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Remembering Snook
By Rick brown

Editor’s note: Since it is the 10th anniversary of my father’s death and I just helped celebrate his brother’s 80th birthday (along with my 17,000 or so cousins) I wanted to reprise this piece…originally published
5 years ago…in both their honors. rb

It was ten years ago this month that my father passed away. I always reflect on this because he ended up dying close to the same day as my mother ... except nine years later. So, it’s impossible for me to go through spring, Mother’s, and Father’s Days without pausing for reflection. And his birthday was June 16th so there were many years that it was the same day as Father’s Day.

My Dad’s nickname was Snook. He got it from one or more of his many brothers and sisters who numbered 10 or 11 ... I forget. I had an Uncle Skeek. I had an Uncle Mooney. Snook’s real name was Richard ... like mine ... and he went by Dick almost always. Yet my cousins always called him “Uncle Snookie”. He didn’t much like the moniker ... but it stuck like glue.

I won’t kid you. The guy was a real pain to live with ... demanding ... boisterous ... you’re typical blue-collar father. But he was a good father. He came home after work every day. He was hard on us kids ... but he loved us. He was hard on my mother ... but he loved her. Yet even though he quit high school to join the Navy and go to war he had a certain decency ... and wisdom ... an intuitiveness that I don’t remember seeing in my friend’s more mild mannered fathers.

He had this sense of humor. He would just start with the dumb jokes until he found one that finally made you laugh. “Hey ... you know Fat Burns? Just light a match to it!” “Ever heard of Phil Dirt? He’s Sam Spade’s brother in law.” And then there was my personal favorite. He would say in a very deadpan voice, “You know what BURNS my ass?” Then he would thrust his hand out about waist high and yell, “ a FIRE ‘bout THIS HIGH!!!” It still cracks me up. And he would do these outrageous things no one else would have the nerve to do. Like when he heard a rumor that the owner of the shop he worked at was moving the place to Texas ... whenever the bosses would come around he would start singing, “The stars at night are big and bright” clap, clap, clap, “Deep in the heart of Texas.”

Snook did this great imitation of the Pope. He would make the sign of the cross and chant, “Icanbeatanybodyinthishouseindominoes!!”
This too still cracks me up! And whenever we drove past a cemetery he would say, “Hard to believe but people are DYING to get into that place!” Religion was a good subject for him. His philosophy for why he attended church regularly? “You’re dead a LONG time.” I think that’s funny ... and more honest than most churchgoers.

For a while my two brothers, Snook, and I were custodians at our church. What this means is that you do a lot of work, get paid very little, are appreciated even less and learn that it’s the LAWYER who becomes president of the congregation ... not the janitor. Still Snook made the best of the situation. I remember the whole family would be getting ready for church, invariably running late and you would see my father frantically brushing the shoulders of his sport coat while shouting downstairs at my poor mother, “GOD DAMNED DOG HAIR!! ANNE! ANNE!” Like somehow it was her fault. One time we had to get to church really early ... way before the minister did. Why? Because Snook left his cigar on the altar. Fortunately it had gone out before he put it there. And then there was the time he put the bowl from the baptismal fount on his head and went into this routine like he was shooting a machine gun! “Rat-tat-tat-tat!”

One time when I was a kid I asked my dad if our ancestors came over on the Mayflower. He told me they did. When I learned later on it wasn’t true and confronted him about it he said, “There had to be a Brown in there somewhere. And what the hell difference does it make which boat we came over on? We got here didn’t we?” That’s the way he was. Seat of your pants, blue-collar truisms that sometimes contradicted each other ... but it didn’t matter. “You can’t get rich by workin’ ” He’d say, “It takes money to make money.” Or “You don’t get nothin’ for nothin’ ... which ... I believe is a triple negative ... maybe quadruple ... but true none the less. On domestic issues it was either, “You can’t have dogs AND furniture” or “You can’t have KIDS AND furniture” Both of which we all know to be true.

For a while my father had a lawn mower repair shop in the garage out back. I have many fond memories of hanging out there watching him work and listening to baseball on a warm summer night. Tony DiAngelo from across the street would be bangin’ away at a mower with a hammer ... which seemed to be the only tool he knew how to use. He worked at a junkyard you see. Those were good times. Snook had these signs up in the shop. One read “Confucius say, No got the cash ... no cut the grass.” And “Confucius say, “No got the doe ... no gonna mow.” And my favorite, “Good tools cost money! Maybe mine aren’t good but put them back anyway!”

And how he LOVED to watch television. Ironically it brought the family together ... because there was only one television. Snook’s television. But we all sat around watching “Gunsmoke” and whatever Snook wanted to watch. These are some fond memories. Once ... after I had gone off to college ... he and my mom were visiting me at school when Snook told me, “Television ain’t any good any more Ricky”. When I asked him why he replied, “They ran out of PLOTS!!”

So this is the kind of guy he was. But the big thing I learned from him was tolerance. Yes from this belligerent, frustrated man I learned to be tolerant of others. Having served in the navy during World War II ... a subject he almost never spoke of…he was on a ship that went in after a battle, removed the dead and helped repair the guns. He wasn’t proud of this. Once he told me about a friend of his…a black man. In order for Snook to see his friend he had to go to the back of the ship to the galley. Why? Because the cooks were black and they had to be segregated in the galley ... away from the white guys. Same navy…same country. One time while we were on a vacation in South Carolina he and I took the car to a garage because the exhaust was falling off. While the car was up on the rack he introduced himself to a man of color there for much the same reason. The man’s name was Redd and Snook said, “Imagine that! A white man named Brown and a black man named Redd.” A year later when I invited a black friend from Akron that I had met at a youth church function to stay at our house Snook insisted we all go to church together ... and I remember people walking out…white people of course.

When I was 12 he bought me my first guitar. We looked at inexpensive guitars first but when he learned they were made in Japan he bought me a Gibson ... from the good old USA. “I ain’t buyin’ no Jap guitar”. He said. Yet 7 or 8 years later he bought a Mazda and proclaimed, “Them Japs make good cars Ricky!” I guess he forgave them by then.

Oh sure ... I’m romanticizing a little here. I don’t miss going out to change the oil in the car on the coldest night of the year after he waited until it was dark. “Put the oil in Rick!” “Does it go in this hole dad?” “NOOOOO ... I want you to POUR it all over the engine!” Or when I was going on a date and he didn’t like the girl he’d say, “Don’t do any thing stupid.” I’d say,” Waddya mean?” And Snook would yell, “YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN!” Hey I do not miss those times ... funny as they seem now.

After my mom died Snook met a woman and remarried. She was nice enough ... but she was a Southern Baptist. So Snook became a Southern Baptist ... and believe me ... he did not make a good one. At his funeral there was this young minister ... one that Snook always joked cared more about taking his money than saving his soul…and if I hadn¹t written a little biography about my father I never would have known it was HIS funeral. So this young Baptist minister is up in front of Snook’s casket ... Bible in hand ... arms flailing about ... talking about fire and brimstone…eternal damnation…hell and salvation ... and I thought to myself, “Hey buddy! Ya know what burns MY ASS? A fire ‘bout THIS HIGH!!” And I swear I saw Snook smile.

Crazy from the Heat
Shadowbox Cabaret
Easton Towne Center
Columbus, Ohio
* * *
by Rick Brown

I’m not sure why this show is called Crazy from the Heat. With two sketches set at the beach…one being mostly incidental at that…and a skit about a mental institution, the title seems to be a bit of a stretch. And … unfortunately … the show has a “slapped together” feel to it. Maybe it’s because the troupe was extra harried after a successful run of Sex at the Box (one of their very best) along with the addition of two performances every Sunday of the Who’s Tommy (also quite excellent) in February and March. Or perhaps it’s a lingering emotional hangover from the closing of sister company 2Co’s Cabaret. Maybe the total sum of all of it. I can’t be sure.

The Gold
Laura R Joseph

Visit Crapshoot!


by a. jive tursky

it flows from the center
as time fades into an empty melody
through the darkness
well its another night
the strangers are out
and the womans broke
my friends eyes to sadness
his voice over the phone

Blank Sight

by John Bennett


by Jessy Kendall

the instant in
question – more
demanding answers
the questions weren’t so…

“have a great day”
“better ccoffee for a better world”
i hope bonnie does well
in this adventure endeavor. I love
looking out of a
window any window
too many people too
many things in
the world to do.
nice sweater sunny
day. The teller
tells me my $
sitting just inches
between a screen
on the computer and
some digital transfer.

Pot Luck Guide to the 132nd running of the
Kentucky Derby
by Ted Kane

With the Arkansas Derby and Bluegrass Stakes having been run on April 15th and the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland a week later, all of the major prep races for the 132nd Kentucky Derby are in the books and it's time to take a serious look at which horses have a real chance to be there at the wire on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs in Kentucky. The Arkansas and the Bluegrass, much like the Santa Anita Derby held two earlier here in Los Angeles County, were pretty much races in name only. Though each field contained otherwise fine three year old horses, Lawyer Ron, Sinister Minister and Brother Derek respectively trounced their nominal competition. The Wood Memorial, also held on April 8th at Aqueduct in New York, was a much closer event between the three horse that finished in the money and a hard event to know how to read given the horrible slop in which it was run. Bob and John, the winner, and runners-up Jazil and Keyed Entry still deserve some sort of consideration in the Kentucky Derby picture, but it is hard to say how much. Last, both Illinois Derby champion Sweetnorthernsaint and the undefeated Florida Derby champ Barbaro are deserving attention as well. Showing Up, winner of the Lexington for trainer Barclay Tagg, may have something to say about it as well, though health issues may preclude the colt from making a run for the roses.


by a. jive tursky

This morning I got up
and angels fell out of my bed
birthing a crease of happiness inside

Lincoln Park Zoo and Conservatory
by Patrick O'Malley

Feral Muse
by Cory Tressler

If You’re Happy and You Know It
By Rick Brown

A lot of kids at the tender age of 18 leave home for college ... if they aren’t runaways ... or back then ... draft dodgers. And while university was my general direction for the fall of 1970, this summer was my first of four as a camp counselor. It was a Lutheran camp ... still is (http://www.lomocamps.org/frederick.html) about 20 miles south of Youngstown. Nestled between Turkey Run and Bull Creek ... along route 154 ... between Rogers and Negley ... this was my first foray into rural Ohio ... also my first time away from home. I never looked back.

I used to joke that you had to be UGLY to live in NEGLEY! And ... for the most part ... that was pretty much the case. That’s one of the things I learned early on in the experience. There wasn’t much intellectual stimulation ... and most people weren’t pretty. Some were nice enough, but definitely not much to look at ... especially in Negley. Probably the second epiphany I had was that out in the woods ... and this camp was primitive (I lived in a teepee for 3 of 4 summers) a young man could get ... well ... how shall I put this ... uh ... a trifle randy at times. Horny if you will.

Most of the campers who stayed at Camp Frederick came for a week at a time for what was called “catechism camp”. Catechism ... in the Lutheran sense at least ... is where you go to class and memorize what you believe. This really struck me when I was in catechism. “Wow! I’m MEMORIZING what I BELIEVE!!” This seemed more than a little disconcerting to me at the time. I mean ... shouldn’t there be some journey involved to enlightenment? But I didn’t make a fuss and got confirmed ... which is the Lutheran version of graduating from high school.

So all these 13 and 14 year old kids came for a week of “confirmation camp” every week ... maybe 30 or 35 total ... with their pastors to memorize what they believed. And the majority of them were girls. This is when it became painfully obvious to my 18 year old brain ... as well as other parts of my anatomy ... that it was true ... girls did “mature” at a faster rate than boys. Some MUCH FASTER indeed. What made this situation all the more difficult (I refrain from using “harder” as the adjective here) was that some of these 14 year old girls were quite aware of this ... and knew how to use it to their advantage.

Here’s an example for you enjoyment. The first summer Camp Frederick had no swimming pool. Everybody swam in the swimming hole ... where the two aforementioned creeks converged. How the hell we got away with this is a miracle in itself. I guess no parents thought to call the health department. I mean ... it was fun ... Tarzan rope and all ... but still. By the next summer a concrete “dish” had been poured ... in ground like a pool ... but was still filled with water from the creeks. Again ... how the hell we got away with this I’ll never know. Anyway, one day I’m pumping water from the creeks into the “pool” and a pretty young 14 year old girl who ... as my Uncle Gene would say ... was blossoming quite early (and often) sauntered up close to me. She was wearing nothing but cut off shorts and a tight t shirt. I’m standing there shooting water into the “pool” when she looks up at me, cocks her head just so, and purrs “Work your hose Rick!!” ... giving me a wry smile at the word “hose”. This did my emotional stability at the time no good whatsoever.

By summer number two ... the “pool with creek water in it” summer ... Camp Frederick was drawing enough campers to warrant a “junior staff” which was comprised of 3 ... maybe 4 ... high schoolers. One of the guys ... Steve Bremkamp ... he and I got to be buds. I suppose I was like a big brother to him. And he and I both played guitar. We were the best guitar players at the camp ... which isn’t saying a whole hell of a lot. I swear ... to qualify for camp guitarist all you had to do was own a guitar and have two arms. Church and camp is where I learned to play real loud ... to drown out the people who had no business having a guitar around their necks. Steve and I could play chords above the first position ... and since most camp songs of this era had like 1 and ½ chords and 47 verses ... well ... we amazed people ... which wasn’t difficult by any means.

And as far as the 14 year old “hose teases” were concerned ... for 17 year old Steve they were a nuisance ... trouble at the worst. But for 20 year old Rick ... they were jailbait ... hard time maybe.

So Steve and I played guitars at all our campfires. Now the key to playing guitar at a campfire is this: play all the more difficult songs first. Why you might ask? Because the fire is huge at the beginning but continues to die down ... it gets darker ... and you can’t see much of anything for the closing ... hand holding “Kumbaya”. That tune only has three chords so it’s not an issue ... which is good because on a dark night by the time you get to this song your hands might be oblivious to you.

To make campfires more interesting Steve and I tried to inject a little secularism. I had learned this song from a college boy on a bus ride to a Luther League convention in Dallas in 1967. (That excursion is a story for another day.) Anyway, it was called “Salvation Army”. Everyone would make up verses. We had a contest every week to see who could come up with the best new verse. Some of the better ones went like this. The leader would shout “There’s only one bar in town” Then everyone would boo real loud. And the leader would yell “But it’s 10 miles long!!” Everyone would cheer and immediately sing:

“Salvation Army, Salvation Army!
Put a nickel in the drum
Save another drunken bum.
Salvation Army, Salvation Army!
Put a nickel in the drum and you’ll be saved!!”

Some of the other great verses were”

“All the barmaids wear grass skirts!”
“They hand out lawnmowers at the door!!”

“Salvation Army, Salvation Army ... etc.”

“The bar’s doors are closed at midnight!”
“The windows are open ALL NIGHT!!!”

Forget the swimming hole ... how the hell did we get away with THIS?

One day, when Steve and I were both feeling like we were stuck in the woods with a bunch of babes in the woods (read: horny) some of which were most definitely “hose teases” we came up with a way to get back at them. There was this song we both hated to play. It was a children’s song really and it was called “If You’re Happy and You know It”. Typical three chord, monotonous Bible School tune that we were pretty much required to play. Ironically, it was structured much like “Salvation Army”. It went like this:

“If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands!
If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands!
If you’re happy and you know it and you really want to show it
If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands!”

Of course you’d clap your hands at the end of each line. In subsequent verses you would sing “stamp your feet” (stomp feet) ... then “shout Amen! (shout Amen)” and of course for the last verse you sang “If you’re happy and you know it do all three” (clap, stomp AND shout Amen!). Clever huh? You can probably see why this tormented us so. At least we were playing guitars so we wouldn’t actually have to participate at the highest level. But we came up with a colossal ... no ... brilliant verse of our own ... one for all the “hose teases” out there at the campfire. It went like this:

“If you’re happy and you know it touch your elbows behind your back!
If you’re happy and you know it touch your elbows behind your back!
If you’re happy and you know it and you really want to show it if you’re happy and you know it touch your elbows behind your back!!!”

Steve and I ALWAYS requested this one early on in the campfire ... when it was still pretty light ... before dusk ... so we could enjoy all the girls attempting to touch their elbows behind their backs. Of course ... being a grown man and all ... I tried my darndest to observe the women counselors. But every once in a while I’d sneak a peak at one of the “hose Teases”. Just to see how quickly she was blossoming ... and give her a wry smile of my own. And the beauty of it all ... beyond the leering I mean ... is that ... to the best of my knowledge ... no one ever caught on. Not even the female counselors.

Disclaimer: the author strongly advises readers not to try this in Negley.

Our Top 5 Picksby Ted Kaneby John Bennettby Cory Tressler by Patrick O'Malley by David HochmanTravel SectionRecipes and MoreBack Issues

© 2001-2005 NakedSunfish, All Rights Reserved

Issue 1 - January 2002