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November 15, 2012 9:11 am

MY LOUSY WORLD: My dad’s unofficial dictionary

Written by Doug Blough

Do you know what the “running gears of a katy-did” are? If not, don’t feel like the Lone Ranger, because even though my Dad said it often, I never bothered to ask him what it meant. In describing someone frail and unkempt, he would say, “That woodhick looked like the running gears of a katy-did.”

It was funny. You knew it was funny because of the goofy, grinning expression my dad, Alfred Blough, had on his face after saying it. I wish you’d have known ol’ Pop. If you like someone springing for lunch, you may not have liked him. But if you like to laugh, you’d have loved every second spent with him.

The “woodhick” and “katy-did” things, I like to call “Alfisms.” An Alfism is simply colorful descriptions Alfred gave of people or events. The Funk-and-Alfred dictionary would describe “Woodhick” as: Puny; small in stature; i.e. “If that little woodhick fell into a bowl of noodles, they’d never find him.”

Everyone was a woodhick, gimlet seed or bohunk. If he came into my bedroom at 11 a.m. (which was maddening) to tell me, “A couple of woodhicks are here to see you,” I’d immediately assume it was probably Sammy Shields and Steve Richko, my two smallest friends.

If he said “Some big bohunk was looking for you,” I’d know it was most likely my buddy Tucker Dayoob, who was pushing 300 pounds in high school. Now if he said, “… a good-lookin’ piece of gingham,” was looking for me, I’d be out of that bed fast, because even though “gingham” is described in normal dictionaries as “a light, plain-woven fabric,” I knew Dad was talking about a really hot girl. (Then of course I’d go back to sleep, knowing it had to be a dream.)

Now “loghorse” was much less flattering and obviously it denoted a little girth problem. In Dad’s day, it wasn’t so politically-incorrect to describe someone by their obvious physical attributes, and he actually did so during one of his last visits to Cody in the 90’s. A rather rotund gal walked in front of my car as I drove Dad to the Bargain Box (thrift stores and auctions were his true passion). He looked at me grinning and said, “She was a real loghorse.”

Now, I don’t condone such derogatory chatter, but I sure had to laugh. I laughed even harder though when he was in the Bargain Box bathroom one day when they closed and this 80-year-old cheapskate had to climb out the bathroom window.

Following are more Alfisms:

“Grinning like a toad under a harrow:” That’s so much more colorful than “… like a cheshire cat,” because if you’ve ever seen a fat toad hiding under farm machinery, they do indeed appear to be amused about something.

“Ground down to about 7/8:” Dad simply meant the person appeared to be very intoxicated. We might say they were smashed, loaded, or pickled, but as you might guess, someone “ground down to 7/8,” is just minutes away from passing out or at the very least, urinating on your tire.

“Attic Trouble:” If Dad said your friend appeared to have some “attic trouble,” he meant mentally ill. Of course, it’s not an accepted term in the psychiatric community, but Dad liked to cut right to the chase. It’s not that he regarded mental illness flippantly … well, yeah, actually he did. His simple solution to mental illness was to “sweat more.” If people would simply work in his garden, they’d sweat out any depression.

“A real go-getter:” This fairly common term was more of a set-up for a joke when Dad said it. When he led with that, he was about to tell you, about his old friend Ted Besecker. “He was a real go-getter. His wife worked, and at quitting time, he’d go get ‘er.” He’d have that same grin as when he told about his friend Hiram Trexel, who “was a real bum. He’d have cupboards full of food but not a drop of whiskey in the house.”

Alf didn’t even drink, but he appreciated the humor drunkenness added. He wasn’t a fighter either, but perhaps my favorite Alfism was “… how the hog went through the cabbage.”  If he said “Ol’ Jumbo Lehman commenced to show Franky Saylor how the hog went through the cabbage,” he was explaining how Jumbo whipped the tar out of “the other fella.”

Alf must have been talking about himself when he told about the fella so cheap he dropped a dime in the horse’s feed trough and rode backward for a week till he found it. I miss Dad. That fella sure was a comical little woodhick.

(Another “My lousy world” column by Doug Blough also appears on Page 7 of the Shift Into Winter Gear edition in today’s Tribune.)


  • Comment Link January 02, 2013 6:07 pm posted by Ron Blough

    Doug, the column about your dad brought back lots of memories! My dad Les (Alf's brother) was full of the same stuff! "Jumbo Lehman" ran into "Eats Saylor" on his way to pick hickory nuts at "Ike Goshaw's" place". His words for "Attic trouble" was "half a bubble pot of plum". "A Virge Spiker fit" for someone who lost their temper. (their really was a "Virge Spiker".and "He needs a good 'scutchin' up"were favorites for me or you when we had juvenile problem. I wish I'd have saved more of his sayings. I could write a book about the time I took them both to Canada on a fishing trip. I miss my dad too.

    Cousin Ron

  • Comment Link March 11, 2013 5:27 pm posted by Dan Thomas

    I know Doug writes his column for folks "Out West", but you have to be a Pennsylvania Dutchman to completely appreciate just how big a man "Jummy"(Jumbo) Lehman actually was. He had no problem at all wooping the crap out of Eats Saylor.

    Dan Thomas(Thomas Mills)

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