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Playing with Words
Written March 1965


Background:  Merely playing around as a high school senior, I waxed poetic.  Here are four examples of my notebook nonsense.



Once upon a time there was a man named Irving.
Now a name like that can be extremely unnerving!

When his sons were born, he decided he'd try
To give them names that were fine for any ordinary guy
So that when they were grown up, they would never have to hide.
He named the first one Tim and the second one Clyde.

Well, Tim and Clyde grew up and were wed,
And soon each had two more mouths to be fed.

Tim had two sons.  He called them Tim Junior and Clyde.
Oh, Tim's two boys were his father's pride!
And Clyde had two sons.  He called them Clyde Junior and Tim,
And Clyde's two boys looked just like him!

Now this generation grew up and got "caught,"
And before very long, each one had a tot
     And then another.

Tim Junior said to his cousin Tim,
"I've got two baby boys.  What shall I call them?"
"I know," said Tim.  "Name one of them
     After Granddaddy Irving!"

Tim Junior didn't like this.  "What do you think, Clyde?"
He asked, and his brother replied,
"About you I don't know, but I'm going to name
My two boys — bless their hearts — the same
As we were.  I'll call them Tim and Clyde."

Did that one statement the issue decide?
     Not at all!
Tim Junior had an indomitable will.
He decided to name his boys Tim and Bill!

Then Clyde exploded:  "Tim!" he said,
"What sort of a thought has come into your head?
Tim, you've rejected all your relative Clydes —
Me, your uncle, your cousin, and nephews besides —
For you've gone and named your second son Bill!"
"Aw, forget it," said Tim.  "Let's go out and build a grill."

You see, the town they were in had no café or grill,

So the two of them worked on building one until

They'd forgotten their quarrel.

The town prospered and grew,
And the descendants of Granddaddy Irving did, too.
Like rabbits in April, every Tim and Clyde
Had two sons.  How the family multiplied!
     There were 128 Tims.
     There were 127 Clydes.
But in all the Irving family, there was only one bill:
For a dollar forty-seven at Tim & Clyde's Grill.

UPDATES:  I discovered that very establishment in Cadogan, Pennsylvania, in 2015.  It appears that Clyde, who never really forgave his brother, must have bought him out.

Then in 2016, Louis C.K. apparently stole my Tim and Clyde characters.  He renamed them Horace and Pete.  The ten-episode web series is set in a run-down Brooklyn bar, Horace and Pete's, that's been owned for the same family for a century — always with a Horace and a Pete in charge.

Also in high school, I assembled the following 223-word sentence in reaction to the complexity of such mythic stories as Homer's Odyssey.



That the gentle soothing
of the beautiful goddess
was no longer so overwhelmingly attested to
in its erstwhile certainty
by the hope of the tearful wayward soldier
and his faith in the mystic power of his shield
to protect all who carried it
against the admitted parsimony of the saint
who had given the golden sword to the maiden
who sat by the side of a gentle waterfall
and gazed at all who chanced to pass by
with a sad and sorrowful expression
which belied her inward joy
at having the power to change stones into men
and thereby to raise such a great army
that no one in all the kingdom
dared to challenge her right to be the first
in that great procession
which every year slowly wound its way
up from the valley
to the top of the high mountain
where the gods did live
and offered to them all pleasing sacrifices
so that no harm would come
to men on earth who feared the gods
and delighted in offering to them
sweet-smelling incense
which was made by an old hermit
who lived beside a cave deep in the forest
which lay at the foot of the mountain
and extended in all directions
with its trees of cedar and sycamore
and its marvelous unicorns
and centaurs and phoenixes,
was obvious.



I also wrote a few parody lyrics to the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Oklahoma!  But first, the backstory.

Richwood High School, home of the Tigers, was in the process of merging with Byhalia High School, home of the Falcons.  Byhalia was an even smaller town than Richwood; at least Richwood had a movie theater of sorts in its old Opera House.  The two groups of students had been rivals, but from now on, they'd all have to be North Union Wildcats.

Oklahoma addressed a similar situation in the song "The Farmer and the Cowman," which I started to rewrite as "The Tiger and the Falcon (Should Be Friends)."  I only got as far as these fragments:

I'd like to say a word fer the Falcon.
Byhalia is an underpriv'leged area.
     Young farmers cannot go
     To the moving-picture show.
—But they still do get some idees that can scare ya!

North Union folks should stick together,
     North Union folks should all be pals,
Richwood guys date Byhalia's females,
     B'halia boys date Richwood gals!

I had some other parodies in mind.  The title song, of course, would begin with:

Riiiiiiiiiiiiiichwood High School!
Where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain.

"Oh, What a Beautiful Morning" would become an sarcastic "Oh, What a Wonderful High School."

"Everything's Up to Date in Kansas City" would become "Everything's Out of Date at Richwood High School.  They've gone about as fur as they can go (straight down)!"

And "Poor Jud Is Dead" would become "Poor Jud Is Wed."  Evidently Jud had gotten one of his classmates pregnant.

A few months later, when I was a college freshman, I did manage to complete an entire verse and refrain for one song.  Set to the tune of "People Will Say We're In Love," it alludes to the frustration of the cheerleaders, whose cheering during class time had been curtailed by Principal Dean Cochran.



This is a school!
The cardinal rule
     Is work and learn.

No other way
A good educa-
     tion can we earn.

Therefore he cries,
Our Principal wise,
     That we should see:

All that is not
This studious rot
     Just should not be.

Don't hang those signs up here.
Don't cheer around the halls.
Don't sing up and down the halls.
     Cochran will say it detracts!

Don't shout those songs up here.
"Fight songs" aren't right at school.
We can't have this "fight" at school.
     Cochran will say it detracts!

Classes must not decay.
     Give the pep sessions the axe.

Spirit we must not display.
     Cochran will say it detracts!



Finally, I found the stirring Welsh national hymn "Men of Harlech" in an old songbook.  I have since learned that Division III football power Mount Union College uses it as its alma mater, "Dear Old MUC."  But back then, I thought that it would make a good mock-heroic fight song for our high school athletes whenever they were predicted to lose, which was often.



Men of Richwood!  In your hearing
Rises now a mighty cheering:
Your opponents now are nearing,
     In their eyes a gleam.

They come boldly, loudly shouting,
Never fearing, never doubting
That quite soon they will be routing
     Richwood's Tiger team.

They are sad mistaken!
We will not be shaken!
     And should the game
     Be lost, our name
Will never be forsaken!

Tigers!  'Tis your school that calls you!
Fight your best, whate'er befalls you!
This the cry that still enthralls you,
     "On for Richwood High!"



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