Born and bred as a Hoosier, my farmer is laconic, dry, and even cruel at times. His humor comes and goes, sparkling and brilliant, bringing often a light touch to a heavy scene.
I should have been warned before we were married when he told me of his experience in a strange town. Seeking companionship and activity at the YMCA, he became somewhat affronted by the arrogance of a certain young man at the pool and asked this man to teach him to swim. If one realizes that my Hoosier had been a member of the university swimming team during his college days, one suspects his intentions.
The man, flattered by the request, earnestly gave my loved one instructions week by week which were carefully followed. This Hoosier was an apt pupil and had developed by spring enough "skill" that his instructor felt his student was ready to learn to float. "Hold your breath," the teacher ordered, "and just lie down on top of the water. If you start to sink stay loose and don't worry about it. You'll come right back to the surface if you really relax."
The crafty student, instead of taking a deep breath, exuded the air from his lungs. When he lay down on the water, he sank straight to the bottom, and there he remained, completely inert. The neophyte instructor was bewildered at first, and then alarmed.
"Come on up," he shouted. But, of course, his student was far under water and couldn't hear a thing. My blue-ribbon swimmer could hold his breath a very long time. Finally the instructor panicked and dived down to rescue his charge. This ended the swimming lessons, and the kind teacher never knew he had been taken.
My turn came later, about a year after our marriage. We had rented, after a period of struggle, a brand new house, and when we had settled in, we decided to invite a sophisticated friend of his at work for an evening of cards. The man and his date were coming on Saturday night.
This house had a hall along which were doors to three bedrooms and a bath. The bedroom we used was at the end of the hall, and our bed was placed opposite the door.
In a frisky mood earlier in the day, my young husband had run the length of the hall and pounced on the bed. The crash reverberated throughout the shiny, flimsy house as the bed slat, and the whole assembly collapsed.
"You idiot!" I giggled as I helped him climb out. We reassembled the bed with the remaining slat and hid the broken one back of the door. We were both in a silly, gay mood with our new-smelling house about to be invaded by our first guests.
The evening went well, I thought, with cokes and crunchies along with the cards, and dessert and coffee later. I was proud of my husband and started to brag. "His family tree is very long," I said. "His father's family goes back to 1642, and his mother's lineage goes back to Germany. They were very cultural."
"Yeah," my husband continued, "agricultural!" We laughed, and I learned never to brag. The evening drifted on, and when our guests started to leave my husband said, "Come here, Marve, I have something I'd like to show you!" Innocently I went along with the others, curious about his intent. Back to the bedroom he took us all and, pulling the door forward, revealed the broken slat.
Marve started to laugh first, and then the others joined in. I stood there blushing all of the shades in the red spectrum, helpless before his innuendo. To explain would have made matters worse, so I just stood there with a silly grin. Laughter would have been too dishonest.
With this element of his humor well-controlled, the laughter has been mostly good. He has been a model for all three of the boys. Each in a different way, they have captured his creed and can shift anger, love, and hate into laughter, the very nectar of life.