"Salamander sandwiches"


     “Salamander sandwiches and great Grecian toads!” said Dud, lurching into his never-really-assigned position at the Mule Barn truck stop’s philosophy counter and world dilemma think tank.

   Mavis stood there holding the pot of Farmer Brothers coffee as she waited for Dud to flip his coffee mug to the correct upright position.

  “You want some coffee before the toads are done?” she asked.

  “Sure,” Dud said, laughing. “Just practicing my epithets.”

  Mavis poured. “When you die you want toads and salamanders on your headstone?”

   “No, no, no,” Dud said, in what we’d come to learn was his quasi-professorial tone.

“Not an epitaph. An epithet, dear lady, is a spontaneous outburst, a grand flinging of words to the wild ether that is the very air we breathe …”

  He talks like that sometimes.

  “… an expression of polysyllabic perfection designed to both stun and impress those within hearing range.”

  Doc looked at me. “I’m sufficiently stunned.”

  “Me, too.”

  Mavis filled everyone’s cups. “Going to be one of those mornings, I guess.”

  “Let’s get this straight,” said Doc. “To stun and impress people and amaze everyone on our block, we have to talk about salamanders?”

  “Of course not, Doc,” said Dud. “It could be anything. Now I’ve just been gathering up a few of those for use later on, you see, to be used when a great epithet is called for. Let’s say I walk in here one morning and you tell me the river went over its banks last night and is flooding the south valley. That would be a good time to use salamander sandwiches and great Grecian toads, you see.”

  “I see. The salamanders and toads because they both like water and the river overflowed, and…”

  I could see the twinkle in Doc’s eye.

  “No,” said Dud, “although you do have a good point there. But you could just as easily use an epithet like … ‘Well, put Bluebeard’s potatoes in a sack’!”

   Doc looked at me. “Doesn’t have the same stunning effect as salamander sandwiches.”

   I nodded.

   “How about ‘Dear Aunt Tillie’s sainted hairnet!”

  “Better than Bluebeard’s spuds, I think.”

  Mavis looked at us and said “Stunning.”

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Newspaper columnist Slim Randles, who writes the weekly Home Country column, took home two New Mexico Book Awards in 2011. His advice book for young people, “A Cowboy’s Guide to Growing Up Right,” took first place in the self-help category, and “Sweetgrass Mornings” won in the biography/memoirs category. Randles lives and works in Albuquerque. Home Country reaches 3 million hometown newspaper readers each week

Slim Randles learned mule packing from Gene Burkhart and Slim Nivens. He learned mustanging and wild burro catching from Hap Pierce. He learned horse shoeing from Rocky Earick. He learned horse training from Dick Johnson and Joe Cabral. He learned humility from the mules of the eastern High Sierra. Randles lives in Albuquerque.

Randles has written newspaper stories, magazine articles and book, both fiction and nonfiction. His column appeared in New Mexico Magazine for many years and was a popular columnist for the Anchorage Daily News and the Albuquerque Journal, and now writes a nationally syndicated column, “Home Country,” which appears in several hundred newspapers across the country.


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