Archive for the “News and Reviews” Category

Interesting items from my inbox and elsewhere …

We’re under-statinated!

Yup, according to this article about a Harvard study, even more people should be on statins:

A new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health researchers has found that it would be cost-effective to treat 48-67% of all adults aged 40-75 in the U.S. with cholesterol-lowering statins. By expanding the current recommended treatment guidelines and boosting the percentage of adults taking statins, an additional 161,560 cardiovascular-related events could be averted, according to the researchers.

Well, why the heck stop at 67 percent? The way these guidelines keep expanding the definition of “at risk,” you’ll soon be considered at risk for a heart attack the day you’re born.  Best start adding statins to baby formula just to be sure.  I’m reminded of something Dr. Malcom Kendrick wrote in his terrific book Doctoring Data:

The boundaries that define illness have narrowed inexorably. When I first graduated from medical school in 1981, a high cholesterol level was anything above 7.5 mmol/L. Over the years, this level has fallen and fallen to the point where a ‘healthy’ level is now 5.0 mmol/L. I suspect it will soon be 4.0 mmol/L. Anything above this figure, and you have an increased risk of heart disease – allegedly. Considering that over 85% of the adult population in the western world has a cholesterol level higher than 5.0 mmol/L this is a quite amazing concept. I will admit that I have never been that brilliant at statistics. However, it seems to me that attempting to claim that more than 80% of people are at high risk of heart disease stretches the concept of ‘average’ to the breaking point – and well beyond.

Back to the article about the Harvard study:

“We found that the new guidelines represent good value for money spent on healthcare, and that more lenient treatment thresholds might be justifiable on cost-effectiveness grounds even accounting for side-effects such as diabetes and myalgia,” said Ankur Pandya, assistant professor of health decision science at Harvard Chan School and lead author of the study.

Yeah, what’s a little muscle pain, memory loss or diabetes when you might reduce your risk of a heart attack by teensy-weensy percentage?

They also found that the optimal treatment threshold was particularly sensitive to patient preferences for taking a pill daily, which suggests that the decision to initiate statins for primary CVD prevention should be made jointly by patients and physicians.

When your physician sits down with you to make that joint decision, I suggest you give the answer I gave when a doctor suggested a statin for my (ahem) “elevated” cholesterol:

“I wouldn’t take a statin unless you held a gun to my head and I was convinced you’d pull the trigger.”

Fat makes you feel full … and makes you fat … and … say what?

Pronouncements by nutritionists often make me want to bang my head on my desk. Others just leaving me scratching my head in wonder. A reader sent me a link to an article about avocadoes which includes this gem from a nutritionist:

As with many other fruits, avocados’ primary risks are related to overconsumption. “Consuming too many avocados may lead to weight gain because of the fat content, even though it is an unsaturated fat,” said Flores. “It can also lead to nutritional deficiencies, since fat is digested slower and leaves you feeling fuller longer than [do] other nutrients.”

Go ahead, try to wrap your head around that one. I double-dog dare ya. In just two sentences we learned that 1) fat makes you feel full longer than other nutrients, but 2) fat also makes you fat. So I guess the key to weight loss is to eat foods that don’t make you feel full. Oh, and 3) feeling full leads to nutrient deficiencies.

Uh … uh … because you stop eating before you eat enough to get your nutrients? But then you gain weight?

I’m starting to think every time a nutritionist leaves a crowded room, the average IQ goes up by at least 10 points.

Soy sorry about the soybean oil.

Somebody get Paul Newman on the phone and convince him to change the formula for those Newman’s Own salad dressings. A new study reported in an online article suggests soybean oil induces weight gain:

Sugar has been blasted in recent years for its link to obesity and a slew of health problems, but now experts say the food world has a new problem child: Soybean oil.

Soybean oil, considered a “healthier” alternative to some oils that contain more saturated fat, actually leads to more weight gain than fructose, according to new research on mice that was published in the journal PLOS One.

Okay, how many scientists and health organizations have to announce that saturated fat isn’t actually bad for us before we stop seeing products labeled as “healthier” because they’re low in saturated fat? A hundred? A few thousand? All of them? Anyway …

For their research, scientists divided the mice into four groups and fed them each a different diet that contained 40 percent fat (similar to the average American diet). One diet used coconut oil (which largely consists of saturated fat), another used half coconut oil and half soybean oil (which primarily contains polyunsaturated, or “good” fat). The third and fourth diets had fructose added.

All four diets had the same number of calories, and the mice were fed the same amount of food.

Here’s what researchers discovered: Mice that were on the soybean oil diet gained 12 percent more weight than those that ate a fructose diet, and 25 percent more weight than mice on the coconut oil diet.

The mice on the soybean oil diet also had larger fat deposits in their bodies and fatty livers, and were more likely to have developed diabetes and insulin resistance. Mice on the fructose diet didn’t get off easy, either — they had similar issues, but to a less severe degree.

It’s only a mouse study, so let’s not get too excited. We can’t conclude that the effects on human beings would be the same. But here’s what I find most interesting: the ol’ calories-in/calories-out theory sure didn’t hold up in this study, did it? Yes, these are mice, but we’re told over and over that CICO is A LAW OF PHYSICS. Mice aren’t immune from the laws of physics.

Neither are humans, of course. If you gain weight, you absolutely, positively consumed more calories than you burned. But what this study demonstrated (again) is that the quality of the calories consumed affects the number of calories burned. To repeat a quote from the article:

All four diets had the same number of calories, and the mice were fed the same amount of food.

So only an idiot would believe the mice on the soybean-oil diet gained 25% more weight because of calories alone.

It could also be a matter of calories alone, certified dietitian-nutritionist Jessica Cording tells Yahoo Health. Soybean oil is a fat, and fats contain nine calories per gram, she says. However, carbohydrates such as fructose contain four calories per gram.

Every time a nutritionist leaves a crowded room …

This thing will stop your weight from ballooning?

Up, up and away …. or down, down and in your belly. A balloon is the latest, greatest weapon in the Just Eat Less! battlefront, according to this article:

The FDA has approved a gastric balloon to treat obesity, adding to a fat-busting device arsenal that includes gastric banding and a vagal nerve stimulator.

The ReShape dual balloon system is indicated for obese adults who have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 to 40, and at least one other obesity-related comorbidity such as hypertension, high cholesterol, or diabetes.

It’s placed into the stomach using an endoscope, and once it’s inflated it is meant to diminish obesity by triggering feelings of fullness, “or by other mechanisms that are not yet understood,” according to the FDA press release.

It gives me great confidence in the FDA to hear that they’re approving medical devices whose mechanisms are not yet understood. But I totally understand that “triggering feelings of fullness” method for losing weight. I feel full after my meals. But those meals don’t include sugars or grains (or soybean oil) that induce weight gain.  In fact, I’ve lost weight while eating meals that made me feel full.

So what kind of dramatic weight loss does the up, up and away balloon induce?

In a 326-patient clinical trial, patients on the device lost an average of 14.3 pounds over 6 months, compared with 7.2 pounds for those in the control group.

Hmm, let’s do a little simple math here. The balloon-belly treatment group lost 14.3 pounds, while the control group lost 7.2 pounds. The trial lasted six months. Okay, hang on … subtract, divide … WOW!! That balloon was responsible for an additional weight loss of 1.18 pounds per month!

I think it would do more good if they filled it with helium and gave it a slow leak. Then people could at least sound like the munchkins from the Wizard of Oz when they say, “I walked around with an inflated balloon in my belly all month, and I only lost one extra pound? What the @#$% is the point of that?!”

Rice not nice to teeth?

This isn’t from an article; it’s from a book. When I commute to Nashville or spend five hours behind a mower cutting the back pastures, I listen to books. The one I just finished is Helmet For My Pillow, by Robert Leckie. If you saw the terrific HBO series The Pacific, Leckie was one of the marines featured. The audiobook is read by James Badge Dale, the same actor who portrayed Leckie in the series, which is a nice touch. You can listen to part of the book and then watch an episode of the series (as I did last week), and you’re hearing the same character speaking with the same voice.

Anyway, in Helmet For My Pillow, Leckie describes how after a battle, some marines would go prospecting in the mouths of dead Japanese soldiers. Why? Because at the time, Japanese dentists filled cavities with gold – and according to Leckie, some of the Japanese soldiers had a treasure of gold in their mouths. Lots and lots of cavities.

The Japanese weren’t eating lots of sugar in the 1940s – even today, the Japanese consume less than half as much sugar per capita as Americans. But they were certainly eating plenty of white rice in the years before WWII. In fact, on Guadalcanal, the U.S. navy was forced to withdraw for awhile, which left the marines stranded without a food supply. They ended up living on rations captured from the Japanese — which mostly consisted of rice.

So I’m thinking whatever its status as a safe starch, perhaps white rice isn’t so great for keeping a pearly smile.

Good thing I don’t much like the stuff.


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I’m just about out of the woods on the big work project.  I’ve been working long days partly to get ‘er done, and partly to front-load my billable hours so I can work shorter days next week.  Weather permitting, I’ll be spending part of my days next week in the front pastures, playing disc golf with Jimmy Moore.  It’s become an annual tradition — which for some reason we always observe during a July heatwave.

Speaking of Jimmy, The Ketogenic Cookbook: Nutritious Low-Carb, High-Fat Paleo Meals to Heal Your Body (which he wrote with Maria Emmerich) is now available.  I haven’t seen it yet, but I suspect he may have a copy with him when he arrives on Saturday.

As you probably know, I don’t measure ketones or aim for ketosis, but I always enjoy thumbing through new low-carb/keto/paleo cookbooks just because some of the recipes look awesome.  I still enjoy plenty of high-fat meals that would be considered ketogenic from a macronutrient standpoint.

We still have 500 pounds or thereabouts of pork in our downstairs freezer, so I’ll have to see if Jimmy has any especially good recipes for Boston Butt.  If not, there’s always sausage …



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Chareva and I were the guests on a recent episode of the AgriCast Digest podcast show.  We talked about chickens, of course, but also about diet and health, why we decided to move to a small farm, the upcoming kids’ book, etc.

You can listen to the episode here.


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Many of you are probably familiar with Dr. David Perlmutter because of his book Grain Brain. I recently finished his follow-up book, Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain–for Life. I can’t quote from it directly because I listened to the audiobook instead of reading a paper copy. (That’s what I do while spending five hours at a time behind a lawn mower on our property: listen to books.) But I can tell you I consider this book a must-read, especially for low-carbers.

I say “especially for low-carbers” because there’s a belief in the low-carb community (which I once shared) that fiber is useless. That belief stems from studies showing no relationship between fiber intake and rates of colon cancer – and that’s why most of us were told to eat our fiber: to prevent colon cancer.

However, the fiber in those studies tended to come from whole grains – which Dr. Perlmutter of course doesn’t want us to eat in the first place, since grains can damage our intestines. Perhaps other fibers do protect against cancer.

But even if they don’t, cancer isn’t the whole story. Not by a long shot. The real benefit of plant fibers is in feeding our gut bacteria. Dr. Perlmutter pounds home that point over and over in Brain Maker: if you want to be healthy, both physically and mentally, you have to feed your beneficial gut bacteria — period, end of story. Those gut bugs want to eat plant fibers. They need to eat plant fibers. In fact, Dr. Perlmutter recommends you fill two-thirds of your plate with plant foods.

Since he’s a hero in the low-carb community, I’m delighted to see this message coming from him. Perhaps some people with a nyaaa, fiber, who needs it? attitude will be inspired to change their minds. As I wrote in some posts last year about why I started adding resistant starch to my diet, if there’s a potential danger in a very low-carb diet, I believe it’s in not feeding the gut bacteria. Dr. Perlmutter is very much on board with a carb-restricted diet, but teaches the reader how to add those all-important fibers without relying on high-starch or high-sugar foods.

As the title suggests, much of the book explains the connection between a healthy gut and a healthy brain. Dr. Perlmutter recounts a number of cases where rebuilding the gut microbiome (with diet or, in a few cases, a fecal transplant) cured patients of depression, or ADHD, or autism, or Tourette’s Syndrome. In some cases, the gut-cure worked after everything else had failed.

But I’m guessing the title is also partly the result of marketing. When your runaway best-seller is named Grain Brain, you’d best put Grain or Brain in the title of your next book. Brain Maker is really about the profound effect the gut microbiome has on the entire body, brain included.

Let’s take an example near and dear to the heart of many readers: weight loss. Dr. Perlmutter describes experiments in which gut bacteria were transferred from thin mice (or thin people) to obese mice. The obese mice became lean. It works the same in reverse, too. When researchers disrupt the gut microbiome of lean mice and transfer gut bugs from fat mice, the lean mice become fat.

As Dr. Perlmutter explains, there are strains of gut bacteria that seem to induce obesity and strains that seem to protect against it. Eating fermented vegetables and other fermented foods helps to populate our guts with protective bacteria.  If they’re fed the right kinds of plant fibers, they flourish. But without the right fibers, their numbers dwindle. They can, of course, be devastated by antibiotics. There’s also evidence that certain pesticides and even artificial sweeteners like aspartame can either diminish the number of good gut bacteria or encourage overgrowth of the bad bacteria.

Listening to the book got me thinking about two classes of people: lean vegetarians and low-carbers who lose weight but stall well above their goal. Don’t worry, I’m not going to suggest low-carbers become vegetarians instead. As I explained in Fat Head and quite a few posts, I grew fatter on a vegetarian diet, not thinner. But my vegetarian diet included lots of grains and few of the types of plant fibers Dr. Perlmutter recommends. Perhaps the vegetarians who really and truly eat lots of vegetables (as opposed to grains and soy) stay lean partly by maintaining a healthy gut microbiome – not because they give up meat, but because they eat lots of beneficial plant fibers.

On the flipside, perhaps some low-carbers stall well above their goal weight because they don’t eat beneficial plant fibers. (For the record, I also believe some people are metabolically damaged to such a degree, they can never be lean without starving themselves, which is unhealthy.) If your diet consists of meat, eggs, butter, cream, more meat, a broccoli sprig here and there, plus a side of meat, there’s not much there to feed your beneficial gut bacteria. Toss in some diet sodas with aspartame, and you could be starving the gut bugs that protect against obesity while encouraging the proliferation of gut bugs that induce it.

So what should you be eating to feed the beneficial bacteria? Like I said, I don’t have a paper copy of the book, but the audio version came with a PDF file of recipes. The common ingredients Dr. Perlmutter recommends include onions, garlic, jicama, blueberries, chick peas, Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, fibrous green vegetables of all kinds, plus plenty of pickled and fermented foods. (Apparently the Scandinavians knew what they were doing when they came up with pickled herring.)

I’d add one suggestion of my own: tiger nuts. I understand why people with blood-sugar issues are hesitant to eat the cooked-and-cooled potatoes or green bananas recommended by Paul Jaminet and others as sources of resistant starch, but I doubt tiger nuts will take anyone’s blood sugar on a roller-coaster ride. They’re 40% fat by calories, with lots of fiber and resistant starch — the type of starch your gut bugs love to digest and turn into short-chain fatty acids in the process.

I’ve been eating a small dish of tiger nuts almost daily for a year or so, and I’m pretty sure my gut bugs have never been happier. My digestion is the best it’s ever been, on any diet. I also sleep more deeply, dream more vividly, and wake up more rested than I used to.

But wherever you get your plant fibers, please get them. (Well, not from grains, of course.) As the book explains, gut bacteria account for 90% of all the cells in your body. We evolved with them, and they evolved with us. They’re as much a part of you as your heart and your liver, and nearly as important. Take good care of them, and they’ll take good care of you.

Brain Maker is an excellent guide for doing just that.


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The hogs have returned home in the form of pork – lots and lots of pork.

Chareva drove down to the processing facility today to pick up the meat, which included roughly:

  • 100 pounds of sausage
  • 25 pounds of ribs
  • 5 pounds of picnic roast
  • 5 pounds of tenderloin
  • 50 pounds of pork loin
  • 35 pounds of pork shoulder
  • 40 pounds of ham steak
  • 25 pounds of back fat (from which we’ll render lard)
  • 30 pounds of Boston Butt

I’m pretty sure those hogs were never anywhere near Boston, so I don’t know how we got all that Boston Butt out of them.  I also don’t know what Boston Butt is.  I guess I’ll find out. In the meantime, it’s safe to say we’ll be eating rather a lot of pork this year.

We celebrated with a meal that almost qualified as farm-to-forks. Chareva made meatloaf that included ground beef, sausage, eggs and sage. Only the ground beef came from a store. (We ran out of ground beef from the grass-fed cow we split with The Older Brother.)

She also cooked up some Swiss Chard from her garden. Man, that’s good stuff.

As I’ve said before in interviews, a lot of us remember our grandmothers as fantastic cooks. Grandma probably was a good cook, but I think food quality had a lot to do with it. When Chareva plucks some vegetables from her garden and cooks them up for dinner, the flavor is amazing. A little oil, a little salt, and suddenly Swiss Chard is the most delicious thing ever. I suspect our bodies sense the nutrient density and interpret it as deliciousness.

Given the way her garden looks so far, we’ll enjoy quite a few delicious meals this summer.

On a less cheery note, we lost an egg-laying chicken. For more than week, some critter was getting into the hoop house where we keep chicken feed and enjoying a free meal. I suspected it was a raccoon, since we keep the feed inside a garbage can with a lid that requires a good pull to remove.

I’m okay with losing some chicken feed, but I figured given enough time, a raccoon would probably find a way into one of the chicken yards. So I set the spring-door trap that’s snagged two other raccoons.

The danged critter wouldn’t go into the trap for the can of cat food. Instead, he reached through the side and pulled out the food — three times, on three different nights. I tried creating a protective mesh around the trap with wire and nylon twine to force him to go inside, but he outsmarted me. He managed to tug and chew his way through the mesh to get to the food. Apparently he knew walking into the trap was a bad idea.

Two days ago, he found a low spot on the ground and tunneled his way into a chicken yard for a chicken dinner. Chareva spotted the mauled chicken while we were doing some work out there.  It’s always annoying to lose a chicken to a predator, but doubly annoying when a raccoon kills the bird, eats a few ounces of meat, then leaves a bloody carcass behind.  We tossed the carcass in one of our front pastures.  It was gone the next day.  Yup, there’s some nightlife in these parts.

We have some heavy branches sitting around that I cut into sections after a storm knocked them down, so I placed one of those against the bottom of the fence to discourage more tunneling. Since the trap wasn’t working, we picked up a spring-loaded contraption that closes on the critter’s hand if he reaches into it for food. We baited it with a sardine and attached it to a fence near the chicken yards.

Sure enough, as I was watching TV late last night, I heard the dogs run out and bark like crazy at the back of their fenced-in area. Well, we caught something, I thought.

The something was indeed a raccoon. I didn’t enjoy sending him to raccoon heaven, but it was him or the chickens.

That’s life in the country.

p.s. — I received an email from someone at a Japanese TV network who wants to do an interview for a news segment about Chareva the Snake Handler.  I’m starting wonder if Chareva is the only woman in the world who ever picked up a snake.


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Hi Fat Heads,

Well, looks like snakes are kind of a big deal, no?

I figured I’d come back and finish up the history of the Naughton men and snakes.

So, when I left off, Tom was rocketing towards the horizon in max flail mode, and Grandpa, Dad, and I were having a good laugh at Tom’s expense. I was especially looking forward to years of ribbing Tom as the owner of the lifetime title of “Naughton Family Snake Slayer.”

Or so I thought.

It turns out that “lifetime” is longer than you might imagine. I did have some years of fun with it. If anyone spotted a snake, or was worried about one, I’d volunteer “don’t worry, Tom will take care of it. Snakes are terrified of him, right, Tom!” This would generally result in some dark muttering on Tom’s part as I would cheerfully relate the story. Again.

[One point I generally left out was that, when Grandpa called “SNAKE!” and set Tom in motion, I was actually startled, too. My startle reflex, though, tends to break one of three ways:

1) Freeze. The brain just kind of overloads, and I just don’t do anything until it catches back up with the action. That happened to be my reaction on Tom’s Day of Infamy. I just looked unfazed.

2) Turn towards whatever caused my alarm. The Younger Sister found this out one night as a teenager when she thought it would be funny to hide in the bushes when I got home, then jump out and yell. I was startled, but she was the one with the big eyes as I whipped around facing her with my hands up. She decided maybe she’d save that treatment for Tom.

3) That’s a number 2 with an added shot at whatever the perceived threat is. The Middle Son caught that one as a pre-teen. He hadn’t discussed with his aunt the prudence of jumping out at me as I passed his room in the hallway on my way to bed. Without thinking or looking, my (open, fortunately) hand whipped out and caught him upside the head. I just kept walking. “Good night, Son.” “Uh, good night, Dad.”

Now, if you think of this from an evolutionary standpoint, none of those are what you would consider optimal compared to Tom’s more straightforward startle reflex. I mean, if that’s a sabre-tooth beast, Tom’s making tracks. I’m either frozen looking, or I pop it one on the nose. Probably related to why there’s not as many of us left-handers!

Anyway, time went on, we moved a few times, grew up, left home, started careers. Life stuff.

So, some thirty years after the Naughton Family Snake Slayer incident, I was working with Dad, and Tom was in the midst of his stand-up vocation, traveling all over the country.

The Wife and I decided to rent a small cabin in Merramec State Park in southern Missouri for a long weekend anniversary getaway. We’d been there a few times before with some of the in-laws and the growing broods of kids we were all generating; in campers and tents a couple of times, renting a big duplex cabin another. It was only a few hours’ drive, beautiful scenery, the Merramec River ran through it (from which we caught quite a few smallmouth bass the first time, but not so much on subsequent visits).

Everything was as perfect as we’d hoped. Some alone time together, did a little cooking, drank coffee and watched the sun come up, took some walks in the woods, went to a local winery for wine and sparkling mead.

Then about the third day, we decided to try our luck fishing again. Our luck turned out the same as it had the last few times — as in, none — so after a couple of hours, we were headed back along the path on the steep banks along the river. I turned to reply to something The Wife was saying, then glanced down to check my footing as I turned back. And my footing was about to include a nice-sized snake that was rapidly trying to vacate the piece of the path my foot was about to land on.

Those three normal startle reflexes?

Complete fail.

In my defense, number 1) wouldn’t have helped anyway — if I froze my momentum was still going to carry my foot squarely onto the snake. And I was already facing the damned thing, so 2) was out, and as for 3), well, I was highly startled, but no way was I going to punch a snake.

So my brain kind of overloaded and I made… a sound.

You couldn’t really classify it as a scream, because it was a lot more guttural. At the same time, my whole body jerked around as I made a last ditch (successful) effort to land my foot anywhere in the county other than on the snake. The fact that I was carrying three or four fishing rods in one hand and our tackle in the other added to the whole effect, whipping around as my arms wildly counter-rotated for balance.

The moment finally passed with the snake nowhere to be seen and me waiting for my heart rate to dip back under 400, when I heard another long, loud noise. This time I did turn towards it — it was The Wife, laughing hysterically. “Hey, it wasn’t that funny,” I explained, “That thing might’ve been poisonous!”

We continued on our way and enjoyed the rest of our little anniversary getaway, the incident in woods fading from memory.

Or so I thought.

Some time later, I came home one day at lunchtime. This was our normal routine — the office was only a few minutes away, and The Wife was staying home with the kids. So coming home for lunch was a nice break for me, good for the budget, and gave The Wife a chance to talk to another grownup. Except this day, The Wife isn’t anywhere on the first floor.


“Lunch is on the table,” I hear from upstairs.

Thinking nothing of it, I start looking through the day’s mail, and I see an over-sized envelope postmarked from South Dakota. Tom and I would talk by phone every once in awhile, and from time to time, he would send letters while he was out doing his standup. They were always interesting, sometimes hilarious (the Professor Woodbury Economics Treatise — which I talked Tom into putting on his other blog, is one of my all-time favorites), and The Wife and I would usually read them together.

“Hey! Tom sent me a letter from out West. He must be doing his standup out there. Cool. Wonder what he sent!”


I thought it was odd that The Wife wouldn’t be wanting to hear what Tom was up to, but shrugging it off, I opened the envelope — and out fell THIS:

I was shocked into stunned silence as the sheer enormity of the apparent betrayal sunk in.

“WHAT THE…?!?!,” I blurted, then “CINDY — YOU TOLD TOM?!?!? CINDY!?”

Then came a small reply from the top of the stairs…

“Um, Cindy’s not here.”

(“hee! hee! hee!”)

I was in a state of shock, as years of teasing Tom played across my memory. I couldn’t let this stand. It would be years of payback.

So, on returning to the office, lunch all but forgotten, I began thinking and scheming on how to mitigate the damage. The following is what I ca– ahem, excuse me, I mean what my counsel came up with and promptly posted back to Tom. I submit it for your review:


A Professional Corporation
%306 S. Grand Ave. West
Springfield, IL 62704

July 20. 1992

Mr. Thomas D. Naughton
Chicago, IL

Dear Thomas;

It has come to my attention that certain misinterpretations (possibly malicious in origin) have been attached to actions taken by my client, a Mr. G.E. Naughton, on or about the late afternoon of Thursday, July 2, 1992. I would like to take this opportunity to set the record straight so as to avoid any further (perhaps litigable) dissemination of erroneous information, via recapping Mr. Naughton’s story as related to me, with exact quotes where appropriate. Mr. Naughton has sworn under oath that this accounting, despite any information you may have already received, is “pretty much almost exactly what happened, I don’t care WHAT my wife said.” To wit…

On the day in question, Mr. Naughton and his spouse set out with approximately $40 worth of newly purchased fishing lures, licenses, bail, and sundry tackle in order to prove conclusively that there are in fact NO fish over 3 inches in length in the Meramec River. The experiment was a complete success, which Mr. Naughton claims was in no small part due to his foresight in leaving all the old tackle – which could have skewed the results – safely stored in Springfield, IL.

Despite this extra initiative on his part, Mr. Naughton still gives his wife full credit in the study, even though she “mostly just sat there when she wasn’t shooting down a steep bank on her butt, which she somehow must think is the correct way to get to the water, since that’s what she does every time we go there, but which I’d NEVER, EVER go blabbing about to everyone I’ve ever met – even though it looked hilarious – because after all, it was our 9th anniversary and I wouldn’t want to embarrass her.”

Having spent a considerable amount of time drowning a collection of invertebrates to ensure that no Missouri Dept. of Conservation employees had surreptitiously sneaked any fishlike creatures into this otherwise “unspoiled” stretch of water, my client and his betrothed began making their way back through the woods.

Mr. Naughton was gallantly leading the way on the trail, carrying most of the equipment, when he was “momentarily distracted for about 20 minutes by the wife’s chattering about how much her feet hurt” (Mrs. Naughton was conducting an inquiry of her own into how fast you can get nasty blisters on the back of your heels from traipsing up and down rocky, hilly terrain in sneakers without any socks on).

After turning his head to convey his heartfelt sympathy for his wife’s plight while continuing down the path, he returned his gaze to the trail in front of him. Specifically to his right foot, which he was about to replace not onto terra firma, but onto the rather long, black tail of a snake which was in the process of somewhat furiously getting the hell out of the way.

Mentally calculating his options at lightning speed and thinking only of the safely of others, Mr. Naughton quickly considered and discarded “Oh, by the way, dear, try not to step on the snake I’M about to step on,” and “perhaps we should notify the park officials that there is a reptile in the forest,” and instead settled on an authoritative “BOOOOOOOOOO-AAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! – aaacckkk!,” simultaneously moving to a better vantage point approximately 10 feet straight up in order to more accurately assess the situation. Despite his cat-like reflexes, Mr. Naughton didn’t get a good view of the rest of the rapidly retreating reptile, although he has estimated, based on the last six inches he saw, that the serpent was probably in the neighborhood of 30 feet long.

Of course, no serious scholar of history would be surprised at the quick disappearance of the snake, as they would instantly recognize his outburst not as the outright terror his uninformed bride mistook it to be, but as the ancient Irish battle-cry which (Mr. Naughton assures me) “the great patron Saint What’s-His-Name used when he ran all the snakes out of Ireland.” His proud Gaelic heritage notwithstanding, Mr. Naughton was able, again owing to his highly trained reflexes, to control the volume enough to narrowly avert disaster – any louder and he “probably would’ve cleared the entire park of reptiles, and completely destroyed the delicate ecological balance.” My client, as you are no doubt aware, is intensely concerned about maintaining the Earth’s precious ecosystems just exactly as they are without ever letting anything change even a “teensy, weensy bit” – with the possible exception of the sneaky, slithering coward (being the snake, of course) which was streaking toward the Arkansas state line.

My client’s wife was apparently joined in her misperception by several other creatures in the immediate vicinity, particularly a pair of deer who were startled into flight moments later by my client and his wife. This too, was easily explained by Mr. Naughton’s natural stealth in the woods, and also partly owing to the fact that the deer in question were “apparently doubled over laughing their rear ends off over some completely unrelated matter’ when Mr. Naughton and his wife happened upon them.

The rest of their trek passed without incident, probably due to the fact that Mr. Naughton allowed his wife to carry most of the equipment after that, keeping his hands free for instant counterattack. Also, anticipating the next sneak attack to come from the rear, he gallantly allowed his wife to walk in front.

…This concludes my client’s version of events, which you will no doubt agree is a much more plausible explanation than what you’ve apparently been told. Having set the record straight, I wish to make certain demands on my client’s behalf:

Mr. Naughton has some concern that you may use this incident as an excuse to pass the title of “Naughton Family Snake Slayer,” which title you have retained for nearly three decades, earned as a boy of six in a completely dissimilar incident. Evidence of this intent is given by your delivery to him of an allegedly authentic “Snake Snare,” which, despite its Dakota postmark, appears to be simply a rawhide shoestring with a noose tied in it.

This has already caused my client severe mental anguish and stress after it was seen by his spouse and children, prompting particular derision from the person-like teenager (a.k.a., “The Keed”) inhabiting his residence. Further mental anguish resulted when he showed it to the Service Representative and receptionist at work, the bookkeeper, his parents, several in-laws, and assorted passers-by.

My client has also expressed considerable anxiety that you may make slanderous reference to this incident as part of your vocation as a standup comedian, causing further (reimbursable) harm.

In return for your discretionary silence, Mr. Naughton states he is willing to remain publicly quiet about your own reptilian adventure, also a certain humorous anecdote concerning yourself and an alleged ”witch,” and several other stories which he assures me he will make up in the absence of your cooperation.

We patiently await your reply.

Warmest Regards,

Ebeneezer Tattooehm
Attorney at Law

cc: Mr. G.E. Naughton
Ms. Cynthia “Snitch” Naughton


So now, as Paul Harvey used to say, you know the rest of the story.


The Older Brother


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