Sunday, September 11, 2016


No kidding, leaf peeper-ready and there we were: my new wife Diane and me, standing at the Cannon Mountain Tramway ticket desk, about to buy two round-trips. It wasn’t the first ascension for either of us, but it was our first together. Then came one of many elevations in the ups and downs of marriage, when the young woman behind the counter asked me if I was a “senior.”
Ack! It was the first time I’d ever thought of myself as a golden ager, and because the legal and social definitions can vary from one person, state, business or country to another, I found myself pausing in the awkward moment. She must have sensed my uneasiness because she quickly added, and with a little too much bubbly in her voice for my tastes: “Just to let you know, sir, if you are sixty-five and a New Hampshire resident, it’s always a free ride Monday through Friday!”
As a humorist, I call this kind of comment: praising with a faint damnation.
It just so happened that it was Sunday and I was sixty-five. She didn’t ask Diane her age, but I wasn’t offended. Diane is five years behind me (a junior-senior, I like to remind her), though she looks ten years younger, and now, at my age, if I was any younger I’d look the same. Must be the new beard.
“Well, can’t you pretend it’s Monday?” I said to the effervescing cashier. “The mountain won’t know the difference, and now that I’m apparently as old as them thar hills, I doubt it would mind.” She stared blankly at me, unsure of my footing.
My wife, although we’ve only been married a short time, knows my sense of humor full well, and she is often my dutiful but reluctant enabler. As she gave me a gentle piercing elbow nudge, she also looked at the hapless young woman and said to her, “You’re on your own, m’dear.”
I didn’t get the discount, and Diane, still five years away from complimentary weekday tram rides, got the tickets. Up (and down) the mountain we went, but I couldn’t stop thinking about how I’d failed.
Would I have better-enjoyed the ride and spectacular views if I’d been more attentive to the calendar and returned on Monday to cash-in on the laurels of my longevity and locale? You betcha! Had I lived long enough to richly deserve my free banker’s hours upward mobilities? Yes! Had surviving sixty-five Granite State winters entitled me to gratis mountain peak perks? Yes!
Now, where else had I come up short on the long-terms? When we got home, I got to Googling. I wanted to discover the host of grand New Hampshire places and events I could now attend at or near free, using my seniority and in-staterhood as the measures.
Aha! As it so often goes, I found myself finishing at the beginning when I learned that I can still, as of this writing, hit the slopes at Cannon this winter for no charge during the week (and hitting the slopes is a good way to describe my skiing.).
See you up and down there. Until then I’ll be discounting the days.

* * * * *
Senior Wire News Service Syndicated Humor Columnist B. Elwin Sherman writes from Bethlehem, NH. He is an author, humorist and agony uncle columnist. His latest book is “Walk Tall and Carry a Big Watering Can,” from Plaidswede Publishing. You may contact him via his website at Copyright 2016. All rights reserved. Used here with permission.

Saturday, June 4, 2016


     This is another true story, but I want to be clear: that’s not the reason I’m including it.  Not all true stories should be told.  Some, in fact, should be snugged into a shoebox like a long-loved rabbit and buried in the back yard of childhood.
            Oh, it’s okay to place its last-nibbled carrot in there alongside it.  It’s okay to do it unceremoniously, alone.  It’s okay to even leave a marker that has temporary lawnmower immunity.  But, a generation later, there should be nothing left for passers-by but a little depression in the ground where the shoebox collapsed.
            This isn’t one of those stories.
        It happened at one of those rare moments in history, when all the airy tumblers of a single thunderclap fell into place, never to strike just that way, at just that place, ever again.
            The world’s then greatest boxer was once invited to receive an honorary degree from a college I was attending. He was renowned for his singular skill in the art of formal human pummeling, but he’d also often demonstrated his virtuosity as an impromptu poet.  That day was no exception:
            “I like your school; I like your style, but I don’t like your pay; I won’t be back for a while,” he’d said later at the press conference.  Celebrated dead poets everywhere no doubt turned a little in their graves, but who cared about them.  They were dead.
            And, I’d like to see Carl Sandburg rope-a-dope with a stanza, dead or alive. 
            For my money, “Hog Butcher for the world” could never go the distance with “I can drown the drink of water, and kill a dead tree.  Wait till you see Muhammad Ali.”
            I’ll see your Chicago and raise you a lightning-fast jab, Carl.
            That morning, my four-year old daughter was with me.  I can’t remember why, except that maybe it was my weekend to have her.  Perhaps it was Liberal Arts Father-Visitor Daughter Day.  Lucky for us, though, it was the same day the world’s greatest rhyming boxer was to receive his publicity sheepskin.
            Let’s face it:  giving an honorary college degree to a high-profile notable is a two-way street.  Yes, the honoree is pleased to be post-secondarily validated without ever having to sit through an un-elective, but it also doesn’t hurt the school’s image.
            Sometimes, the trustees later voted to stick up a statue near the athletic field.  In my mind, I can’t look at a statue without thinking about a favorite Vincent Price movie, but I might feel differently if it was me standing up there as a pigeon-shit depository.  That’s more than most of us ever achieve.
            We arrived early, and I took her hand the best I could as she three-limb pinwheeled alongside me across a large open field to the reception house.  To this day, I wish I’d pinwheeled along with her, but I was too distracted by the fear of having to return a daughter to a mother any less intact than how I’d received her.
            I needn’t have worried.  Four-year olds are either indestructible or delicate as a feather, and she’d been delivered to me in full indestructible mode.
            Today, I couldn’t do a pinwheel if you stapled me to a windmill.
            By the time we reached the reception house, she’d settled down into mere hop-a-long pull-toy mode, and I’d survived.
            We went inside, and there, like a stop-motioned bolt of lightning, sat the man.   The room was empty except for him, and he sat slumped on a couch, unmoving, staring at us.  Impossible, but lightning is like that.
            He immediately straightened up, smiled broadly and opened his arms toward us.  Toward her.
              “Hello, girl!” he said.  I thought my daughter would do the natural thing, having never seen this big dark hulk of a man before, and immediately switch to snake mode around my leg.
            Instead, she showed me how much fathers know about such things, and went right over to him in fearless kangaroo mode.
            He picked her up and hugged her close as I stood across the room in abandoned lighthouse mode.
             He opened his eyes wide in mock surprise and did the sitting version of a complementing pinwheel.  She giggled and bobbled and matched him, twirl for playful twirl.
            For my part, ships were going aground on the rocks over there by the dozens, and I couldn’t move.
            Soon, other people began entering the room.  Statue-erectors and grown-up dead rabbit internors crowded in -- the usual media blitz – and daughter and I were reduced to those subtle variations that you can never quite find in a picture puzzle.
            I retrieved her from his arms like a reinstated lighthouse with a good excuse, no questions asked.  When I moved in close to them, I saw that his face was bruised and swollen from a recent close fight.  I was glad that she was still too caught up in child mode to notice this, or to know why if she had.
            He returned her to me like a child alone placing a beloved pet in a shoebox.
         Today, forty years later in her life’s back yard, he has passed into the eternal ring, but I hope she still remembers and loves why the ground is shaped like that.

* * * * *
Copyright 2016 by B. Elwin Sherman. All rights reserved.  Adapted from a story in B. Elwin Sherman's book: "In Watermelon Salt: "The Lost Richard Brautigan."  Used here with permission.

Friday, November 27, 2015


(A readers' favorite, first published in NH Magazine February 2012)

There I was: a New Hampshire traveling male nurse working temporarily in Arizona and visiting Aldo, a brusque, nonagenarian male patient living permanently in a ramshackle house trailer outside Tucson.

A "nonagenarian" is a person who has reached 90-plus years of age. He was brusque because it's impossible to pass nine decades in this life without some crusty in your character, and Aldo was so crusty that if he'd been 10 years older or younger, he'd have looked the same.

We argued all things indigenous to his Grand Canyon State and to my Granite one.They weren't really arguments. One doesn't win arguments with a 94-year old man, not if one is as smart as one thinks one is.

When I arrived he was hunched over on his front porch, sitting on two stacked milk crates, cleaning catfish and dropping the innards into buckets, sorting them by their edible hierarchy. Fish heads here. Fish guts there. Plop. Plop.

My 97-year-old great-grandfather was born and brusquely died in the same Belmont, NH, bed, and spent many of his catfish-cleaning days on such a porch.

The next day I skipped his vital signs and we instead went fishing and brusquely argued all things free, bait and alive.

Before I checked Aldo's vital signs (which he always thought foolish: "When I'm dead, you'll know it; I'll be paying more attention to you"), I challenged him about his buckets of piecemealed catfish:

"Say, Aldo, whereinheck do you get catfish in a desert? I know where to get them in New Hampshire, but out here?"

"Don't be an idiot," he said, ending the argument.

Fact is, and because he made it clear that I wasn't as smart as I thought I was, there was indeed a nearby desert lake where catfish roamed free, which prompted my next series of losing arguments:

"Well, Aldo, in New Hampshire, when I hike up Mt. Washington, I pass the tree line and come out on top of rocks. Here, when you climb Mt. Lemmon, you go up past rocks and come out in the trees."

"Nature's way," he said, plopping a skin into its designated pail. "Don't be an idiot."

Undaunted, and a little smarter, I pressed on: "I do miss the seasons back home. Out here, it must be hard to tell one from another."

"Only if you look at 'em from back there," he plopped. "Don't be an ---"

Daunted, and a little dumber, I stopped him and tried one more time:

"Now, wait a minute, Aldo. In New Hampshire we take great pride in our state motto, 'Live Free or Die'. It's not just a slogan for a license plate; it's a way of life."

"How's that?" he asked, glancing at my truck.


"Well, we work hard, our winters are the harsh flipside version of your summers, and we live free."

"You think you're free?" he admonished, wagging the last head of his cut-up catch at my truck. "Try driving back there without that license plate."


The next day I skipped his vital signs and we instead went fishing and brusquely argued all things free, bait and alive.

* * * * *
Senior Wire News Service syndicated humor columnist B. Elwin Sherman writes from Bethlehem, NH. His new book, “Walk Tall And Carry A BigWatering Can,” is now available.  You may contact him via his blog at Copyright 2015. All rights reserved. Used here with permission.

Thursday, November 26, 2015


Sharing our shadowy "Knights Who Say 'Ni!'" impression, a Happy Thanksgiving to all.

 Ni! Ni! Have a good bird, and send us a frosty shrubbery!

 El & Diane

Sunday, October 25, 2015


            The last three hundred-plus times I’ve flown in airplanes, I didn’t land in them. I used to skydive, and I always looked forward to getting out of aircrafts in mid-flight. I never liked landing in airplanes.
            That’s when they crash.
            BUT … last winter my wife Diane and I had our first vacation together, and because getting to our destination meant either a three-hour flight or a three-day drive akin to roller-skating on ice, I agreed to fly with her. In a plane. Without a parachute.
            I confessed my concerns to her, not just of being airborne in an airplane without a means of air-escaping, but of how I might navigate airport etiquette and the protocols for commercial flight, which I hadn’t done in a couple of decades. Diane was savvy with the recent ways & means of air travel, and she assured me that she would guide me through. I knew that a few things had changed since I’d last flown the friendly skies.
            First, they’d become less friendly. If Diane hadn’t been there to give me some advance cues on what was coming and how to act, I no doubt would’ve been spread-eagled, body cavity-searched and shipped off to Guantanamo. This is because bumbling activity, in the eyes of the Transportation Security Administration overseers, is automatically considered and treated as suspicious activity, and there I was, bumbling around, even under Diane’s tutelage. I was hesitative, awkward, sweating and I’m sure my eyes were darting.
            In the crowd (I don’t think I’ve ever used the word “throng” in a humor column, but I will now), Diane and I were thronged into separation, so I lost my pre-flight coach.
            Panic was setting in when I bumbled forward, thronging along alone, to a semi-uniformed TSA man who soundlessly held his hand out in front of me.  I did the reflexive thing and reached out to shake it. WRONG. He’d wanted my boarding pass and proof of identification. He snapped his hand away and didn’t smile as much as I’ve ever seen anyone not smile.
            “Boarding pass and ID,” he said, smiling even less than he wasn’t before.
            I held out my driver’s license and boarding pass. He looked at them, pointed to his right and said: “Wall!”
            Now, I ask you: if someone in authority, just as you found yourself in a position of abject fear and surrender and without a clue what to do next, pointed to a wall and barked “Wall!”, would you summon up your best Leslie Nielsen impression and say “Yes, I know,” or would you say nothing, do as you were told and go stand by the wall?
            Drawing from flashbacks of long-gone boyhood time-outs in the corner (of the wall), I thought the latter was the better part of discretion, so that’s what I did. I stood there, facing the wall, and waited. I waited some more. I waited for Armageddon. I waited for Godot. I waited for the Marines (see: Guantanamo, shipped off to).
              Several people thronged past me. What? How was it possible that they’d passed the “Wall!” test where I had failed? Was there a secret word? Specialized coded carry-ons? Had Diane forgotten to tell me about the treacherous wall trap?
            Finally, after who knows how long (time warps when you’re about to lose your mind), a voice that I hardly recognized as human shouted “Sir!  Come this way!”
            Ahhh. It seems that when I’d been ordered to the “Wall!”, it meant that I was supposed to walk in the aisle next to the said wall and make my way to another checkpoint, which was apparently there to prepare me for the next pre-flight part of the shakedown/check-in.
            I know that the more I then tried to look casual and innocent, the bumblier and guiltier I presented. I didn’t place my shoes in the tray properly. I wrongly put my knapsack on the rollers and not on the conveyer belt. I missed my mark on the yellow footprints. Then came the body frisking scanner, which made me feel like I was committing a fully-clothed full monty. Before I went through, another TSA agent asked if I had any other metal objects on my person, and I unthinkingly said “Uh … well … just the metal in my legs.”
            This immediately pricked up his ears (and the ears and eyebrows of two other nearby agents, who began to throng in closer to me) and I tried to explain, as unterroristically as possible, the history of my knee surgeries and the utterly non-explosive nature of the implanted screws therein. I was near breathless with anxiety when they suddenly and inexplicably shrugged me off and waved me through. I didn’t understand how I could so quickly go from mad bomber suspect to harmless land mammal rookie, but I didn’t look back long enough to grab the wrong backpack and walk off with their plastic shoe caddy. 
            Diane had already expertly zipped through her inspection and detection lines, and was waiting for me in the post-gauntlet, fly-safe neutral zone. She’d been watching helplessly from the other side as I was over there mysteriously self-imposing my wall exile.
            Much to her credit, when I explained what had happened, she did not laugh until we’d left and returned to the ground.
            Safely. Without a parachute.
* * * * *

Senior Wire News Service syndicated humor columnist B. Elwin Sherman writes from Bethlehem, NH. He is an author, humorist and infrequent flyer.  His new book, “Walk Tall And Carry A BigWatering Can,” is now available.  You may contact him via his blog at Copyright 2015. All rights reserved. Used here with permission.