some bugs.”

But other than when mama was fixin’ to be beautiful, we just popped em straight into the fryolator and ate em whole. They mighta been wigglin’ when they went in but they sure wasn’t wigglin when they came out. They was nice and crispy like and if you dipped ’em in honey, they was sweet too.

The only time a bug ever escaped the fryolator was once when we threw a beetle in there. It managed to escape and make it to the peanut butter jar of lard we stored by the sink before it died.

We left the beetle in the jar, sort of like a funeral casket, ’cause you just got to respect a bug that can make it out of a hot fryolator.

Especially considering the lard jar was clear across the kitchen.

We would have thrown the beetle out eventually. But one night we caught Joe Bob diggin’ through the lard. He claimed he was sleepwalkin’ when he ate it but we all knew he was just too lazy to hunt himself up some fresh bugs.

There’s people in this world who just couldn’t be bothered to do things proper.

Richard Harter
Your mama was a powerful smart woman.

I got to be honest here. We didn’t have no real fryolater. What we did was use a can of 5/10 motor oil. Pa useter to buy it by the case ’cause the belcher (that’s what we called the car) only got 80 miles to the gallon of oil. When we wanted to some cookin’ we’d just take that ole can of oil and put it on the barbecue.

We was smart tho. We’d put the bug light over the can until we got enuff insex for supper. Honey was a big treat for us. Mostly pa would go down to the fried chicken place with us kids. We’d scarf up the sweet and low while pa stood in line. Then we’d vamoose afore we had to buy some’in.

Ma would mix the sweet and low into vinegar made from lettin’ 99 cent bottles of wine stand. Pa used to buy ’em some’in fierce till ma shut him down. Trouble was, the wine made his teeth turn black. Ma said she didn’t mind if’n he drank but blamed if she was goin’ to kiss a man with black teeth.

(re story of Joe Bob)
That’s a right edifyin’ story. I hopes Joe Bob didn come to no bad end.

Michael L. Siemon
curious stuff

I’d like to know where in South Dakota they talk (or write) like that…

Richard Harter
In the institutes of higher learning. Where else?

Michael L. Siemon
That’s the one-room school-house you’ve refered to before? Inquiring Nebraskans want to know…

Richard Harter
Nay, lad, I’m shocked. The standards in a one room country school are much higher. You may say that there is no evidence of it in my writing and well you should. The sad thing is, though, that I skipped a grade. That must have been the one in which they taught literacy.

When I was doing melodrama at Brookings (I was a veritably compleat villain) we slipped into the production a ditty which ran:

Far across the plains from Brookings
Far as eye can see
Stands an old abandoned outhouse
Called the University

The standards of humor at SDSU were low, no doubt, but they have stood me in good stead ever since. I must admit that the ditty was a base libel. USD had many buildings, not all of which were outhouses.

Lest I should be accused of inordinate pride in my alma mater I must point out that Sioux Falls and Brookings had to choose between them the state prison and the state university. Sioux Falls had first choice and chose to house the state prison.

This page was last updated March 2, 1998.