Dear Smiley: I am a carriage driver and licensed tour guide who grew up in the French Quarter.
After reading about your reluctance to take a tour by carriage because of the “sad old mules,” and then your printing of a letter by a reader who thinks the mules should be replaced by horses, I had to send you a note.
I am dismayed that you might suggest that anyone not take a carriage ride.
Many people are aware and recognize that our mules are in great shape, love their jobs, love their people (including the tourists) and are very spoiled.
Mules in general are better suited for this work in New Orleans: they are hybrids and durable, stronger than horses, better in the heat — in fact, we have them by law due to the heat, and by law we go in at 95 degrees.
Mules carry tourists up a cliff in 120 degrees in Arizona and are fine there, too.
I would like it if you would return to Jackson Square to meet the mules and the drivers and consider a trip with us.
Dear Smiley: Several years ago I received a call at home from a phone solicitor trying to sell me a home security system.
I explained to the caller that I owned a security alarm company, which I do.
They stopped calling.
That gave me the idea to use that answer every time someone tried to sell me something on the phone.
No matter what the product or service, I told them I did that or sold that for a living.
I then told my wife that if she answered the phone, to just tell the caller the same thing.
It worked every time.
The caller would say, “Thank you,” hang up and not call again.
You can substitute your brother or any other family member if you want.
Dear Smiley: James Gill is the best addition The Advocate has made in its staff for many years, in my opinion.
He reminds me of Jimmy Breslin, of New York, and some of your readers are old enough to remember him.
If by chance your readers want to read some of his older New Orleans columns and get to appreciate his style, the following website may be of interest: http://connect.nola.com/user/jagill/posts.html.
Story of a shooter
Dear Smiley: Your marbles items prompted memories of hours I spent during recess at Bernard Terrace Elementary School playing marbles on a level patch of dirt.
I remember that all us marbles guys carried our favorite “shooter” marble in our pockets and called it “my tar.”
I didn’t know why we called our favorite marble a “tar,” so I did a little research and discovered that at one time kids actually used hardened asphalt tar balls as marbles.
The ultimate challenge was to play a game where the winner got the loser’s tar.
Perhaps that’s the source of the phrase, “He’s lost all his marbles,” because it definitely was crazy to risk losing your favorite tar!
Dear Dudley: My sources say the shooter marble is called a “taw,” but maybe “tar” is how it sounds when it’s filtered through a Southern accent.
The hole truth
Dear Smiley: In my memoir, “The Life and Times of Chappie,” I wrote about our schoolyard marble games at dear old Central High:
“When marbles were the hot item, everyone played; that is, all the boys did!
“The little kids had to watch out for the bigger boys, who’d make your Boston Free Ring marbles disappear!
“They’d walk around with holes in the bottoms of their shoes.
“And by scrunching up their toes, they could squirrel away marbles before you knew what had happened to them.
“And we did the same thing when we became big boys. ”
Santa Maria, Calif.
Wind and windbags
D ear Smiley: This is my hurricane season prayer:
Any politician who says “We will hope for the best and prepare for the worst” should be immediately recalled.
Any weatherman who will “Keep a close eye” on anything should get a one-way ticket to Bismark.
(Or I can shoot the TV like Elvis.)
Dear Smiley: A preacher delivered the children’s sermon on the resurrection.
After the sermon he asked the kids to tell him something about the resurrection.
One little boy held up his hand and said, “If it lasts more than four hours, you should call your doctor.”
It only took about 10 minutes to get the adults under control.
Write Smiley@theadvocate.com. He can also be reached by fax at (225) 388-0351 or mail at P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821.