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Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

Herb Benham

I read an obit recently in which the deceased was survived by her "homely brother." I thought it might be a misprint and speculated that what the writer meant to say was "only" brother.

Penny Blanton Shafer emailed and solved the mystery:

"I am the happy cousin of the 'homely' brother. I reread the obituary and I'm sure it was supposed to say 'ornery' brother. Jim is one of the finest men you will ever meet. His father and uncles (one of them my father) were men of integrity who moved to California from Texas during the Dust Bowl and worked hard to take care of their large families.

"Jim is not homely. He has an infectious, genuine smile with a great set of clappers! Not bad for a man pushing 70."

Theresa Souers, a fellow South High Rebel, sent this email in regard to a column awhile ago about Thomas and me losing 6-0, 6-0 in a tournament.

"In the '80s, I was involved with a women's racquetball league and we traveled to Ukiah for a tournament.

"I purchased a pretty 'hot' little number to wear in the event.

"I won my first match easily. My next opponent was about 5 feet 1 inch tall, both in height and width. I felt sorry for her. I won the first serve and hit her a high backhand lob. She crushed it into the sweet corner, where three walls met.

"That woman never took a step from center court. She didn't need to. I managed two points in the first game. The second game was the same and I just wanted the hell off that court.

"I finally won the serve and the score was 1-13. Just as I was about to serve, I heard a voice overhead call out -- 'Hang in there Souers. It's not over until ...'" dead silence.

"I nearly lost it. I don't remember anything after that. When she shook my hand indicating that the match was over, I casually walked out of the court, and began running to the exit. To this day, when I hear 'It's not over until the fat lady sings,' I can't help but laugh at myself."


Hank Webb emailed about the column where I received a surprise man kiss in the middle of my forehead.

"Oh, come on! It was hardly a man kiss. More like a man peck. I thought you were progressive enough to take a kiss like a man.

"Don't give up the good fight. I have faith in you."


Jim Kelly weighs in on the man kiss:

"I come from a large New York family of 13. I am the baby. My family all hugged and kissed each other on the cheek every time we saw each other, men or women."


As you probably know, I have many fans. Here is an email from Steve Swarts, who is one of them:

"I've been reading your drivel for several years now, just to test my patience, but I know it's time to open up the arsenal and fire this letter. Thanks to one of your recent columns, I am permanently boycotting Moo Creamery. What a pathetic excuse for a Bakersfieldian you are.

"Please don't write any more books, btw.

"I grew up reading Mad magazine and they once parodied TV guide, by describing an episode of the sitcom 'Ozzie and Harriet' thusly: 'This week the plot revolves around a spilt glass of milk.'

"This is pretty much how I feel about your 'insights' into life and events around you. Nothing to add, plenty to annoy, and everything entirely fungible."

I like Steve's use of the word fungible.


A note from Crisey Fernandez, who could use our help:

"Grady Walls, the band director from Standard Middle School, is retiring. He wants to have an alumni concert with alumni from the last 90 years. Mr. Walls has been the start of many children's love for music; my sons Jon and Jimmie included. He has touched thousands of kids through music."

If you are one of these people, or know one, email me at

Call Californian columnist Herb Benham at 395-7279. His work appears on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays; the views expressed are his own.